Sony just don’t get it…

Music Pass CardsThis has to be one of the stupidest stories I’ve read for a while. Sony BMG have finally decided to catch up with their competition and start selling DRM free music. The downside is that you have to go into a store and buy a “Platinum Music Pass” that contains a download code, before you can download your album from!

I would love to say that Sony are stupid and that they’ve messed up, but I think it’s more likely to be a calculated move. As TechCrunch say, when Sonly BMG fail to sell a large quantity of DRM free songs via this system, they can claim that there’s no demand for DRM free music, and go back to selling DRM protected ones.

It’s a shame that Sony are so short-sighted, most of the music I buy online is done on impulse; I decided to get a new album and within a few clicks the download has started, I’m sure the majority of others buy music on impulse too. If I have to go to a shop to buy a card with a code then I’ll just look for similar music from their competitors that’s sold without DRM.


If you are looking for legal DRM free music then check out 7digital or Amazon MP3 (USA only for now). and other musical things

Last.Fm LogoI’ve been a huge fan of since I started using it back in 2006 (for those who don’t know, it’s a social music website that logs every song you listen to, and connects you with people of similar taste, and suggests other music that you might like), but one feature that I’ve often overlooked is the stand-alone player.

On windows it’s the main tool that scrobbles your tracks as you listen to them in iTunes or Windows Media Player, but you can also type an artists name, or a specific tag, and listen to a stream of similar music; something I’ve been using a lost this Christmas. It’s been great to fire up the player on a laptop and listen to music tagged with ‘acoustic’ while I cook dinner, or type in an artist like ‘John Mayer‘ and find similar artists. Player (streaming)

A side-effect of this is that I’ve also discovered 7digital, an online music store that offers DRM[?] free music ( direct you to 7digital if you want to buy an album electronically) which is perfect now that I’m using Linux. There’s also a Linux version of the stand-alone player, and other options like built in support for scrobbling and listening to streams in Amarok.

One issue that I have experienced since I switched to Linux, is the downside to DRM. I’ve purchased quite a bit of music over the past few years from the iTunes Music Store, which is copy protected and won’t play outside of an authorised copy of iTunes, which is a problem if you’re using Linux and can’t actually run iTunes. Thankfully it’s a pretty common issue and thanks to the Hymn Project I’ve been able to get all of my purchased music into a Linux friendly format!

Happy days.

Photo Matt

I know what you’re thinking… My fourth blog post this week ‘he must be bored’. We’ll that’s not true, kind of!

I just clicked a random link in my WordPress News dashboard and found Photo Matt, I haven’t really had chance to read any of the content but the design of the header really stood out as an excellent piece of design.

Photo Matt Homepage

 It makes me want to do some actual design work on this blog, I guess I’ll tag it under ‘inspiration’

Synergy – The ultimate desktop sharing tool

Synergy logoI’ve been doing some internal testing at work this week using Safari, and I’ve moved our Mac Mini onto my desk rather than using VNC. I’ve been using some awesome software called Synergy which lets you share your keyboard and mouse over the network. So I currently have my main work PC (running Windows) which has dual-monitors, next to a third monitor which is hooked up to the Mac Mini. With synergy I can move my mouse cursor between all three monitors and work on either machine without having to switch keyboards, or use a KVM.

Obviously I can’t drag/drop files or move windows between machines, but it’s made life a lot easier for performing Mac testing. It even supports cut/copy/paste from one machine to the other. Here’s a picture of my desktop setup at work (click to see the Flickr version that has notes)


Linux screen-1 300×240Its official, I’ve decided to drop Microsoft Windows completely at home, and use Linux instead. It started off as a little experiment, to see what Linux is like these days (it’s been a few years since I used it last), but after a few days of using it I love it!

I’m currently running Gentoo Linux, with the KDE desktop (3.5). I’ve included some screen shots of what it currently looks like.

If I’m honest I thought that running Linux day to day would be a bit of a drag, but it’s been great so far. I’ve managed to find open-source equivalents of everything I used to use on Windows, like:

  1. Browser – Firefox (same ol’ browser, with the same plugins)
  2. Instant messaging client – Kopete (includes MSN support)
  3. Music Player – Amarok (even includes built in Last.FM support)
  4. Image editing – Gimp (on a par with Adobe Photoshop)
  5. Open Office (Perfect replacement for Microsoft Office in 90% of cases)
  6. VLC & Xine (media and DVD player), Realplayer, Adobe Flash 9 plugin, and Last.FM player

Linux screen-2 300×240The obvious comment to make is that all of the software above is free, so there’s no need to pay for expensive image editing, or office software!

