Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

windows media on mac

Friday, January 13th, 2006

One thing I’ve had slight annoyance with has been trying to play Windows Media format files on Emma’s iBook. I downloaded Windows Media Player 9 for Mac a few days ago, but it didn’t seem to “fit in” to the whole thing the way that QuickTime does. So by coincidence I just saw on MacOSXHints the Flip4Mac plugin for QuickTime, which allows you to play wmv files within QuickTime. It’s a free download and seems to work very well indeed – nice quality playback too.

On another note, this is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in some time.

tivo upgrade

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

I’ve been wanting to do it for a couple of months – add a new hard drive to my TiVo to allow for tons more storage space for recordings. Ages ago I managed to find a really good deal on a 120Gb hard drive*, and also got the TiVo upgrade kit from, which specialises in these things. The kit was excellent, with all the tools and pieces needed (including all the screws, a bracket to hold the old and new drives in the box, cables and a fan to ensure that the extra drive doesn’t overheat the TiVo box) plus very clear instructions. The main reason for not doing it sooner was just finding the time.

So Saturday evening I thought I’d get on with it, seeing as Toby had gone to bed early. First I had to set up the new hard drive – you need to “introduce” it to the existing TiVo drive so that they’ll work together and so that your TiVo knows that it now has all this extra space. This involves taking both drives and hooking them up to a PC and booting the PC up with a free Linux utility which you get from the TiVo upgrade instructions site and need to burn to a CD. This was where I ran into my first problem. I got the PC to see the drives correctly, by setting the drive jumpers to indicate which one was primary/secondary master/slave, and the PC’s BIOS could see the drives just fine. However, neophyte that I am I didn’t know that you need to do a special action when you put a .iso (bootable disk image) onto a CD. You can’t just copy it over using Mac Finder or Windows Explorer – you need a utility to make the disk bootable. So after a bit of frustration with this on Saturday night I just put the TiVo back together and asked around at work about what to do. I ended up getting drop to CD which allows you to burn the .iso image on to your CD and state that the CD is bootable. Easy to use, and did just what I wanted.

So last night I burned my bootable CD and once I had the drives all hooked up I put my bootable CD in the CD drive and the PC booted right up into Linux. Fantastic. It saw the drives just fine with their correct capacities, and I thought I was home free. My second problem was my inability to follow simple instructions. The upgrade instructions site says that you have to boot to Linux and check the drive info (which I had done) then restart and boot again so that you can run the disk add utility, which as noted above allows the TiVo system to see the new drive. However in my wisdom I thought it was just a mistake in the instructions to have to restart, and the system couldn’t find the disk add utility. After a few minutes of trying I decided to read the manual and of course it worked just fine.

Then it was a matter of putting everything together – attaching the drives to the drive bracket, installing the fan, hooking up the power and data cables and putting the box back together again. I took the box downstairs for the moment of truth when I started it up, and it had all worked smoothly. The settings and programming I had recorded were still there, and I’ve gone from a max of about 40 hours of space to 186 hours, although that’s on almost unwatchable low quality, so on decent quality it’s now at about 85 hours, but that’s plenty.

* It’s worth noting that if you’re planning on doing this, the word is that you should look for a non-super-fast drive. Most drives these days spin at 7200RPM or more, which is great for intensive PC stuff but not so great in a TiVo box because they get much hotter, and you don’t need something that fast. It’s a bit of a challenge finding 5400RPM drives but somewhere like Tiger Direct will have them.

gmail hard drive space

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

I found an article today about how to use gmail’s amazing free storage space as a virtual hard drive – basically you install software on your PC which allows you to drag and drop files right into your gmail account and they show up as emails from yourself, so you can access these files from anywhere you like. Emma’s been talking for a while about having an online storage space, and I was going to set something up on the server, but this might be easier.

But! There seem to be a couple of flaws here. Firstly Google has sometimes blocked this tool. Secondly there doesn’t seem to be a mac version, and as Emma is a funky mac user this wouldn’t really cut it.

So! Here’s my quick and easy suggestions to do this. She can just email herself her documents which she might want to work on from a different computer. If she makes sure she always has something like “FILE” at the start of the email subject line it would be a snap to create a filter in gmail to ensure that they always get put into a “Files” folder so that they don’t clutter up her inbox and distract from regular emails.


You’re welcome.

xp power toys

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

If you’re using Windows XP and want to add a few little peppy things, take a look at Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP. I particularly like the update to Alt-Tab functionality, where it actually shows you a preview of each app if you use Alt-Tab to switch from window to window. It saves plenty of frustration if you have multiple windows on the same app open and keep flicking to the wrong one. You’re welcome.

at last

Saturday, June 4th, 2005

Something which has perplexed me for a while in Mac OS X is that there is no default support for uploading files to FTP servers. You can download in Finder (the Mac equivalent of Windows Explorer) but not upload. Who knows why? Anyway I was using the Interarchy application to do this, but I wasn’t really getting to grips with it, so today I hunted around for something better, and had success (so far) with Transmit which works just the way you want it to: looks like Finder, easy to learn and you can even edit html files directly on your server. Nice and easy, just they way they promised the mac would be, even if that turned out not to be true in this case.

want and need one

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

We never got a roomba (robot vacuum cleaner) because I didn’t really trust that it would clean as well as our Dyson, which is an excellent machine. However, I see that the Roomba’s maker, iRobot, are about to release the Scooba – a robot floor mop. The article I linked to has the company’s very perceptive comment that people don’t particularly like vacuuming, but they really hate mopping.

Anyway, my birthday is coming up, June 10th, and while I don’t think the Scooba will be released before then, bear it in mind for me for next year.

there goes that idea

Monday, May 23rd, 2005

And I was so close to finishing my time machine, but it looks like the whole idea is not going to work after all. Ah well.

But – if it was possible to build a time machine surely we’d know about it because people from the future would have told us about it? Surely?


Monday, March 14th, 2005

Well that was a bit of a palaver in some ways, but not in others. I used Emma’s mac to put together the video of Toby eating in his sleep (as reported in previous post). It was a little more work than I expected:

First I had to get the movie from the camera (because we needed to film it right away we used the regular camera rather than the camcorder, so the quality’s not perfect but hey). iPhoto of course wouldn’t upload the movie files, but to my surprise neither would iMovie – you need to have a camcorder connected on firewire. So I used the image capture program, that worked just fine.

Next stage was my first use of iMovie, which was a lot of fun and very easy indeed. Nice work. Once we have more memory in the machine this’ll be quicker too. Exporting to QuickTime was a piece of cake.

Final stage was the most surprisingly difficult. I wanted to get the movie onto the server, obviously, so that you, A Reader, could see what all the fuss was about. To my surprise, Finder in OSX doesn’t allow you to copy a file onto an ftp server. Help was unhelpful – it said to use Safari (web browser) to do it. That was mysterious and I couldn’t get anything to work that way either. So I went to Apple support which had links to a couple of FTP programs. I got one downloaded, and got the file over using Interarchy. Not the easiest operation ever, but there we go.

So finally, the grand unveiling. First you’ll need to download QuickTime. Then you can watch the sleepeating video here. Enjoy.


Thursday, February 10th, 2005

If you’re interested, it looks like Amazon are doing a rebate on Apple iBooks, so they’re a pretty good deal. A bit out of my range, but maybe one day.

for the home

Monday, December 6th, 2004

As you’re thinking of Christmas shopping, imagine what it would be like if this was the home computer you were going to get. I think that the bloke in the suit is an important accessory as you’ll need someone to operate the steering wheel while you’re simultaneously typing, looking at the printout and getting a sore neck from looking at the TV: