Saturday, November 14, 2009

Innova Launch - Glasgow - 23rd October

Just discovered the video taken during the launch event of Innova Clothing. It is on Youtube for all to see!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Halloween 2009


Pumpkin Halloween 2009
Originally uploaded by barry_williams.

Louise and I carved our pumpkins for 2009. I attempted Ed from Shaun of the Dead!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Innova Clothing Launch Event

Friday 23 October was the date of the Innova Clothing launch party at Glasgow University in the Hunter Halls. I had no idea what to expect having never been to a fashion show or event similar to this before. I arrived a little early to take some photos of the hall and university before lots of people arrived.

I was very impressed with the show, the video at the beginning was superb and the clothes looked great! All the model's clothes were created using this new technology.

Plenty of complimentary wine was a bonus and the after party in SWG3 was enjoyable too.

I've uploaded the photos I took at the event to flickr and a slideshow of the set is below.



http://www.innovaclothing.com/

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's a geek thing



I don't normally blog about work stuff, but something I did recently I thought was pretty cool - in fact so cool I am blogging about it...

It is an installation of Windows XP being performed on a virtual machine running on a remote Linux host being accessed via Hamachi and VNC from a Windows virtual machine running on a Mac OS X host...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spotify Vs iTunes



I've had Spotify installed ever since Gail Porter reviewed it on the Gadget Show in April. I've used it increasingly since then until right now when I realised I've not used iTunes (in which I have a lot of purchased music) for weeks! Over the past few years I've scrobbled all the music I've played in iTunes and on my iPod to last.fm and now this suggesting new music for me to listen to in Spotify!! I'm loving the combination of Spotify and Last.fm.

I've not used my iPod since my holidays as in the UK I listen to Spotify over a 3G connection on my Dell mini 9 netbook as I'm usually on the train or something!

I'm now considering the monthly subscription to Spotify which gives better quality music and no adverts. Though at £9.99 it is a hard sell over the free version - perhaps at £5 a month I'd jump.

My iTunes collection is looking rather lonely now...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Skyride Glasgow


Skyride Glasgow - 06
Originally uploaded by barry_williams.

Today I decided to something energetic...

Years ago I bought a bicycle and used it about 4 or 5 times and then stored it in the shed or garden occasionally washing it...

Skyride is a push to get more cyclists out and about, so they closed portions of the roads between Glasgow Green and Bells bridge. Marshalls and police then directed thousands of cyclists around this traffic free circuit.

I went around the circuit twice - enjoyed the atmosphere and regained my cycling enthusiasm, I even signed up for a "Skyride local" around Bellahouston park next week!!

This was quite a large event and included some celebrities (Sir Chris Hoy, Ross Edgar and Gethin Jones) along with mountain bike stunts and extreme BMX. I could even say I cycled along with Chris Hoy - but so did a few hundred others...

Quite fun - this photo is of "Rock God" one of the tricyclists who played out music whilst doing the circuit. I quite liked the "make some noise" drummers from Real Radio under Glasgow Central Bridge along Broomielaw.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dell 5530 / Ericsson f3507g 3G Signal Monitor on Linux

A few months back I made a python script available which monitored the Dell 5530 / Ericsson f3507g mobile broadband modem in Linux providing network, access type and signal information to a file for other programs (such as Conky) to pick up and display the data.

I've since updated this program to now use PyGTK to display a status icon indicating the signal strength and the access type. Through this icon the radio state can be changed to enforce 3G only, GPRS only or 3G preferred connections (aswell as turning the radio off).

The script should work in tandem to network-manager so you can still get online using something you already use. The only addition is a new status icon with your signal strength - something ModemManager should resolve when it becomes available as standard in a few months time. If you can't wait that long and want signal monitoring, then this is for you!

Additionally, if you use vnstat to monitor your bandwidth, clicking the status icon will display your current months usage for ppp0.

Dell 5530 / Ericsson f3507g 3G Signal Monitor for Linux

Update: Now lives on GitHub at https://github.com/bazwilliams/dell5530mon

Hopefully someone may find this program useful! If you do, why not consider donating to Multiple Sclerosis? There is a sponsorship button on the front page of my blog or at JustGiving

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Great Scottish Run 2009



A quick announcement on behalf of my wife Louise and her sister (Anne) who are running the Great Scottish 10K Run this September. They are running for charity and raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland.