Getting the software is easy too. From previous experience I was expecting to have to either a) compile everything from source code and track down if one program was dependent on another when something broke, or b) use RPM or another package manager to install software that someone else has configured for you, leaving little room for your own configuration. Thankfully Gentoo have Portage, which is a great package manager. You can search their repository online, or from the command line, and it downloads the latest copy of the application and then complies it for you. The best thing is you can easily set flags to control what options you want the program to compile with, and there’s no need to worry about dependencies, if it detects one then it installs whatever is required first.

Linux screen-3 300×240.jpgOne criticism I had, and somewhat still have of Linux, is that it doesn’t look quite as polished as Windows or OS X does, but I’m still learning what to tweak, and what fonts etc to install so I’ll get there. One excellent feature has to be Compiz Fusion, which provides some real eye-candy with window and desktop animations! I’d never really seen the point to having multiple ‘virtual’ desktops running at the same time for the same user, but Compiz really lets you make full use of those additional desktops. Think of it as having multiple monitors, but without having to give up the desk space.

I’m also using Avant as a dock(which you can see at the bottom of these screen shots), and gives you a nice 3D styled launcher, and task bar of running applications.

Here’s some screenshots of Compiz in action. The first shows a linear view of all four desktops with different applications running simultaneously (from left to right: Gimp, Firefox with, Xine playing Sean of the Dead, and Konsole).

Linux screen-4 300×240.jpg

The second shot is of the cube desktop view, showing the same four desktops with the same applications running, but you can manipulate the 3D cube, and move between desktops.

Linux screen-5 300×240.jpg

The desktop background I’m using at the moment is by 1600 Squirrels you can see the original at

Design Update

I’ve just updated some images, and CSS styles to expand the size of the site. It should sit nicely inside a browser at 1024×768. We’ve had quite a debate at work about designing sites to 1024×768 rather than 800×600, especially with the newly designed BBC home page being 1024×768.

I really need to do some more work on the design of this site (well to be honest I need to do some design work in the first place because it’s a bit bland at the moment). Maybe if I get bored over Christmas you’ll see some updates.

For those of you reading in an RSS reader head over to the site and let me know what you think by leaving a comment

Xbox 360 Review

Xbox 360 ConsoleI’ve recently decided to join the growing online gaming world, and purchased an Xbox 360 Premium console (it was second hand, but less than a year old, so I managed to save a considerable amount). The console itself it well designed, it looks sleek, and runs very quietly, although it does get quite hot which could be a problem if you’re playing for a long time.

The premium pack comes with quite a few accessories:

The seller also threw in a free universal remote control, which is used to control the DVD player, and access media content on the local network.

The console setup went relatively smoothly, there’s a switch on the back of the AV cable that changes between the analogue and HD component input, which I had to find (the previous owner was running it on HD, and I’m still on analogue). The network setup went through OK, with the console picking up the relevant details from the DHCP server.

The Xbox live system uses a peer to peer system for online game play, rather than a centralised server architecture, which meant opening up a few ports on my router, before I could host games or conversations.

On the whole the experience that the Xbox 360 gives you is superb, it’s great to be able to play against friends online and chat to them when you’re either playing death-match or going through a game in co-op mode. The graphics are excellent, even on a standard definition TV (they must be outstanding on a HD TV). I’ll post some reviews of games and some other bits in a few weeks when I’ve had more time to play with it.

WordPress Upgrade

Wordpress LogoI’ve just completed an upgrade to my WordPress installation, and it looks like some of my plugins might not be compatible with the latest release. As soon as updates are released I’ll get them installed, but in the mean time tags are disabled. If you see any error messages, or anything that looks odd then drop me an email or leave a comment, and I’ll get it fixed asap.

Updated 05/10/2007 11:54
As mentioned in the comments below WordPress 2.3 supports tagging, you can import tags from existing plugins in the Manage -> Import menu (instruction for adding templates tags are here)

I’ve finally caught up with the 21st century!

BT Openworld Router (Grey Background)Believe it or not, I’m finally writing the post from home, using a broadband connection! I’ve been waiting to get broadband installed for three years, but the local infrastructure couldn’t support ADSL on our line (for those interested, BT installed fiber cabling rather the copper, so they had to overlay copper).

It’s great to be online at the same time as the rest of my family, and not have to wait until the phone line is free before I can get online!

Maybe I’ll be able to get around to updating this blog a bit more often now.

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