The Playstation has to leave. Why?

So this is it (shoobab): my Playstation 3 finally has to go. We spend 3 stormy years together, but in the end her flaws where just too obvious, so she will leave the household through the front door via ebay, head (or sisaxis controller) held high.

When Sony announced the original specs for the PS3, I literally drooled: the mixture of capable graphics hardware with the cell processor, coupled with bluetooth, wifi and a blu ray player sounded just too good. So when I finally bought her in February 2008 due to a sudden bout of long distance relationship induced blues, I was incredibly excited to have her in the house. I was envisioning nights of coding and surfing on the fastest Linux ever, thanks to the remarkable architecture, amazing graphics and superb cell processor, but of course all my dreams were crushed due to Sony’s decision to limit 3rd party OS’s access to the hardware and my inability to work the Sisaxis controller. So all games I played I immediately failed due to my extreme clumsiness (or the fact that when I learned gaming, we had something called ‘joysticks’, ‘mice’ and ‘keyboards’. I still game (to the chagrin of the best girlfriend ever), but these days it’s a Windows 7 based gargantuan rig (Macs aren’t for gaming. They are for working), and so the PS3 ended up to be the most electricity demanding BlueRay player ever. Each time another episode of Boston Legal was watched, another three nuclear power stations in France had to put another log on the fire and the lights in my little village in Mid Essex started to flicker.

The last insult really was Sony’s appalling behaviour towards their fan community by locking down the juggernaut further and further and in the end even going to war with their most devoted hardware hackers. This, and its inability to play multi region DVD’s (there are ca 100 unwatched DVD’s from New Zealand in my living room, begging to be freed) finally pushed it onto ebay.

So, if you can actually use a Sixaxis controller, don’t mind the French to work their nuclear power stations overtime and have no use for DVDs outside region 2 and love Sony’s hold on your product, buy her here.

But please be nice to her.


Downloading BBC Iplayer Content to your Linux Box

As stated in the past, I am a huge fan of public broadcasting in general and the BBC in particular. While I have been able to watch my favourite documentaries on the flash based online Iplayer, I was always a bit miffed that I wasn’t able to download the shows and watch them in better quality.

Miffed I am no more, thanks to Phil Lewis’s brillant little tool ‘get iplayer’. An easy command line app, it searches and downloads the content that you are interested in and stores it on your HD for your time shifted viewing pleasure.

Installation and handling couldn’t be easier. A wonderful invention and quite timely too!

Get it here

Acer Aspire One instead of EEEpc. Oh well.

Right.  Turns out my online supplier of geeky goods actually sold out of the desired EEE. Just as all the other computer retailers around me in the south east of England. So I ordered an Aspire One. To be exact, the Aspire One A150-AB (Why in the world do makers of laptops come up with these weird and seemingy random model numbers?). This baby sports 1 GB ram, a chunky 120GB HD and Linpus Lite, their netbook Linux flavour, a derivative of Fedora 8. That would be another Linux flavour to get used to. Sigh. So one day the nice man from Amazon knocked on my door and brought a small but eagerly awaited package.

The Aspire is undoubtedly attractive and feels better designed and made than the best girlfriend’s first generation EEE. The keyboard and the screen especially are superior to the EEE, and there is a multicard reader that’s coming in handy.

Still compact, but larger than a Star Trek VI mug.

Apart from the multicard reader there’s 3 USB Slots, an external VGA plug, and an additional slot for more SD cards. It boots up in seconds and apart from a mild whirring noise when the little fan is trying to cool Intel’s Atom processor pretty quiet (though not as silent as the girlfriend’s eee).

It’s pleasant on the eye, balances well on my lap and fits perfectly into my work bag. Unfortunately the batttery is completely pish. While watching Little Britain USA (which, btw was rubbish) the battery drained almost cmpletely, and I presume that under full load the battery wouldn’t last longer than an hour. No comparison to my Macbook that would happily run for 5 hours. So no long train journeys or flights to New Zealand in economy class then.

