Friday, May 15, 2009


Coldplay released a free live album today, LeftRightLeftRightLeft. The download was aburdly slow, so here's a torrent link.

Friday, February 22, 2008

New wheels

We bought a new car last week - a 2002 Vauxhall Zafira. (Rather excitingly, I stumbled upon this delightful young lady whilst looking it up on the internets.) We needed a bigger car really, since we'll soon have to carry a load of baby stuff around as well as Katie's stuff. (And, as a minor consideration, our stuff.) The Zafira has a cavernous boot, and two extra seats that magically spring up from the floor. So we'll be able to take the kids places and give a lift to two other people.

We wanted a diesel version really - the Escort's been doing about 11,000 miles a year. I looked at the official fuel economy figures, and that would have saved us about £200 a year. So we set our diesel budget (with gritted teeth) about £1000 higher than the petrol budget. But there were a lot more petrol ones around, and that's what we've ended up with. We bought it from CMH in St Helens - thanks Martyn - and I was pleased to part-exchange the Escort for a reasonable price, as it needs a new clutch and I really didn't want to have to get one. A bit sad to see it go though!

The Zafira is great. It's black - not silver like every other car - and it runs just fine. It's nice to be a little bit higher, and it's nice to have a slightly newer car with more automatic things. I've only filled it up once, so I don't know how many miles per gallon it does yet. Hopefully more than the Escort's 33.5. (As an aside, one of my colleagues expressed surprise that I kept a fuel economy spreadsheet. I would have thought that was quite a normal thing, especially among physics geeks. Mine even compares figures from different fuel suppliers.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blogging via IMified

Just messing around with IM-based services. It seems I can now blog via IM. I'm not entirely sure what the point of this is; maybe I can update it by phone at some point...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In Rainbows

So Radiohead's seventh studio album, In Rainbows, came out yesterday, accompanied by a load of media hyperbole and comment. (For those living under rocks - hello Mike - they made it available as a £40 gift box and a download for which you set your own price.)

I paid £2. My reasoning went something like this. I'd pay £6-8 for a CD, and there are lots of benefits to owning a CD:
  • Artwork - something tangible to flick through while the CD's playing - definitely not to be underestimated.
  • A box to put on my CD shelf.
  • A CD to play in my stereo at home, which is a pretty decent system and is set up to play CDs best. (It'll play MP3s through my Archos Gmini connected to the line-in, but it's not optimal sound quality.)
  • The freedom to rip the CD (in line with fair use) to a digital format of my choosing.
  • The freedom to play that digital copy anywhere.
  • The option to sell the CD if I decide I don't want it any more.
With a download of 160kbps MP3s, I only get one of the above benefits. So (depending on how the above are weighted), this download is only 1/6 as good as a CD. This is a new release (which also adds value), and 160kbps MP3s are pretty close to how I'd actually encode at the moment anyway. (A little high if anything.) I don't want the full-on box set thing, but I would like a 'proper' CD - I wonder if they'll release it in that format at any point.

Interestingly, I don't get any of the above benefits for an iTunes download (I don't have an iPod). I'd consider iTunes (especially here in the UK) to be massively overpriced for DRM-encumbered, lossy files. Even a lossless album would only fetch about £3 by this criteria. And an album that couldn't be ripped (e.g. using the defunct Copy Control technology) would be worth about half as much as a standard CD, if I didn't consider such a thing outrageous. So I guess having a physical disc is still pretty important to me.

It's a typically bold move on Radiohead's part to release their music in this way. I suspect that it won't end up being "the future of music" as some people seem to think, but it's an interesting experiment to see how much people are really prepared to pay for a digital download. I'd love to see the results - how much people paid and how much money the artists made, compared to how much they would have made by releasing the album through conventional channels (if such a comparison is valid). It raises the question of how music downloads should really be priced.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I like to ride my bicycle

I went for a bike ride today - I want to get back into exercising, somehow, and I don't quite feel up to running. I can't believe I haven't thought of this before - it was brilliant! I went along a bridleway-type path in a park near here (along the railway). Here's a map, assuming it works this time:

I even found a load of blackberries by the side of the path, next to the railway viaduct. Tasty!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I signed up for the BBC iPlayer beta, and got an invitation to join it in my email inbox a few days later. It's a bit of a faff to set up (they assign you a randomly-generated - and hard to remember - username, and you then have to sign up for a separate BBC account too), and of course it only works on WinXP + IE6/7. But it seems to work pretty well on that. I had no trouble downloading an episode of Adam Hart-Davis' excellent Beginner's Guide to the Cosmos that I'd missed.

The DRM is (to me) rather draconian; fortunately, it's a piece of cake to remove it at the moment. Just download a copy of FairUse4WM. I found it here, though Google shows up plenty of links. I won't directly link to it, since there seemed to be a lot of broken links - hosting providers getting jittery about hosting it, I guess. Make sure you check the MD5 (I use md5deep). Then just run FairUse4WM (it's a Windows program) and it'll strip the DRM from your iPlayer WMVs (though you'll have to find them - mine were kept in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\My Deliveries, and there's no option to change this), quickly and easily. Voila! You can watch them, burn them to DVD, keep them for as long as you like - just like you can do with any DVD recorder right now. Fair enough, I reckon. Apparently that works with Channel 4's 4OD service too (it's the same underlying software), but I haven't been able to get that to work yet. I'll try a bit harder when I miss something crucial on Channel 4.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I found MapMyRide today, via Lifehacker - it lets you map bike rides or running routes. I added my weekly run - you can see it here:

[edit: it appears not to be working. Rubbishness! Try this link instead.]

Actually I'm not really doing any running at all at the moment, for reasons I won't go into here. Hopefully that'll change next month though. I feel like I've not done anything strenuous for ages and ages.