On Grass, Robots and the Pursuit of Happiness

That time of year is upon us again. Grass loves nothing more than the sunny wet days of spring and this Easter has had no shortage of those. The past few weeks has seen our lawn shoot up and there was no point putting off the mowing any longer.

We’ve got a cheap and cheerful small mower (a Screwfix special) which we’ve had since moving to our house in the rural North Essex wilds. For the first year it shared mowing duties with a hand-me-down, but since the birth of our daughter Skye, mowing our lawn has been a solo job. We’ve got a relatively large garden with about 1/3rd of an acre of lawn which on my own it takes around 2 hours to mow; if I mow weekly it takes less time; if I make the mistake of leaving it 3 weeks, it takes more, sometimes a lot more.

I’m now 2 weeks (and 2 mows) into the 2016 season – the ground is still soggy (the mossy areas are almost swamp-like) and whilst I sometimes quite enjoy the hours of quiet contemplation lawn mowing offers, I now find myself wishing I could spend these hours maintaining other neglected parts of the garden or spending time enjoying it with Skye.

So – with my love of technology and automating things, I’ve decided to consider a robotic lawnmower. Continue reading ‘On Grass, Robots and the Pursuit of Happiness’

(Slowly) Moving House

I’m in the midst of moving from Edinburgh down to near London. However our buyer has pulled out a week before completion, so things have been put on hold until we can find a new buyer!

To try to get a new buyer quickly, I’ve put together a quick site to advertise the more techy aspects of our home!

Unfortunately both All-sky Cam, Sky-quality meter and Weather Station are now in storage, so data won’t be updated until after we finally move.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2012

Earlier in the year, to my great surprise, I managed to win the Our Solar System category of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition with a moody photo of the Transit of Venus taken from Blackheath in London. Since then I’ve had a few requests for prints as the Royal Observatory do not sell them. If you’d like one, please get in touch and I’m more than happy to provide them.

EIFF Ticket Availability Checker 2010

It’s back! The old code has been dusted off and a few nuts and bolts tightened (thanks to the inclusion of the rather spacious Festival Theatre) – the unofficial  Edinburgh International Film Festival Ticket Availability Checker (2010 Edition).

Find out if the show you really want to see is sold out (or selling fast) without going through the lengthy booking procedure on the EIFF/Filmhouse Boxoffice sites. (Technical note: it’s all done in as friendly a way possible, to limit the load on the stressed EIFF site, and not to obtain or hold any ticket reservations itself.)

Check it out by visiting www.ixalon.net/eiff

Gowalla Streetview Bookmarklet

Thanks to recommendations by friends I’ve been getting into the location-aware game Gowalla. The idea behind the game is you wander around, checking in to “spots” (i.e. locations) to add to your collection. Spots can be anything from landmarks to shops and when you check in you’re randomly awarded with collectable icons which you can either keep or drop in other spots. If a spot doesn’t exist at a location, you can add it yourself for added kudos.

Anyway, I found myself looking at quite a few spots on Google Streetview but getting the location of a spot over from one to the other is a bit tricky. To help make things a little easier, I’ve created the following bookmarklet which embeds Google Streetview directly into the spot pages on www.gowalla.com. Continue reading ‘Gowalla Streetview Bookmarklet’

PS3 and UK Catchup TV Services

It’s been a week now since the official PS3-optimised BBC iPlayer went live and I pulled the plug on the unofficial PS3iPlayer.com (it’s still available for but no-longer maintained.) As a few sites(!) are reporting, PS3 users are now accounting for around 10% of everyone using the iPlayer over the Internet (i.e. excluding Virgin’s service on their STB), pushing the PS3 into 2nd place, behind the PC (70%) and ahead of Macs (8.5%). This seems to indicate a hunger out there for an easy way to watch catchup services on a TV, without the hassle of connecting your PC or Mac up.

So, what’s the current state of play in general for catching up on missed TV using a PS3 in the UK? Continue reading ‘PS3 and UK Catchup TV Services’

EIFF Ticket Availability Checker Mashup

One of the annoying things about the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) website at www.edfilmfest.org.uk is that you can’t tell if there are any tickets left for a screening until you’re half way through the ticket booking process. Even then, there’s no way to tell how close a screening is to being sold out, or to check if a previously sold-out screening now has returned tickets available.

So, film-going ladies and gentlemen, I present the EIFF Ticket Availability Checker, a mashup of data publicly available (but hard to find) on www.edfilmfest.org.uk and boxoffice.filmhousecinema.com.

Check it out by visiting www.ixalon.net/eiff

If you find any problems or have any suggestions, please contact me or leave a comment here.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Time for another off-topic blog post! :) This time on the 63rd annual Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF).

I’m not sure if it’s my taste in films, the excellent work of the festival staff, or a general trend in filmmaking, but this year’s line up at the festival seems pretty spectacular. There’s been a few films every day so far that I’ve been keen to see, where during previous years, I’d be lucky to find a handful over the whole festival. I think the success may be down to all these, but also that the festival is now reaping the rewards of moving from August to June. 2008 was the first June festival, and it felt a little subdued; I think film makers, delegates and the public didn’t know what to expect.

Thankfully it didn’t take us long to get used to the change, and with June being a quiet time in the Film Festival calendar yet also near the start of the summer blockbuster season, there seems to be a lot of films vying for attention. There still isn’t quite the buzz that’s associated with the main Edinburgh Festival season in August, but the line up of films (and the simplified logistics of getting around the city) makes up for it. Continue reading ‘Edinburgh International Film Festival’

The Calman Commission Report

First up, it’s pretty unusual for me to post about politics; I normally keep such thoughts to myself or moan about the general ineptitude of politicians to friends and colleagues, however I’m a keen follower of what’s going on regarding UK politics, as it has the opportunity to be an exciting time of change.

Today a report was published by the Calman Commission; who were tasked by the opposition parties of the Scottish Parliament, with the support of the UK Government, to look at the relationship of Scotland within the United Kingdom. This relationship or “devolution settlement” is already a very misunderstood and highly politicised thing, which pretty much everyone will admit is so riddled with problems and patchy half-thought-out legislation that something needs done. I’m neutral when it comes to both party politics and on the independance debate; as with most things there are reasons for, reasons against and a lot of spinning in between – but one way or another, the problems with the status-quo need addressed. Continue reading ‘The Calman Commission Report’

PS3 VidZone Critique

Last night VidZone, an interesting new free service cropped up on the PS3, curtesy of the lovely people as SCEE and Rants Ltd.  VidZone in a nutshell is a music video channel where you choose the music; you queue up tracks from VidZone’s playlists, search by artist, song or genre, and build up your own playlists.

Despite a few teething problems, common to any new free service these days, VidZone works remarkably well. On my connection videos start streaming within a couple of seconds, there’s a good selection for a fledgling service, the video quality is decent for the majority of videos and the audio quality is as good as any other streaming service or music channel. There are however a number of minor niggles: Continue reading ‘PS3 VidZone Critique’