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Archive for August, 2010

Jive or MediaWiki – how to organise your team?

August 29, 2010 1 comment

Here’s a quick question.

Our company recently bought wholesale into Jive SBS as our Knowledge-sharing platform.

Now, rather than relying on an ancient-runes-of-the-geek markup editing in our old Wiki sites based on MediaWiki, we can simply pile all sorts of information, discussions, etc. etc. etc. into Jive, and then just google-search the lot whenever we want to find something.

Except… I don’t like it. And I’ve launched myself headlong into this for over a month, so I should have a good idea by now.

Here’s the problem: structure – of both Knowledge, and how your mind navigates it. On our Wiki, we had a top level index of our departments. Browsing into mine, would show various high-level titles such as team organisation, demos, RFP information, etc. etc. Navigate into one of those, and you’d find a suitable submenu… and so on, and so on. At the bottom of the tree would be some details, or a table, or a load of attached files.

With Jive, there are a few top-level groupings, but everything else is unstructured. Instead of a hierarchical organisational tree, there are tags. You tag your info, and someone else searching for that info should be able to find it, just based on the tags, and keywords.

Now… I’m sorry, but that’s not the way I roll. If I want to dig out the latest demo recording for my team, then on the  Wiki, I can go to that page – maybe even bookmark it – and there’s a list of all our recordings with the latest one at the top. Click. Done.

With Jive, and similar applications, assuming that we have a lot of info there, I can’t just browse to it, because it’s not organised in that way. Instead, I search, or I filter by a number of tags. Assuming that all documents were tagged correctly… because when using Jive, tagging is optional, and unstructured, whereas with MediaWiki (at least, one that you build a structure into), then the hierarchy that you use to find the documents is both compulsory, and structured.

Let’s take an analogy. With MediaWiki, you know where to find stuff – in the same way that your keys are by the door, and your milk is in the fridge. Want to open the back door? Your deadbolt key will be in the hallway, on the shelf, on your main keyring. Your old key from when you had the locks changed may still be on the keyring too, but you remember which is which.

With Jive, you stand in the centre of your house, and shout “back door deadbolt key!” And, instantly, unseen hands strew a range of keys, maybe a paint key chart, a book on keys, and an album by Alicia Keys, on the table in front of you. Easy! Fast! And so you take the key you want. Except.. is it? Is it definitely the backdoor key? Is it the old key, or the new one? Did they find all the keys? You’re really itching to go back to the hallway anyway, and check the shelf, in case there are any other keys there. Except, of course, with Jive, you can’t.

And so that’s where I stand with Jive. It’ll give you results… and you may find stuff that you otherwise wouldn’t have done… but you’re not sure what else there might be, and so therefore, you can’t be sure that what you’ve retrieved is the best result for you.

Of course – I can see why Jive has been chosen. It’s much more user-friendly, looks cooler, has an iPhone App (which is unreliable and slow on the server side, at least on our deployment), and removes the necessity of nominating someone to, in our analogy, be the housekeeper. Rather than trying to keep things organised and tidy, with Jive, you can more or less throw everything anywhere, abeit with a few tags if possible, please, and Jive’ll sort it out. We hope.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Cabair Helicopter Tour of London

August 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, I thought I’d write a quick review of this, just to get it out there on the ‘net.

A bunch of companies offer helicopter tours across London, and others act as agents for them – Red Letter Days do, for a start. We chose Cabair as their operating base at Elstree was closest for us.

Long story short: it was fine – the helicopter was modern and comfortable, and flew from NW London across Wembley, down to Westminster, then along the Thames to the Dome. And then back again.

The feedback was (it was someone else that went), that it was very quick. To be fair, Cabair were open with this on the phone, but the entire experience takeoff to landing is 20 minutes – 5 minutes to Westminster, 5 down the Thames, and 5 and 5 back again. The half-hour slot is for their benefit – to load the passengers and start the engines – not yours.

For the most expensive experience on offer, you don’t get anything “more”. No exceptional tour guide, for example. All helicopters on such trips, from *any* operator, can only fly down the Thames, and can’t loiter.