Louise and Anne have set up a sponsorship page on JustGiving and whilst these are hard times for everyone - I would be thankful if anyone can donate even the smallest amount!

http://www.justgiving.com/Anne-and-Louise/

Thanks!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cool Map



This reminds me the episode in Futurama where aliens in Omicron Persei 8 (about 1000 light years from Earth) in the 31st century watch TV programs from Earth's 21st century.

Few assumptions to be made - assuming background noise didn't swamp the transmissions and they were sent in all directions from Earth rather than spiralling out with the planet's rotation. Still a cool map!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer Holiday 2009

Forgot to post a blog entry about our Summer Holiday, noticed it when reviewing my Blogger profile!

In July 2009 we traveled in our motorhome through Europe from Glasgow, Scotland to Malaga, Spain. We seemed to have brought rain with us throughout the journey with the rain cloud eventually disappearing in Madrid! Along the journey we decided to spend a day in the Somme battlefields, Normandy beaches and journey through the Ossau valley in the Pyrenees.

We followed the Circuit of Remembrance (somme-battlefields.com). The very first thing we saw was the Lochnager Crater which was awe inspiring - even after seeing aerial photographs of this, nothing could have prepared us for seeing a crater of this magnitude. The rest of the route was quite somber and sorry, a horrific feeling when crossing the frontlines which were signposted and realising how little they moved at so much cost. One memorial we saw was for a body found in 1998 making us wonder how many more are undiscovered and under our feet.

Somme Battlefield Photos on Flickr

After this we headed west for the beaches in Normandy. The first stop was at Pegasus Bridge where I went around the museum, I found this very interesting. Along with the gliders they also highlighted the use of Bailey bridges - including a Christmas Card from Adolf Hitler indicating his interest in this technology. From here we travelled west along the seafront to each of Sword, Gold, Juno and Omaha beaches and finally Pointe du Hoc. We didn't visit Utah beach and the surrounding area due to time constraints.

Normandy Photos on Flickr

We then spent a day heading toward the Pyrenees. I had plotted a route through the Ossau Valley and since this was close to Lourdes we thought we'd drive through the town to see what it was like - we were very surprised at the cheesy tacky shops littering the town, quite distasteful and cheapening. I'm sure the caverns are spectacular, but the rest of Lourdes most definitely isn't. Here was our first sight of Lourdes on Google Streetview. We didn't bother to stop (or take photos) and carried on to the start of the D918 cross valley drive.

Unfortunately the weather wasn't great, it was a little cloudy so the visibility was poorer than we hoped, but the views were still spectacular! We stopped at a campsite in Gourette, a ski resort with cliffs towering above us an three sides. Overnight the cloud slowly lowered engulfing us. I opened the window before we went to bed to have a look outside with my torch, I couldn't see a thing. Then Louise mentioned the thought of something from a horror film of someone jumping out of the cloud and through the window. Needless to say, I shut the window and we didn't go out again until morning...

Thankfully the next morning was a lot clearer for the drive through the Ossau valley toward the Spanish border. This was a high climb and was a very clear and sunny day. Spectacular views from the border post were to be found. We stopped at the border for lunch where I had the interesting experience of walking across the border from Spain into France for a loaf of bread. I didn't have my passport with me either which could have been interesting if the post was active. "I walked all the way to France to get this loaf of bread" I said to Louise on return!

The Pyrenees, D918 and Ossau Valley Photos on Flickr

After this we decided to head straight for Malaga, we were planning an extra day in the Pyrenees but decided to surprise Louise's Mum and Dad by arriving a day early. It takes just over a day to drive from the Pyrenees to Malaga so we stopped for the night near Valdepenas, the following morning we drove around Valdepenas on the lookout for some cheap wine, this town seemed really depressing and we didn't find anywhere to buy wine either. We decided to continue on and a few hours later we arrived at Louise's Mum and Dad's house only to find they weren't in! Imagine after driving 2000 miles to discover they were out... luckily we had a key so we could get in and crack open some wine.

During this trip we did some more work to our own house in Olvera and spent time relaxing. I read George Orwell's 1984 which I found fascinating.

