Yearly Archives: 2011

Technology

A few things I tried to resolve my Humax PVR-9300T lockups

A couple of years ago, I bought a Humax 9300-T PVR and, once a firmware update had been applied, it’s been a pretty solid piece of kit.

I had avoided applying any more firmware updates because for consumer electronics my approach is generally one of “if it works, don’t fix it!”. Unfortunately it seems the UK’s switchover to digital TV is working against me with what appear to be constant changes in the infrastructure and an increased number of system lock-ups seems to correlate to a retune. Over the last few months it’s been manageable (it was just happening when we watched Channel 5 – so we stopped watching it!) but yesterday it became worse, on all channels, with the clock on the device staying still and the remote becoming unresponsive within a couple of minutes of a reboot. Yesterday, I must have power-cycled my PVR on at least 10 occasions.

I found an interesting discussion post that seemed to suggest a reset to defaults and manual tune of the receiver might help:

“My 9300T has also started to lock up recently. I contacted Humax Support and they advised me to manually retune so that I only pickup the signals from my area [...]. Instructions below:

Please find below the details you will need to follow to manual tune the receiver.

Press MENU
Select Installation
Enter your password (Default – 0000)
Select Default Setting
Select YES
Enter your password (Default – 0000)

The receiver will then take 30 seconds and will switch off and restart.

When the product loads up again it will enter the Automatic Search; please press OK to STOP the search before any channels are found.

If any channels are found and you are asked to SAVE the channels please select NO and press OK.

Press OK twice to access the Installation menu, and then follow below:

Select Manual Search and press OK

You will now need to enter the channel number for each of the 6 Multiplexes available to receive all of the channels. After you enter each of the numbers below select the Search box and press OK. When the channels on each Multiplex are found press OK to save.

Follow the procedure above to search all 6 multiplexes. You will be able to see the signal levels of each of the Multiplexes.

Please ensure that the Network Search option is disabled.

[...]“

The UK digital TV reception predictor gave me the information I needed about the multiplexes (MUXs) to use but, unfortunately, retuning didn’t solve the issue. So I had a rant on Twitter (cathartic, of course) and started to look for updated firmware. I found that an over-the-air (OTA) update is being broadcast this weekend but then I got a tweet from @michealcni to tell me that it was live already (looking back know, I could have found that from the Digital TV Group engineering channel over-air download schedule)!

@ @ 9300T update is on air now. Go to Installation, Software update, select Auto update. You need version 1.00.26 to fix
@michaelcni
MichaelC

After following the update process, I repeated the reset to defaults and retune process (a manual retune has an added advantage that I can skip certain channels that an automatic tune picks up and I might not want the children, in-laws, or others to ask me about – I’m happy answering questions about Father Christmas or the tooth fairy but would rather avoid “Daddy, what’s Adult Filth?”).

It’s early days yet but the system has remained stable overnight so, hopefully, installing the latest firmware has fixed whatever was causing my PVR to crash. In the meantime, I hope the information in this post is useful to someone else!

Technology

Logging in to Lync 2010 with the Windows Phone client

Earlier today, Microsoft released the Lync 2010 client for Windows Phone (clients for Android, iPhone, iPad and Symbian are on their way).  And, as I’m an Office 365 user and I bought a Windows Phone last week, I decided to take a look.

Installing the app is straightforward enough but I was struggling to log in using the normal credentials that I use for other Office applications (like Outlook Mobile). From looking at the ratings on the app, it seems I’m not alone – with plenty of people saying “it doesn’t work”.

Microsoft’s advice for setting up Lync on Windows Phone is incomplete but the required DNS settings are documented in the Office 365 community wiki.  The missing piece of the puzzle came from Ben Lee – it’s necessary to specify a username (in the format user@domain.onmicrosoft.com) and an External Discovery URL of https://meet.lync.com/Autodiscover/autodiscoverservice.svc/Root.

Once those additional settings were configured, Lync jumped into life!

(For full client configuration details, with screenshots, check out Ben’s post.)

