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June 21, 2007


For the globetrotting foodies out there:

a dictionary of culinary fish names

(as Vicky was wondering what 'Lotte' was when she was in Paris yesterday)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:29 PM

June 14, 2007

Food Ponce

Guilty as charged

(from Vicky)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2007

Customers? Market? Support? No thanks we're Philips.

I am grumpy.

I bought these rather snazzy Philips SHS8001/00 earphones on saturday:

30 quid they cost, and they were really rather good. Nice sound, and the earhooks stopped them falling out like other earbuds I've tried (e.g. apple ones).

The only problem is the little rubber grommets that go around the outside to seal them in your ear.

They fall off - almost ping off. Take them out of your pocket, or too roughly out of a bag, and you're left scrabbling around for this tiny piece of grey/white plastic. (Not easy, for example on the grey/white speckled floor of Beckton Sainsbury's).

This morning when I woke up one was missing again - and I'd not seen it go. So I go to Philips site to buy a replacement - there's nothing listed. I ring their support number, only to be told that I have to order all spares from a separate company. I ring said separate company, who say "Sorry, we don't have those as parts. Philips don't provide them to us as spares. We get loads of people ringing up for them, so I don't know why."

Right, I think, punching in Philips support number crossly.

This is a complex query, so I am put on hold almost immediately.
"Yes sir, my supervisor says you'd need to order that from Dutchwest"
"I've just spoken to them. They don't have any"
"Will they be getting any"
"Um, they say you don't send them to them. But that people ring up for them all the time."
"Could you hold sir
(time passes)
No, we don't supply that as a spare part at all"
"So I've now got a 30 quid pair of earphones that are useless because you won't sell me a spare part"
"I'm sorry sir, we just don't provide it"
"But people want it, are you going to at some stage soon?"
"I'm sorry sir, we don't provide that"
"So effectively this means I've bought headphones from you that are unsupported and useless after a week and we both know I will never ever buy from Philips again."
"Um, I'm sorry sir"

Good old philips, getting out of the consumer electronics market one customer at a time.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:31 PM | Comments (3)

June 03, 2007

The Great Con(vergence)

I am, as they say, time poor. Particularly when it comes to learning. Learning a new thing tends to find its way to the top of my tree because it fits with my life, not because it's the thing I most want to do. Learning to read chinese got along a lot further than Lev Manovitch's "The Language of New Media" mainly because one could be carried around 30 Flash cards at a time and read while standing up on the tube. Lev's enormous hardback isn't so Central-line-cram-at-8:15-friendly.

But sometimes there are things I want to learn so badly that I need to find a way to make them fit in with the time I have got to myself.

Pro Tools is the latest.

Now this is a pretty complex bit of software, with a million hidden features, some non-intuitive workflows and PDF manuals FAR too big to print.

But Digidesign, being the sensible people they are, provide numpties like me with a helpful DVD that gets you going on how to use the key features. And it's a damn good one.

Except to the people who surround me during any time the TV can be on and I am allowed to be stationary.

"This is boring, I want to watch Peppa Pig" daisy was chanting within four minutes. Vicky's face was trying to be loyal, but wasn't far behind.

I know, I thought, I have my sexy new N95 - I'll convert it to watch on that on the train. What a great way to be geeky, learn this new software, and show off a gadget at the same time.

So here is the process:

1) Download Handbrake after reading diveintomark's instructions.
2) Try and reinterpret diveintomark's instructions for the updated interface.
3) Insert DVD, choose Title4, chapters 1-50, enter all the settings needed for the phone.
4) Press 'process'.
5) Go and do something else for about an hour.
6) Come back and see it's converted 1h40 of DVD to MPEG4 already. Be impressed.
7) Find out it's only converted the first 1m34s chapter
8) Try again, unchecking the 'add chapter markers' setting in case.
9) Wait.
10) Sigh that it's still only converted the first chapter.
11) Try only converting chapters 1 to 10 in case that's too much.
12) Wait.
13) Sigh more loudly, attracting attention of spouse who is now seriously doubting my 'this will only take ten minutes', as it once again only converts first chapter.
14) Try 2 to 10 in case there is a glitch in the first one for some reason.
15) Give up sighing, start swearing, as it only converts chapter 2
16) Remember there was a dodgy bit on the disk when watching on TV, pick chapter at random and start encoding from there.
17) Get glass of wine, as spouse has now given up and gone to bed.
18) Realise excitedly that it's working.
19) Try to find a place in the DVD to re-encode from, realise that chapter 17 was the point it got interesting anyway, so you needn't have aborted.
20) Turn all the original settings back.
21) Ignore all common sense that would say this is going to take over two hours and decide to stay up reading in bed and wait for it.
22) Mess around pointlessly on the net instead, blogging increasingly drunkenly
23) Spend last two minutes of encode just *wishing* the time away.
24) Brace yourself for disappointment, but instead watch video excitedly, waking up wife in process.
25) Connect mac and N95 with USB cable, select "mass storage" mode from N95 menu that appears
26) Be told that the memory card has files in use and so can't be opened in this mode.
27) Turn off all apps, connect again.
28) Get same message, wonder if you can be arsed to uninstall Shozu which must be the thing running the background.
29) Try moving all of the messaging data store back into the phone in case.
30) Try again - without success.
31) Move the messaging data store back onto the 2GB memory card.
32) Go and open another bottle of wine, attempt to bluetooth the 236MB file.
33) Get 'not enough memory' message, as all bluetooth data is stored in phone memory first, even though it appears within 'messaging' app, which points to the memory card. Gahhhhhhhh!
34) Go and get work laptop from rucksack and power up
35) Turn on ftp server on mac in System Preferences
36) Browse to file and start download to PC.
37) Drink another glass of wine, piss around on net more.
38) Frantically run round for power cable for laptop in pants as it's about to die.
39) Check file on PC, disturbing wife once again.
40) Connect N95 to PC, again using mass storage mode as PC drivers are a bit smart about this.
41) See steps 25ff
42) Give up and upload it to the phone using PC suite
43) Enrapt, watch video on phone.
44) Curse once again as you realise that RealPlayer on the N95 doesn't support chapter markers so you have 1h40 of video to find your way around at random.
45) Remember you have big important meeting tomorrow and should have been asleep probably nearly two hours ago.
46) Go to sleep exasperated but happy.

Real pros will also add step 47) Be woken up by teething child 90 minutes later and spend rest of night being cried at or poked in the face while trying to get sleep.

So that's it kids, your easy guide to having all your favourite content on the move with you! How can this not catch on like wildfire - all the analysts say it will!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:53 PM | Comments (2)

June 01, 2007

Why we cut short our camping trip

Why we cut short our camping trip
Originally uploaded by vickerous
Vicky captured this rather well.

I, meanwhile, was getting soaked taking down the tent without a care for whether I'd get pneumonia. I am a man, after all.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)