All the photos I took from this holiday can be found on Flickr:
July 2009 Roadtrip through Europe on Flickr

Friday, April 24, 2009

Every phone call, email or website visit 'to be monitored'

From the Telegraph:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5215413/Every-phone-call-email-or-website-visit-to-be-monitored.html

The proposals will give police and security services the power to snoop on every single communication made by the public with the data then likely to be stored in an enormous national database.


The British government's spy-a-thon campaign is getting crazy!

I noticed recently there were more than 20 fixed CCTV cameras able to see me in Glasgow's Central Station concourse - that number does not include the ones on trains and in the shops.

Bring on Paranoid Linux:
an operating system that assumes that its operator is under assault from the government

~Cory Doctorow (Little Brother, 2008)
http://paranoidlinux.org/

In the meantime, use the Tor project:
http://www.torproject.org/

Crunch - Card Game for Utter Bankers



Just bought "Crunch", a game from TerrorBull games (who also make War on Terror), the description of this game is:

As the CEO of a global bank, it's your personal responsibility to do whatever it takes to ensure a comfortable retirement.


Would make my payment method quite appropriate then!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter weekend at Cobleland Campsite

Easter Weekend 2009 - 29

Over the weekend Louise and I had a relaxing stay at a campsite we visited last year. Cobleland is a Forestry Commission campsite and is located on the banks of the river Forth in the Queen Elizabeth Forest near Aberfoyle. The weather was absolutely amazing, even getting a little sunburnt on the Sunday!! It rained a little in Glasgow before we left on Friday, but the sun came out later and kept on shining until we left on Monday!

As before we went on a ranger activity, this time doing an early morning hike through the forest which was thoroughly enjoyable, unfortunately we missed any deer or squirrel though we did spot their traces during the walk. We also had a map of the area with some trails on it so we walked around the yellow trail from Lemahamish.

There have been some improvements to Cobleland from last year, there were more electric hookups available (which meant we were pushed further up the hillside as we use Solar) and the toilet and shower blocks looked like they had been refurbished. A very much recommended campsite which we will be returning to soon.

Next time we might walk up Doon Hill and offer gifts to the fairies...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dell 5530/Ericsson f3507g on Linux

A few months back I posted a howto guide on getting this mobile broadband card working with Linux, what I failed to mention was I continued to work on these scripts. I feel it is appropriate to post a status update on what I use now especially given there appears to be no further updates on the NetworkManager front.

I no longer use UMTSMon as I found it relied on AT+CSQ for the signal quality and during UMTS and HSPA connections, the f3507g/dell 5530 returns either the previous GPRS value or 99,99 which UMTSMon considers as no connection available.

I've used a simplified wvdial.conf scripts and now do the rest of the radio work using python.

wvdial.conf

# Author: Barry John Williams
# Creative Commons Attribute-Share Alike 2.5 UK:Scotland Licence

[Dialer defaults]
New PPPD = yes
Stupid Mode = 1
Modem Type = ACM Modem
Modem = /dev/ttyACM1
Init1 = AT
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Init3 = AT+CGDCONT=1,"ip","internet"
Baud = 460800
ISDN = 0
Phone = *99***1#
Password = web
Username = web


You will need to update the Init3 command for your own provider and the password and username for your service. In this case it is set up for Vodafone UK.

To dial up to the web I currently use ppptray which is a python app and displays an icon in your notification area which you click to toggle connectivity. Behind the scenes it calls pon and poff which in turn use wvdial to enable the connection.

I modify my pon and poff scripts to just call the default wvdial configuration. You can find pon and poff in /usr/bin.

pon

#!/bin/sh

# Author: Barry John Williams
# Creative Commons Attribute-Share Alike 2.5 UK:Scotland Licence

PATH=/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin
wvdial >> /var/log/ppp.log 2>&1


poff

#!/bin/sh

# Author: Barry John Williams
# Creative Commons Attribute-Share Alike 2.5 UK:Scotland Licence

PATH=/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin
kill `lsof /dev/ttyACM1 | grep wvdial | awk '{print $2}'`


I have written a python program (dell5530_mon.py) which monitors the broadband card on /dev/ttyACM0. It polls the card every few seconds requesting the current network provider, access type and signal quality (even for UMTS connections). This information is made available in the /tmp directory:











