October 06, 2005

Shiny new CSS + a promised update

Woo! I do know CSS! as you may have noticed there is now a tiny picture of me on the banner of my blog plus a couple of other subtle changes.

If you want to know where the pciture is taken it is Interstate Park, on the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin in the US on a climbing trip I went on 10 days ago now will put full pictures in gallery once I have cut them down to size due to taking them with my new 7mp camera (its lovely!) the whole pictures are over 2mb at the moment.

Worked 12 hour days for the past 3 days so rather knackered now.

And exciting news, it rained today, although I didn't see it, the ground was wet when I left the computer lab today where for some reason all the Dell PC's there I noticed have 9 usb ports, do they think people will seriously bring 9 periphials to plug into them?

Will do some more proper blogging soon, promise, so much have happened though, and I have so little time.

Anyway bed as it is nearly 1am here in central US timezone

September 14, 2005

IBC 2005: DRM is coming to the UK!

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4237010.stm

Finally a manufacture out there, Texas instruments has decided to produce a radio that can do DRM as well as DAB, FM (RDS) and AM making it basically futureproof and there going to be sold in the UK.

The great thing about DRM is the relatively small bandwidth typically 10kHz which is same as AM normally compared and I believe it uses AAC audio encoding or something along those lines which allows you to broadcast in pretty good stereo quality on par with that of FM and even DAB without taking up the 1.1MHz bandwidth which Dab does.

Saw the UK trials taking place at Radica at the start of the summer and must admit I was really impressed and glad there is now a retail radio soon available hopefully encouraging more broadcasters to take the hint and broadcast in this medium

And the BBC have announced they are starting to broadcast in DRM starting with the world service in Europe (where DRM has really hit off a lot more popular than DAB) and even commercial stations in the UK are starting to show some interest if only Ofcom would get themselves up to speed and start offering a comprehensive DRM licensing program.

Incidentally they expect the radios to sell for £169 but I imagine that price chipset so other manufacturers can make cheap DRM radios.

IBC 2005: HHB have pulled one out of the hat with a great professional digital recording microphone

I know I haven't blogged for a while but when I have a much work on as I currently have (a lot) I will procrastinate about anything.

And the subject about this post the IBC 2005 (International Broadcasting Convention for you non-media geeks out there), held in Amsterdam this year.

Unfortunately didn't get to go this year, but from speaking to people who did apparantly it was really good for techies due to all the tech developments taking place in the world of broadcasting at the moment.

But back to subject. HHB (a british company) launched a great new product called a flashmic there. It combine a sennheiser omnidirectional condenser mic with 1 gb of flash memory. The amount of settings you can control seem pretty comprehensive. !

I must admit not too keen on it being omnidirectional with it being aimed at reporters for interviewing use would be tempted to change the mic capsule if possible (i doubt it but never tried) to something a bit more select if it turned out to pick up too much background, but the ease of use with one button recording, no cables etc. and the large memory allowing over a day recording at high quality mp3 which in my opinion is good enough for most recording purposes (although it does of course do wav as well) really sells it.

It even has a heaphone socket presumably minijack on the base to listen back and stuff and knowing HHB it wouldn't surprise me if they have thrown basic editing features into it as well.

If only RaW hadn't just bought a Marantz PMD 660, i would recommend snapping one of these up straight away, and providing budget allows and price is right (below £350) it has to be a must buy for reporting and interviews.

It has pretty much same features as PMD660, (a sense a bit of copying going on there) including time stamping, so if you wanted to be really clever you could get a couple of these and record something from a variety of angles and mix it down later with no laying of cables setting up a multitrack recorder etc.

It even left Ian Piper and Chris McWhinnie of the BBC speechless and their article on highlights from the IBC can be found here .

And the best bit you don't need to buy a mic as it is one!

Blog entries about my american journey so far will appear on the blog in due course when I get around to writing them up, hopefully the 1st three weeks will be done soon(ish)

August 04, 2005

Getting a Visa – My Trip to the US Embassy

Yes, its the latest installment in the journey that is my american exchange year which after all the hype and paperwork and hassle actually begins in under 4 weeks.

I have held back on making this post public until I have actually received my visa to avoid the US governement when researching me reading this post and as a result not giving me one.

Anyway to the story, It started on a Virgin Train unfortunately not a nice Pendilino with air con but a couple of old slam door carriages pulled by a freightliner which transported me from Coventry to Euston.

I will now skip the boring bit of meeting up with friends and family for lunch etc. etc. and just get to the interesting bit of going to the US Embassy a.k.a the armoured fortress.

The perimeter of the place has 2 heavy duty fences and police with large machine guns patrolling between them. They even have those cool mirror things to look under delivery vans.

To get through the fences you have to prove you have a visa appointment, show your passport, put your bag through an X-ray machine and empty your pockets and walk through the airport style scanners. Once you get to the entrance of the building courtesy of an armoured escort all adding to the intimidation aspect you have to hand in any digital recording devices such as laptop, palmpilots, audio equipment but you are allowed to still carry your mobile phone on you providing it is turned off (and I expect they would take seriously any signs of use). This is likley only due to the fact that if they confiscated them there would probably be so many it would take ages to sort whose is whose afterwards.

Next step is to get your ticket like you sometimes do at the deli counter except these are obtained by scanning the barcode on your appointment letter into a machine. And then theres the first demoralising bit, there are 100 people ahead of you and you have to sit in this rather cramped waiting room for over 90 minutes just to hand your forms in and be fingerprinted for the first time. They fingerprint both your index fingers and at this point they take your forms away to be considered and investigated.

Next comes the lottery for an interview. Slightly bigger than the National Lottery with normally another 100 people in the draw. It all depends how long they take to read all your forms and check them and make sure there are no mistakes. I was glad I have double checked all mine meaning I only had to wait about another 90 minutes before my number 348 flashed up on the plasma screens. It makes you almost want to jump and cheer but with only few minutes to get to the interview room before you loose it there was no time.

Here I was fingerprinted again to make sure I was still the same person even though my photo is on my passport and application forms which they have had for 90 minutes by this point. The interview itself only lasted about 5 minutes with nearly everything being straightforward although I thought for a minute I might fail the financial section due to me not have having an up to date bank statement but I was ok and provisinally granted a visa subject to background checks. They kept all my documents and passports which I had to pay a cheeky £9.50 to get couriered back to me when they had finished processing them in about 5 days and I was free to leave the fortress/prison.

It was so nice to get outside seeing as even though this was an american building it definitely did not have any air conditioning on that floor and also it was nice to get my laptop back which I was surprised didn't get lost amongst the large pile of other IBM Thinkpads at the desk.

At least thats now the last box ticked on my list of major obstacles before I go to america although paying £150 for the privelage of sitting in a hot room for over 3 hours with 250 other people wasn't exactly my idea of a good deal.

July 27, 2005

Back to London

Yesterday was a long day in central London and first time I had been back since the bombings.

The tube seems just as busy as normal maybe not quite but certainly there was no noticeable diffference. You can now see everybody checking each other out though on the tube with an air of suspicion and asking the questions in their mind are you a terrorist?, what have you got in your bag? which I suppose is a good thing which were probablya ll guilty of at the moment that people are being observant and looking for signs of trouble but it just adds to the anxiety and unfriendliness of the tube.

One solution to this I read in the Metro yesterday suggested by a reader was to have voluntary bag officers on the tube which anybody could become where you wear something to signify you were one and ask to look in each others bags and have a chat to remove the suspicion and anxiety with the hope to create a more friendly atmosphere where everybody knows each other so there is no suspicion plus you know your safe with the people around you.

I don't think the TFL (Transport for London) will adopt it but its not a bad suggestion which does make some sense

Anyway entry on me going to US Embassy to get a visa to follow

July 18, 2005

The first of a number of reviews..

3 out of 5 stars

I feel like I have let the RaW Pop fans out there down by not reviewing this debut album from Charlotte Church sooner but I've been so busy I only remembered it had come out at the weekend

The best way I can describe Charlotte's singing style is a cross between Avril Lavigne and Anastacia.

It starts with track 1, Call My Name which has a great little beat but very similar apart from being slower and more relaxing to track 2 which is of course her first single Crazy Chick, but a good opener nevertheless.

Crazy Chick although its quite good gets a bit boring after listening to it more than once and I can see why it only made it to number 2 in the charts

Track 3 is Moodswings. with the main hook sounding awfully likeysomething from the Corrs, and already there seems to be a theme with the track titles and the lyrics seeming to depict Charlotte's life and what the tabloids say about her, almost emphasising too much that she cowrote most of the album

Track 4 is a nice ballad called Show a Little Faith and shows this album certainly has variety. A nice calming track and this would make a good single release. I always think ballads can always show if singers can sing (or not) and certainly shows she can.

