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YouTube Music Video - Dirty Three

Monday 29 December 2008 at 3:58 pm I'm not a huge fan of Aussie rock - to my mind the two truly great musical things to have popped out of that continent have been Nick Cave and The Dirty Three.

Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds (and prior to that The Birthday Party) are pretty well known worldwide.

The Dirty Three on the other-hand are relatively unsung. Their albums are largely instrumental affairs - just drums, guitar and violin. Frontman Warren Ellis deftly flicks his violin between eerie melancholy and manic abandon, evoking elemental emotions from the listener. Their first two albums are compulsory listening and you can also see Warren Ellis in The Bad Seeds and Grinderman.

I was actually pleasantly surprised and somewhat shocked to discover there was actually a video for this song. God knows how they got the funding to make it given the song title - so be sure to check out the majestic - Everythings Fucked.

Its like the backing music to the final scene of a western movie when the protagonist is gunned down by the bad guy - no surprise then that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis wrote the score to the recent Aussie western 'The Proposition'.

Nerf Chain Gun + More

Sunday 28 December 2008 at 9:39 pm Theres not much to top a nerf gun for workplace entertainment - this hack takes it to new heights of brilliance - Nerf Chaingun. Watch the video - anyone that skates to work deserves death by nerf.

Things we didn't know - 50 Things We Know Now (We Didn't Know This Time Last Year). Personally I found numbers 4, 10, 12, 15, 46 and 47 the most interesting.

Genius - USB NAS. Lets you plug any external USB drive into your LAN turning it into network attached storage (NAS) ie you can access it over the network. Not bad for $60US!

A museum of Old Computers. How many you have actually used (I got 11) ?

Fascinating - Nanotechnology's biggest stories of 2008. Did you know silver were nanoparticles commonly added to clothing such as socks to kill off bacteria ?

My Old Local is Closing

Thursday 18 December 2008 at 12:13 pm I almost created a 'nostalgia' category to post this under . . .

Anywho, 'The Fitz' is closing.

Probably the most popular student bar in Palmerston North (possibly NZ).

Rumour has it that a previous owner (a hotel chain) was going to close it down but they looked at the financials and realised it was the only thing keeping their chain afloat.

As a pub it was a dive - if you haven't experianced an old urban Kiwi Tavern (rural ones actually have a bit of character) they tend to be designed in the 56/60/70's to maximise profit and minimise pretty much everything else. A big hall with a long bar and uncomfortable seating on stools and tall tables with cheap tin ashtrays embedded in them (they tend to fill with beer by nights end). The carpet is industrial and usually beer soaked (ie sticky) and the bogs are tiled and industrial to allow for easy hose-down. if you were lucky it'll include some pool tables and dart boards. When I was there you could get a jug of beer (about 2.5 pints) for $5 - most nights it was standing room only so there was plenty of spillage as people tried to pour beer into their 7-ounce glasses in a heaving crowd. You'd invariably stumble home (via the 24 hour hot-bread shop or pie-dispensing 24 hour petrol station) covered in beer and reeking of cigarette smoke.

Most Taverns had a 'sport bar' annex which was marginally classier (it had pokey machines and comfy seats) and had the older die-hard alcoholics in it.

Still, for all its faults, you could bowl on up the The Fitz (short for Fitzherbert - the street it was on) at almost any time of the day and be sure of meeting someone you knew from uni there procrastinating the day away.

So RIP The Fitz.

The Way to More Efficient Meetings

Thursday 18 December 2008 at 11:58 am More efficient meetings through uncomfortable chairs.

Made me laugh.

Bandwidth No Replacement for QoS

Wednesday 17 December 2008 at 08:37 am Another interesting link via HackThePlanet is this A Policymaker's Guide to Network Management.

I found the interesting stuff towards the end (pg 29 onwards) of the linked presentation - essentially arguing that QoS still has an important part to play in delivering services even in a bandwidth rich environment.

VMware Acquires Tungsten Graphics

Wednesday 17 December 2008 at 08:27 am Came across this via HackThePlanet - VMware Acquires Tungsten Graphics. From their own site - Tungsten Graphics.

Apparently the last bastions of virtualisation are around 3D acceleration (eg in CAD & Scientific modelling) - VMWare have it in their Workstation product so its not as if they don't know how to do this. They claim they're happy to throw 3D acceleration into their ESX product, the only thing holding them back is that they can only virtualise real hardware. So if a server vendor can be convinced to start shipping 3D accelerated graphics cards into their systems (rather than the anemic 2D ones in the majority of servers) they'd be able to make that functionality available.

Picking up Tungsten might be their first step into laying the foundations for full on virtualised 3D support in their ESX range.

Eight Cores the Sweet Spot

Wednesday 17 December 2008 at 07:34 am The always interesting StorageMojo has a great article linking to research by Sandia Labs - Many-cores hit the memory wall.

Whats fascinating is that beyond 8 cores there is no benefit to be had in terms of performance due to memory bottlenecks. Actually even between 4 and 8 cores the performance benefits to be had are reasonably marginal.

I guess one good thing is that virtualisation will make use of all the cores spread around multiple VM's - but even then theres no point having multi-core VM's beyond the sweet spot.

If I had kids they'd wear these . . .

Monday 08 December 2008 at 9:56 pm And if you had kids you'd put them in these too . . .

Bundle of Joy Division T Shirt

Made by a kiwi company too.

I think I want to be two years old again.

Mac Mini Media Centre

Sunday 07 December 2008 at 5:43 pm I finally caved in and picked up a Mac Mini - second hand and about twelve months old - given the model hasn't had a spec overhaul since its release as a Core 2 Duo model I thought it was a pretty good deal. I saved a few hundred dollars which I could use for some other bells and whistles.