Hence I would recommend someone further out from London, as you get to enjoy the flying a bit more. I found others at Redhill, Damyns Hall and Stapleford.

Also – while Red Letter Days were offering a flight for £149, I asked them for times they had flights for this weekend, which they had to research and call me back. Then, while calling other operators, I phoned a company at Stapleford who, surprise surprise, had exactly the same slots available, evidently the company RLD use, at the price of £110. So you can save yourself £40 right there.

As I say – no great revelation, but perhaps worth sharing!

Is there an incompatibility with the current Windows Patches, Microsoft Update, and ESET NOD32?

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s something that’s cropped up in the past few days.

My Mum reported that her computer (MacMini Intel 512MB with Bootcamp, running XP  SP3 Home) had become really, really slow.

It was random – sometimes it was slow on bootup, sometimes it’d work fine and then an hour later, slow down as before. Incredibly slow – like 15 minutes to log in.

Some playing with Sysinternals Process Explorers shows that svchost.exe, and Windows Updater inside it, was consuming around 150MB – peaking at 350MB on occasion. NOD32 was orange in the system tray, and showed 20-30 updates missing, some critical – although Automatic updates are on. I turned off the Update service, and normal service resumed.

Watching process explorer, I saw the update process sit at around 150MB for a few minutes, then ramp up to 350MB for 2-3 mins, then drop again. I did this while running Update manually via IE7 – which never completed.

Anyway – some googling turned up similar problems experienced by other users, on various forums. Following tips there, I turned on the Update system service, went to Windows
Update via IE, and switched off Microsoft Updates under Settings. Tried the manual update again, and this time it worked – and reported ‘0 Critical Updates’.  Yet NOD32 had shown at least 5-6 critical updates just minutes earlier!

So – possibly a bug involving MS Update and NOD32? It’s recent behaviour, so maybe it was caused by a partial failure of the big patch the other (last) week. I’m no expert, and just speculating, but this IS real, and does appear to be an incompatibility/bug.

Categories: Computing

Loc8tor for your cats

August 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been a user of a Loc8tor for a while, and thought I’d share this example of its use.

Both our cats came home without our collars yesterday. Thankfully they did come home – that’s one benefit of all collars having safety-releases these days – but I did want to find the collars, partly because the Loc8tor tag on them, and etched name tag, cost a few quid, and partly to find out where they lost them. It’s useful knowledge, in case they don’t come home one night – you know at least one place where they’ve got caught/stuck before (where the collar came off)!

So – armed with my Loc8tor sensor, I walked around the neighbourhood, and found both tags were picking up, and coming from different back gardens.

The first one was 2 houses down. The owner was helpful enough, letting me into the back garden with the sensor to find the collar. I found it: it was under a collapsed wire fence between gardens. That’s useful knowledge – cat #1 must have squeezed through a gap on the way back, and got caught.

The second one, was on top of a garage next door. Again, the owner was friendly and let me scan around and retrieve it. In this case, she told me she’d heard cat #2 in a fight with another cat, and evidentally she had ripped her collar off. Since we didn’t even realise our cats roamed that far, or were fighting elsewhere, again, it was useful to know.

There’s plenty of places to get trapped around here, it seems, and the Loc8tors have worked pretty well every time we’ve used them. It seems they’re worth getting, if only for the peace of mind of having another way to locate your cat, if they fail to come home one night…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Do Virgin Media support IMAP TLS/SSL any more?

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I just thought I’d drop this in as a quick note / thought.

My parents use Virgin Media mail, which is now a rebranded tailored Google Gmail. As such, you can use it through the Webmail interface, and you can also use email clients such as Thunderbird and Outlook Express. As Virgin moved to Gmail last year, I moved her account settings to use imap.ntlworld.com, IMAP, using SSL/TLS security on port 993.

However, just today, it started returning an Outlook Express error for every folder except Inbox and Outbox: “Error Number: 0x800CCC0F”. Some Googling reveals general imap errors. Virgin themselves said Outlook Express 6 is no longer supported… fair enough, I guess… so I tried Mozilla Thunderbird.