Track 5 continues the ballad theme called Finding My Own Way and is even better than Track 4. Sounds a lot like a Natalie Imbruglia-ish song with a great bit of piano that really makes the track, and it gets better as it develops with a customary key change. So far this album is seeming well produced and certainly shows a lot of effort and energy has gone into writing these songs.

Track 6 – Lets be Alone is a complete change bringing back the more rockier feel of tracks 1 and 2, and in my opinion is the worst track so far with someboday going overboard with the voice effects and synth and is a bit like a bad Sophie Ellis-Bextor track, avoid this one if I were you.

Track 7 is called Easy to Forget which this track certainly is. Compared to the previous two ballads this one has a Spanish theme and is definitely not up to the same standard and rather boring.

Track 8 Fool No More, ditto track 7 comments I'm starting to get really bored now

Track 9 Easy way Out, is better but not by much, I thought it might improve at the chorus but it didn't

Track 10 Casulty Of Love sounds like it is a love song from a musical and brings back the Spanish flavour again

Track 11 Even God – OIf theres chance of a late comeback for this album from a downhill road this track might do it. Of the same callibre as tracks 2 and 3 with some more great piano. Complete, complete contrast in terms of style, instrumentation and lyrics to Crazy Chick and bit of a weird endsing with no perfect cadence (or those of you musically in the know) like the other tracks

Track 12 Confessional Song contues the religious theme in the title and lyrics like that of track 11 and is very similar in many other ways. This track can stand its own and is not a bad one to end

So overall its seriously let down by tracks 6–10 and makes me wonder what the 7 tracks were that Charlotte produced that didn't make it on to the album are like. The other tracks makes this album a solid 3 out of 5 but Charlotte seriously isn't challenging for the princess of pop crown let alone that of the queen of pop's yet and to be honest I expected it to better but I suppose it is her first attempt and I'm sure there will likely be another album eventually that may get higher up the scale and charts from this diva

May 24, 2005

Nooo! Crazy Frog theme tune outselling Coldplay, Speed of Sound

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/4576119.stm

This is serious people

The Crazy frog theme tune is outselling the Coldplay classic Speed of Sound.

This must be stopped,

How can the Beverly Hills theme tune (although it is reasonably good) with that most annoying crap Crazy Frog ringtone over the top beat Coldplay with their fantastic real music song.

I am calling on all people in the music industry to prevent Crazy Frog reaching number one by stop giving it so much exposure. Like Scot Mills discussing it for 5 minutes and subsequently playing it on his Radio 1 show today, Why!!!

It shouldn't even be allowed to be counted as 'music' and not included in anything deemed a music chart for starters

That ends my procrastinating rant

May 20, 2005

Univeristy of Wisconsin Madison here I come!

Well I pretty much told everybody now in my Warwick bubble that it seems that I will be study what they use to call the land of the free, America providing:

a) I pass this year (2:1 needed ouch!)

b) I get a US Visa

So I have started a special section of my blog to write down all the things I go through associated with this fantastic opportunity

Went to see those lovely people at STA Travel today to see about flights, looks like I will be stuck in a British Airways plane over the atlantic for 7 hours in August to get there, and the price I pay to be stuck in a metal can with 500 other people: £343, but can't grumble as I'm not paying! Just selling my soul to the Warwick University and Bournemouth Borough Council who will graciously pay for most my travel.

That will take me London-Chicago and from there will probably bus it. I wonder if its possible to see the musical Chicago in Chicago? that would just be cool!

May 07, 2005

What happened to this

Follow-up to Fitness Chart Day 1 from The Blog of Craig

Well I suppose at least went for a swim this week, but next week when I actually have free time will endeavour to relight the campaign to get and keep fit, (yeh right!)

So nearly there….

Woo, one assignment to go and then its time to really get stuck in to revision, can't wait to Monday when its in and I start the 4 week revision session.

God, i love this song: Globes and Maps – Something Corporate playing off the PC now, I wonder what the world would be without music? probably really booring

On other notes the 40th anniversary open day went really well in the end with RaW in the piazza apart from the initial wind/rain but the brilliant dj's and the great 40th anniversary productions made it fantastic.

Back to the work!! (just wrote this post to procrastinate seeing as didn't really have point)

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