[Update 21 December 2011: It seems this also works with the iOS Lync client, except that also seems to need an Internal Discovery URL before it will allow sign-in (I used the same URL for both internal and external)]

Photography

Another press photographer with a tale or few: Arthur Edwards, MBE

Recently, I blogged about an evening I’d spent watching and listening to long-time press photographer Ken Lennox. Ken had many tales that I couldn’t do justice in my blog post and another Fleet Street ‘tog who has covered the Royal Family is Arthur Edwards, MBE. Arthur recently featured on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs radio programme and it’s worth checking out the recording for some tales of life as a royal photographer.

Technology

Is there such a thing as private cloud?

I had an interesting discussion with a colleague today, who was arguing that there is no such thing as private cloud – it’s just virtualisation, rebranded.

Whilst I agree with his sentiment (many organisations claiming to have implemented private clouds have really just virtualised their server estate), I do think that private clouds can exist.

Cloud is a new business model, but the difference between traditional hosting and cloud computing is more that just commercial. The NIST definition of cloud computing is becoming more and more widely accepted and it defines five essential charactistics, three service models and four deployment models.

The essential characteristics are:

  • “On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
  • Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
  • Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.
  • Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.
  • Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.”

and NIST’s private cloud definition is:

“Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.”

If anything, the NIST definition is incomplete (it doesn’t recognise any service models beyond infrastructure-, platform- and software-as-a-service – I’d add business process as a service too) but the rest is pretty spot on.

Looking at each of the characteristics and comparing them to a simple virtualisation of existing IT:

  • On demand self service: virtualisation alone doesn’t cover this – so private clouds need to include another technology layer to enable this functionality.
  • Broad network access: nothing controversial there, I think.
  • Resource pooling: I agree, standard virtualisation functionality.
  • Rapid elasticity: this is where private cloud struggles against public (bursting to public via a hybrid solution might help, if feasible from a governance/security perspective) but, with suitable capacity management in place, private virtualised infrastructure deployments can be elastic.
  • Measured service: again, an additional layer of technology is required in order to provide this functionality – more than just a standard virtualised solution.

All of this is possible to achieve internally (i.e. privately), and it’s important to note that it’s no good just porting existing applications to a virtualisaed infrastructure – they need to be re-architected to take advantage of these characteristics. But I’m pretty sure there is more to private cloud than just virtualisation with a new name…

As for, whether there is a long term place for private cloud… that’s an entirely separate question!

Technology

12 tips for digital marketers (@allisterf at #digitalsurrey)

In yesterday’s post about marketing in a digital world, I mentioned Allister Frost’s 12 tips for marketers but didn’t go into the details. You can find them at the back of his deck on SlideShare but I took some notes too so I’ve added them here:

  1. Invest in social leadership and social players – it may be you, or it may be somebody else who sets the strategic direction but find people with energy and enthusiasm to make it happen. Do not confuse the two roles: if you’re the social leader don’t play as you’ll lose sight of the strategy.
  2. Invest in tools and expertise – ask tough questions of vendors selling tools.
  3. Develop your social recommendation optimisation (SRO) strategy – optimise everything so it become recommended through social channels. Not to be confused with social media optimisation (SMO) which is short-sighted (too focused on channels).
  4. Listen, then engage – don’t assume you know the answers – understand the channel first.
  5. Answer the social telephone – if a phone was ringing, you would pick it up so treat social in the same way to avoid losing opportunities.
  6. Moderate wisely – if you don’t, your brand can become associated with spam.
  7. Create social objects – think about how they get to customers. May be a video, a white paper, or something else…
  8. Make it better when shared – thank, reward and encourage.
  9. Handpick your interfaces – go and find the channels where your audience is.
  10. Be remarkable – do things that people remark upon.
  11. Show some personality – there is a balance between appearing as the juvenile delinquent or the company robot and you can move – just don’t stay at the extremes.
  12. Fail fast, learn faster – continuously pilot-test (again and again…)
Technology

Useful Links: November 2011

A list of items I’ve come across recently that I found potentially useful, interesting, or just plain funny:

  • Web symbols typeface – A typeface that includes frequently used web design iconographics and symbols
  • Print friendly – Make any web page print-friendly (including PDF generation)
  • Social media icons – A set of social media icons by Paul Robert Lloyd (in 4 sizes)
Technology

Marketing in a digital world (@allisterf at #digitalsurrey)

Last Thursday was Digital Surrey night and this month’s speaker was Allister Frost, Head of Digital Marketing Strategy at Microsoft.  Allister gave an engaging talk on “doing marketing in a digital world” and, whilst there might have been a couple of things I wasn’t entirely convinced of, I’m not a marketing professional (even if I spend a good chunk of my day in what could be described as marketing) so I’ll defer to those with more experience.