MB_NETWORKThe current network provider (e.g. Vodafone UK)
MB_SIGNALThe current signal strength represented using characters from the 'PizzaDude Bullet' font (downloadable from dafont.com)
MB_TYPEThe current network access type (GPRS, 3G, 3G+, NONE)


These files are only updated if there is a change from the previous value, additionally my /tmp folder is on a ramdisk to save SSD writes so you may want to either do this or move the files to another volatile location.

dell5530_mon.py also uses pynotify to display a notification if the network provider changes or the connection type changes. This is useful if you are travelling through different signal areas, you are notified when the signal is lost or moves from 3G to 3G+ for example.

I run the monitor on startup automatically switching the radio on, it also enables the radio whenever I resume my machine from standby, this just leaves clicking the ppptray button to go online. I intend to bring this functionality within dell5530_mon.py but haven't done so yet. My goal is to automatically connect to the web if no other connection is available and provide the signal strength in the notification area (with ability to toggle radio and connection states from a context menu).

In the meantime, I use conky to read the values stored in the /tmp directory to display the current network operator, connection type and signal quality in addition to receiving the notifications.

I hope people find this useful, all the code is made available under a creative commons licence and can be downloaded below:

Dell 5530 Python Monitor (dell5530_mon.py)

Note, A newer version of the script with a Notification Area GUI is available here: http://blog.bjw.me.uk/2009/08/dell-5530-ericsson-f3507g-3g-signal.html

Note this also comes with a radio.py library which can be used as a standaline program to get the status of the radio and enable/disable it. At the moment I've configured dell5530_mon.py to enable the radio in 3G only mode (since mine kept falling back to a GPRS signal despite 3G being available). If you want it to connect to both types of networks, you will need to change a line in dell5530_mon.py from radio.on(ser,radio.UMTS) to radio.on(ser,radio.PREFER).

Once the monitor has detected a network operator, it tries to enable the GPS functionality on /dev/ttyACM2. However, this appears to be a bit hit and miss...

Useful Links:

Monday, February 02, 2009

First snow of 2009



Taken at 9.40 this morning at Baillieston station in Glasgow. The snow gradually got worse during the day!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother



I have just finished reading Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very insightful, although it appears to be set a little into the future (10 or 15 years), many of the technologies covered in the book could exist today! Over the last few years I've been watching with interest the "security theater" happening in Britain. I have enjoyed thinking about how such systems would fail and how people could easily bypass a system - further enhancing my view that these precautions are there for show and not increased security. This is what the protagonist in this book does all the time to fight his war against his own freedom.

When questioned about the increased restrictions; CCTV; tracking; RFIDs; and ID cards people always seem to take the point of view; "if you have nothing to hide, why worry?". I've always had a little bit of difficulty answering this question other than it's the attitude which allows the powers that be to make things worse with even more 'security'; and then point out a few areas where they fail. This book provides an answer to these by example.

It reminded me of a thought I had during the Christmas Lectures by Professor Chris Bishop, in one of the lectures he talked about using RFID technology to pay for items and for your fridge to acknowledge the expiration date of food contained within. As a 'bonus', the RFID could also store the components of the packaging for efficient recycling after being thrown out. My take on this was the superstore tracking you with the item knowing exactly when you picked the item up, from where and how long it spent in your basket - along with the rest of your items - and how you paid for it. The superstore would have an incredible amount of information about you which they could mine. Then when the packaging is thrown out, the recycling agency could have enough information to know exactly who threw said packaging out - and typical of Britain, this could be a taxable service, pay as you throw RFID style. Quite quickly you could obtain and track the eating habits of thousands of Britons! I have nothing to hide about my eating habits - but I certainly wouldn't want this information stored about my household.

I haven't read Orwell's 1984, but I bought 1984 along with Little Brother on Amazon, it is next on my reading list!

In summary I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it!

Buy Little Brother on Amazon

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Far Side Reenactments


Decisions, decisions
Originally uploaded by WayneWho?.

This is one of my favourite far side cartoons - Midvale School for the gifted. I have it on T-Shirt somewhere...

This flickr! group reenacts Gary Larson Far Side cartoons in real life. Some of them are very good!!

Far Side Reenactments on flickr!