As mentioned before, Acer is selling the One with Linpus lite, a Fedora 8 derivative. This is quite similar in apperance to the EEE’s Xandros flavour, just with worse applications. I have no idea who had the idea of leaving out Skype (it does have a webcam, you know), VLC and Thunderbird and instead use some other unusuable crap. So my first job was to get used to Fedora’s weird package manager, ‘yum’. I now have all the necessary apps installed, and available via XFCE’s ‘advanced menu’, but still have to remove the annoying apps and then edit the desktop file to add the right icons. I am quite happy to do that, but I can see the best girlfriend ever struggling with that task.  I have no idea what Acer’s software engineers were smoking when putting the One’s software package together, but here they certainly messed up.  Another minus was the lack of the GIMP and the fact that so far my trusty TX1-Powershot is not being recognised by the crappy photomanager.

So, after 3 days with the Aspire, what are the first thoughts?

Well designed hardware that is let down by a crap battery and a software package that is lacking in functionality compared to the EEE’s far superior Xandros flavour. I am pretty sure that very soon Ubuntu’s Hardy Heron will make a guest appearance, but for now I am just happy that I have replaced the Macbook with a credit-crunch model (the Aspire costs exactly a third) and that I can again watch movies and listen to my music.

The curse of the electrical household goods strikes

This weekend was obviously not meant for my two favourite gadgets to survive. On Friday my Macbook got an accidental dousing with a recreational fluid and since then has refused to work (and will probably never work again), and the next day the LCD screen on my lovely Powershot TX1 stopped working.  Sniff.

The next step will be to pray to the gods of backup that I can save my 10 gigabyte of precious photographs from the Mabook’s hard disk. So, a set of small screwdrivers and a USB to IDE connector will have to be acquired and hoped that I can mount the HD under Linux (apparently it works, but you never know).

The next step is to decide what to do with the dead MacBook. Sacrifice it? It is rather reassuring to see that I am not the only one who gave his MacBook a good dousing. The intarwebs are full of people asking for help after recreational fluids leaked all over the keyboard.

The biggest question of all is of course what to replace it with. The best girlfriend ever has been a happy eeepc user for more than 9 months now, and after having a look at the new EEEPC 1000 myself, I decided to finally rid myself of proprietary software once and for all (apart from my ancient windowsbox that I only use to play Settlers III).  After one year with the MacBook I still had to find an application that needs a dual core processor and 2 gigabyte of ram, as I didn’t use any other applications than Mail, Firefox, DVD-Player, VLC, Neo-Office and my twitter client. I find it unlikely that I will suddenly need new applications. I will of course miss the incredible ease of use of the MacBook, but once Ubuntu is installed (and let’s face it, installing is the best bit) it runs just as smoothly.

So, wish me luck in my endeavour. And cross your fingers that the MacBook’s HD is still mountable.

Software Freedom Day 2008. Not so much in the UK, though.


Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when the great and geeky unwashed masses around the world again get under the shower, have a shave, put on a colourful t-shirt and show the rest of the world the benefits of free and open software. I did my bit in 2006 when I tried to persuade the inhabitants of a small town in New Zealand to convert (at least they’re now all using firefox) but since I am back in the UK these Kiwis will not have the benefit of me looking like an orange sausage again (they give you tight orange t-shirts to wear).

So this year I thought I help out one of the UK’s team. With me living in the south – east, London comes to mind, but there doesn’t seem to be much demand for FOSS in the capital.

The one entry in the London section states:

  • “Meet outside school or train station at around 1300.
  • Go into Kingston town centre, make some noise and hand out many Ubuntu cds, flyers, balloons etc
  • Unfortunately no speakers were able to speak, so no talks and straight into the social.
  • End and begin a social evening in nearby public house, restaurant etc. “

Now, call me a notorious moaner, but is that all London has to offer? No install fest, no radio interviews, newspaper articles, tables on highstreets full of glittering compies?

Sad. Very sad.

P.S. And for those of you wondering why I’m not doing anything this year, I have not even been able to contact my local LUG. Apparently it’s extinct.