The Mini itself is a bit of an engineering marvel - it looks great, its tiny and its versatile. Its never going to compete against a high-end workstation but who wants an enormous, noisy and ugly) PC sitting in the lounge ? From a noise perspect you do hear a hum which tends to drop into the background over time but its not to bad - if you placed it in an AV cabinet of some kind I suspect it would be largely inaudible.

I wanted to use the Mini as the basis of a home media centre - so I ended up picking up an EyeTV USB Hybrid Tuner and a Logitech Di Novo mini-keyboard.

I don't have a fancy flat screen or panel - I use a dvi/av cable from the mini into my 29" CRT TV. I was able to get 1024x768 which works out well for pretty much everything except on-screen reading - anything optimised for on-screen display works out quite well (Front Row, ITunes full screen etc). Whenever I get around to picking up an LCD screen I'll use a dvi/hdmi cable although a few people on various AV forums have mentioned they've got better results with a dvi/vga lead or a dvi/dvi (TV's seem to come with vga rather than dvi as a PC input) - something about the TV treating a dedicated PC input better than the hdmi input in terms of resolution options. I did need an external PC monitor to setup the initial resolution and run through a few configuration items - it didn't pick up the TV straight away so don't goto all the effort of cabling everything up and tidying it away until you're sure you can get to your Mini to easily tweak settings (I had an external keyboard/mouse for the first few days in case Apple Screen Sharing or the Bluetooth failed).

EyeTV itself was able to tune all NZ freeview channels without a hiccup.

Problems and annoyances:

  • Finding somewhere to put the EyeTV tuner that didn't obstruct the tiny IR receiver built into the USB unit. The small tuner is the size of a memory stick and comes with a small extension lead but its only about 15cm, once you have an aerial plugged in things start to get unwieldy.

  • The second problem, and this is reasonably minor (for me), is that the Mini has a relatively anemic 2.5" built-in drive which can be a little sluggish; as EyeTV buffers whatever you watch to disk (I've set aside about 1Gb which is an hour or so of video) it can drop frames if you try and do something else that is disk intensive (like ripping an mp3 or copying to disk). As a result I've moved most of my data to an external Western Digital MyBook connected via FireWire - this offloads most of my disk i/o to a bigger/faster drive on a smarter interface. Sometime in the near future I'll pick up one of the Mini-style drive/port-replicator units to sit under the mini and I'll hide the MyBook away behind the telly. If being able to time-shift TV and use your Mac as a server of some sort is important you may want to look at a Mac with a fast disk (otherwise you'll have to deal with occassional dropped frames).

  • There is no NZ episode guide available over the interweb - makes it difficult to program or schedule future recording activities. Someone has knocked up an AppleScript to pull down listings but its kind of a kludge.

  • EyeTV integration with Front Row and/or Plex is minimal. Apple have made enhancing Front Row pretty difficult - the PyeTV plugin offers a modicum of integration. Plex is an open-source media-centre project which is looking at including integration in future releases.

The DiNovo Bluetooth mini-keyboard works very well - some of the ley mappings aren't that great but for its size and flexibility it performs all the tasks required of it. As it has a built in scroll pad it also acts as a mouse substitute. You wouldn't want to do any serious typing with it but its sufficient for occasional interactions with the Mac.

I've recently programmed my old Logitech Harmony 520 universal remote to learn both the EyeTV remote and Apple remote settings - so I've gone from five remotes (dvd, amp, tv, apple, eyetv) down to just one. Again the mappings available are a little frustrating at times - you won't get 100% functionality but most of the time you rarely use more than 25% of your remotes buttons anyway. Its simply a matter of focussing on those core functions and mapping them onto the universal remote. The software Logitech ships with the remote works on Mac & Windows pretty much exactly the same way. One peeve - you need to create an online profile which stores all your remote settings and configs - if you're offline you can't edit or alter your remotes settings.

One slightly aggravating side-affect is that the Harmony has a pretty powerful IR beam which will happily send signals to almost any other Apple device in range. As a result I've ended up putting a bit of tape over my MacBooks IR receiver so it doesn't respond to the remotes commands destined for the Mini. To be honest this isn't really anyones fault - it would be nice if Apple allowed you to pair your Mac to a single remote - maybe when they switch their remote to Bluetooth . . .

What would be really cool is if Logitech incorporated some of their Di Novo technology into their Universal Remote (or vice versa). At the moment I use the remote 90% of the time and use the keyboard mouse about 10% of the time - providing a mouse mode for the remote and an alphanumeric key pad would help eliminate another device.

Overall it works really well - if you're sick and tired of connecting and disconnecting a laptop or pc to watch or listen to media then consolidating those functions into an always-on media-centre PC is definitely the way to go. Some tinkering is involved to achieve best results and when the thing freezes you do begin to wonder if you haven't overcomplicated the act of blobbing out in front of the TV (depending on the technical bent of your other half the EyeTV/Mac combo probably has a moderate to low SAF (Spouse Approval Factor)).

YouTube Music Video - Tom Waits

Saturday 06 December 2008 at 5:03 pm I was poking around on YouTube and came across a swag of Tom Waits videos that I felt compelled to link to in the hope that anyone stumbling over this post would find something of his to their liking.

So here goes -

And of course Tom Waits talking shit with Iggy Pop on Coffee & Cigarettes.

Flight of the Conchords - New Trailers

Saturday 06 December 2008 at 4:36 pm Just caught the two new trailers for their upcoming HBO season - Driving and shooting and Flying without pants.

Hopefully it lives up to expectations!


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