Allister has kindly shared his slides, along with some supporting materials – which makes my task of blogging about the evening a lot easier, but I decided to have a play with Storify for this one:

I’m in two minds about this approach to curating the information from the evening… it took just as long as writing a blog post and all of Google’s (sorry, Bing’s) link love goes to another site… but it was worth a try (and it’s definitely a great tool when most of the content is already spread around the web). If you have any content from the evening that I missed, please get in touch and I’ll add it to the story.

Exercise

Update on my Fit at 40 challenge

Today’s the last day of Movember and, whilst I said I wouldn’t be growing a ‘tache this year, I did say I’d push to make sure I’d lost my second stone by the end of the month (all part of  my “Fit at 40″ challenge). Despite not being able to exercise for nearly two weeks earlier in the month due to a heavy cold (man flu), I’ve been pounding the streets since then, combined with spinning classes, the occasional swim and being really careful about what I’m eating.

Even so, it was with some trepidation that I stood on the scales this morning and…

…I did it!

15st 10lbs (100kg) means I’ve shed two stone since I started this challenge and, for those who are thinking “yeah, but anyone can lose a couple of stone on a diet” the whole point has been to avoid “diets” and to lose weight by switching to a more healthy, sustainable lifestyle (i.e. I can still have a drink from time to time, and eat food that I like, in moderation).  It also means I’m lighter than I’ve been in years – probably since before my wife was pregnant with our first child (I put on weight to match, but she lost hers…) – and certainly fitter than I’ve been since… my teens I guess.

My weight loss seems to come in fits and starts (it plateaus, then I lose half a stone, before it plateaus again) and the 16 stone barrier has been tough to break through – if I can get below 15 and a half stone before Christmas (and keep it off after Christmas), I should be back on track!

So, here’s where I’m at:

  • 10 months into my challenge, 28lbs (12.7kg) lost, a lot leaner body, and two 10K races under my belt (Bupa London 10,000 and Buckingham 10K).
  • 4 months to go, 15lbs (6.8kg) to lose and another 10K race (at least) to run.

The challenge continues… Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far and who continues to do so – donations to my JustGiving page in support of the Prostate Cancer Charity are a great motivator!

Technology

Starting to play with the Internet of things

Unlike some people, who find it invasive, I love the concept of the Internet of things. I’m truly excited by some of the possibilities that a world driven by data opens up. Sure, there are issues to overcome (primarily around privacy and connectivity) – but anyone who believes their data isn’t already being captured by service providers (even if those providers don’t yet know how to handle the massive volumes of data) is in for a shock. So why not embrace the possibilities and use our increasingly smart world to our collective advantage?

In my recent presentation to the BCS Internet Special Interest group, I referred to the Technology Strategy Board‘s Future Internet Report, which talks about [emphasis added by me]:

“An evolving convergent Internet of things and services that is available anywhere, anytime as part of an all-pervasive omnipresent socio–economic fabric, made up of converged services, shared data and an advanced wireless and fixed infrastructure linking people and machines to provide advanced services to business and citizens.”

The report also acknowledges the need for more than just “bigger pipes” to handle the explosion in data volumes. We do need a capable access mechanism but we also need infrastructure for the personalisation of cloud services and for machine to machine (M2M) transactions; and we also need convergence to enable a transformational change in both public and private service delivery.

