Thursday, September 29, 2005
I've been playing with chopping up radio programmes into segments or chapters at work recently. To demonstrate our ideas I've been using the Apple chapter tool to create podcasts (AAC files) with embedded chapter points.
These chapter points allow you to skip between sections within a programme and associate text and images with each section. The ability to skip through longer programmes seems a natural fit for speech radio which can be several hours long and often naturally magazine-like.
But I have a couple of gripes...
- My iPod seems to have trouble dealing with programmes with many chapter points (e.g. 10s to 100s). It's slow skipping through the chapters and seems to hang temporarily when starting a chapter.
- You can just sync a chapterised AAC file onto an iPod from iTunes but it will only show the chapter marks and the images. It won't display the chapter titles. Only if you get the file onto the iPod via a podcast link do these appear - same file just different, and long-winded, way of getting content onto it.
However this is all iTunes/iPod-specific so a couple of colleagues have proposed a chapter format for ID3 tags to be embedded in MP3 files. This actually includes a more advanced set of chapter options (based on TV-Anytime segmentation) such as multiple tables of contents (e.g. the whole programme, world news only, highlights) and linkable chapters (e.g. http://example.com/aprogramme.mp3#chapter2). The spec for this has been submitted to the ID3 working group and a tool for generating MP3s with chapter tags is on sourceforge.
Posted by tristan at 13:50
Thursday, September 22, 2005
A couple of interesting homepage sites using Ajax to do cool in-place editing and layout:
You can just use both of them straight off or you can sign in to keep stuff private. Protopage looks a bit cleaner but is limited to your notes and links (at the moment) but we've been using this as a collaborative notebook. Netvibes includes RSS feeds which means I can have stuff like travel delays and a weather forecast on there.
Posted by tristan at 13:38
The Music of Chance - Paul Auster
...and just found this book recommender: what should I read next?
Posted by tristan at 13:36
Friday, September 16, 2005
I was really looking forward to the food in Italy and it didn't disappoint, as mentioned previously I read "Eating Up Italy" which describes a journey (avoiding Tuscany) up Italy on a Vespa exploring the food of each region. Here are some of my random notes on the food...
Roadside snacks were good - you'd stop at a Shell garage on a dual carriageway and find inside a bar serving fresh coffee and drinks and a big counter of freshly made panini, pizza, flatbreads filled with cheese and spinach and more. And all for a few euros.
I discovered that there are completely different versions of Pecorino cheese. In this country I've only ever seen it as a kind of Parmesan thing - dried and smelly. In Italy they have many varieties from aged, dried pecorino, to salty cheddar-like pecorino to young sweet pecorino. Brought some back too.
Cooked a bit in the apartment though the village didn't meet my expectations of food supply - just a little supermarket with some fresh vegetables and a cheese and meat counter. But we did make some good, fresh tomato pasta sauces and a couple of risottos.
Fresh borlotti beans on sale at vegetable stalls in the market in bright red and white pods (see photo above).
Bologna (known as "La Grassa" or "The Fat") has fantastic, rich food. Home of tortellini - alledgedly modelled on Venus's navel. The best ice cream as well.
Oh, and pudding is "il dolce" not "la dolce" - which as the waiter loudly pointed out is, I think, a cute woman.
update: found some cheddar-y pecorino in Waitrose last night - not very interesting I know
Posted by tristan at 18:17
Got back from Italy on Monday - 10 days of holiday split between self-catering in Tuscany (top-left/bottom-right) and a hotel in Bologna (top-right/bottom-left). The countryside reminded me quite a bit of England with rolling hills and a lot of green - we discovered why when we were trapped in the apartment for a couple of days due to massive rainstorms. Well, not exactly trapped but we got a lot of reading done. Finished "The Confusion" by Neal Stephenson which I loved and was one of those books that you really want to finish but don't want to end, at least there's there's another one in the trilogy to go. For those that don't know it's a fantastic mix of history, action, convoluted plotting, fiscal policy (!) and the history of science with a healthy dose of geek. And then read "Eating Up Italy" by Matthew Fort (see next entry).
Tuscany was a bit of a mixed bag - from the amazingly preserved frescoes and renaissance architecture of Siena to the many towers and too many tourists of San Gimignano. Bologna was my favourite - a university city (where Umberto Eco teaches) with a completely medieval centre, colonnaded streets and great food.
The Confusion - Neal Stephenson
Eating Up Italy - Matthew Fort
Posted by tristan at 18:12
Thursday, September 01, 2005
We got a free pen from work and I can't use this either. Apparently it's multi-purpose and it came with an instruction manual. You seem to be meant to rotate it round its axis to select which tip you want and then press the button on the end. But it's not an absolute rotation, it's relative and you've no way of knowing what you will get. So far I've only managed to get the pencil and the red pen. I think there's a black pen in there somewhere. That would be really useful. As it is, I have to write everything in red which makes me look a bit mad. A pen that I can't use - well done.
Posted by tristan at 12:42
Posted by tristan at 12:39
There's a lightswitch in my new office and I couldn't use it. We worked it out but this annoys me - I'm not too stupid to use a lightswitch.
I got in one morning and I wanted to turn the lights down. First I couldn't find any switches. I asked. The switches were inside columns down the centre of the open-plan office, but hidden behind opening panels. So now I've found the switches. They look like rocker switches in the neutral, middle position. Not knowing which way to press (up or down) I press it. Nothing happens. I try the other way. Nothing. Each time it returns to the middle. Is it the wrong switch? There are many switches, many pillars and many lights. Or is it broken? Someone comes over and says "You've got to hold it down" - so I do. Try it for 5 seconds one way - nope - then the other - nope. I try it for longer. I notice the light has changed a bit. I realise it's a DIMMER SWITCH. Hold it down long enough and it turns off.
Jeez - what's wrong with an on/off switch, or, if you must dim, then a rotating one. The whole point of a rocking switch is that it toggles something.
So it's a crap user interface because...
- The control (the light switch) is hidden
- The control is not associated with what it is controlling (the lights)
- The control doesn't behave as you expect (holding down to adjust rather than toggle)
Since then I've discovered that if you open the panels enough there's a map and instructions (!) inside. And you have to press the top of the switch to dim the light. Honestly.
Posted by tristan at 12:38