That’s the big picture but scaling back down to a personal level, one of my colleagues, David Gentle (@davegentle – who happens to be the main author of Fujitsu’s Technology Perspectives microsite) highlighted a site called Pachube to me last week. I first came across Pachube a few months back but [partly because it used to be a chargeable service (it became free at the start of this month)] it got added to my “list-of-things-to-have-a-better-look-at-one-day” (that day rarely comes, by the way!). This time I had a better look and I found it to be pretty cool.

Pachube is basically a cloud-based broker for connected devices with a web service to manage real-time data and a growing ecosystem of applications to feed and consume data. That sounded like it might need some programming (i.e. could be difficult for me these days) but then I found a method to hook an energy monitor up to the web, with no coding required!

I’ve written before about the EnergyFit (Current Cost) power meter that E-ON sent me. I wasn’t a fan of E-ON’s software so I hooked it up to Google PowerMeter for a while, but that service has closed down (along with Microsoft’s Hohm service – which I don’t think even made it to the UK). Using a USB to serial driver and a companion application I now have one of my computers feeding data from my Current Cost meter to the Pachube website, where it gets transformed into JSON, XML or CSV format and “magic” can be performed. I used the Mac OS X software versions of the driver and the application but there are also Windows (driver/application) and Linux (driver/application) variants that I have not tested. The process of setting up a Pachube feed has also changed slightly since the original guidance was written but the basic steps are:

  1. Install the USB-serial drivers.
  2. Install the application
  3. Run the application and select the appropriate serial port (for me, on my Mac, that is /dev/tty.usb-serial).
  4. Create a feed (a push feed – and however many times I turn it private it seems to switch back to public…).
  5. Paste the XML version of the feed into the application.
  6. Set up a secure sharing (API) key (you probably don’t want to use the master key) and paste it into the application.
  7. Save preferences and wait for the application to start feeding data, at which point the feed should show as live

The application I used and the Pachube website seem to work together to configure the datastreams within the feed (one for temperature and one for power) and it’s all set to go.

Once the feed is live, there are a load of apps listed on the Pachube website with everything from graphs and visualisations to mapping tools and augmented reality. I decided to create a page to display some of these, starting out with a customisable PNG-based graph from my feed. That worked, so I added another, together with a PachuDial and a couple of PachuBlog gadgets (sadly, these are Flash-based, so don’t work on the iPad…). Next I created a second feed to consume the power usage from the first one and measure the associated carbon footprint.

Having played around with energy usage, I found that I could also use Pachube to monitor my Twitter account (a pull feed this time) – which might be useful too.

Now I’ve mastered the basics with my Current Cost meter, I might try some home automation using Arduino devices – although that looks to have quite a steep learning curve on the electronics front… In the meantime, you can see the Home electricity usage and Twitter statistics pages that I created using just the Pachube platform and some basic HTML.

[Update 30 November 2011: added comment about Pachube becoming free to use]

Exercise

How changing the way I tie my shoe laces improved my running comfort

I never thought I’d be putting up a blog post about tying my shoelaces, but this little tip has been a godsend for me and I thought it was worth sharing.

A few months ago, I bought some new running shoes. I used a reputable running shop, with the facilities to perform gait testing (for me that was Advance Performance in Peterborough – Up and Running in Milton Keynes were friendly enough but seemed to have issues with getting sufficient stock) and I eased myself into them with some shorter loops around town before going out on my usual 5-mile circuit (which is a mixture of road running and cross-country).

Unfortunately I was suffering with some pain on the side of my feet, above the arches and getting blisters to match – the Arch Lock on my Saucony ProGrid Stabil CS2s seemed to be rubbing.

I went back to the shop, who tested me in the shoes again (definitely a good fit) but also suggested a couple of modifications to how I tie them. Firstly, I skipped a hole above the Arch Lock but I’m pretty sure the big difference came from switching to a lock-lacing method, also known as a runner’s tie (the video shown here is from Runners World but the same technique is also described in pictures at run4it).  I hadn’t noticed that my heel was slipping, but it seemed to work, by creating a loop with the last two eyelets then feeding the laces through the opposite side, pulling down to tighten and up to tie in a bow as usual.

Since changing the way I lace my shoes I’ve had no problems at all…

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