When trying to set up Thunderbird, it complained that imap.ntlworld.com didn’t support SSL encryption. What?!? OK – I turned it off (port 143).. and it worked!

I then changed Outlook Express 6 back to non-secure IMAP 443… and that now seems to be working.

So – I suspect this is actually just a glitch, but the Thunderbird complaint is pretty clear. Have Virgin/GMail really withdrawn, or at least had a hiccup, with secure IMAP

Categories: Computing

GTD and ToDo tools on iPhone – when will one have local alarms?

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, iOS has been available to developers and also the general public for a good few months now.

At the time the feature list was released, one of the features that excited me, was Local Alarms. After some investigation, I realised that Apple weren’t allowing developers to generate their own system alarms… no, you’d still need to send push notifications for that.

However, what they WOULD do, was allow an application to write or sync events to a calendar. So: you create your “To Do” list in your preferred ToDo application. It would then create calendar appointments in a new calendar for that app, and then those appointments would generate alerts.

But wouldn’t that just completely clutter up your combined calendar view? Well… no.. because Apple tweaked the Calendar display, so that instead of displaying all calendars, or selecting one of them, as in iOS3, in iOS4 you toggle an on/off check for each calendar that will be displayed in the single view you have. So: you just hide the ToDo app’s calendar, and at the nominated time, the alarm will still appear (I’ve just tested this).

(One problem I’ve noticed – if you choose to view the alarm when it comes up, then the hidden calendar will become visible again. I’m not sure I want to go to settings and hide the calendar each time I get an alert.)

However… despite this functionality being introduced, probably precisely for these kind of applications… have you seen one that uses them? As far as I can see, Toodledo still uses Push Notifications. ToDo, MyLifeOrganized (in beta), etc, also seem to omit local notifications.

And that’s annoying – because why should I have to launch an app, to find out I missed an important call I was supposed to remember to make an hour ago?

Hmm…

Categories: Computing, iphone

Sony Vegas 10 takes ages to import, with Building Peaks running incredibly slowly at max CPU

August 1, 2010 1 comment

I spent a couple of hours troubleshooting why Vegas 10 seemed not to like my Flip Mino AVI files. Although it eventually imported the file – taking over an hour for a minute of SD video! – the audio was empty. Since the hard work seemed to be in ‘Building Peaks’ (detecting the audio track peaks in order to show it graphically), I assumed a codec imcompatibilility.

The Flip Mino AVI files are Microsoft ADPCM, 4bit, 44kHz. Assuming a problem with the drivers, I reinstalled them, but to no avail, even after a reboot. I therefore took the more drastic action of recoding all the audio into a format it could work with.

VirtualDub is a great tool for this – straightforward and free. Having changed the defaults to set Video mode to Direct Stream (ie. don’t touch it), and setting Audio to Full Processing, I set the Audio Compression to PCM (ie. uncompressed, lossless). I then processed a sample file, and tried it in Vegas.. and it worked great!

Both uncompressed PCM and MP3 seem to be readable in Vegas 10 without problem (PCM only adds around 5% file size to the compressed ADPCM, and should be lossless). Virtualdub ran through 1GB of video files in under 2 minutes.

To run this on a batch of files through the GUI would mean adding each file individually to a job list. Much easier, is to process an entire directory with the command line form of Virtualdub, using a saved settings file with the above configuration. You can save the settings from the UI to a file, which I quote here, since it’s just a textfile. I suspect this may not work on your system if  the codecs are in a different order, but have a try.

Flip ADPCM to PCM for Vegas.vcf

VirtualDub.audio.SetSource(1);
VirtualDub.audio.SetMode(1);
VirtualDub.audio.SetInterleave(1,500,1,0,0);
VirtualDub.audio.SetClipMode(1,1);
VirtualDub.audio.SetConversion(0,0,0,0,0);
VirtualDub.audio.SetVolume();
VirtualDub.audio.SetCompression();
VirtualDub.audio.EnableFilterGraph(0);
VirtualDub.video.SetInputFormat(0);
VirtualDub.video.SetOutputFormat(7);
VirtualDub.video.SetMode(0);
VirtualDub.video.SetSmartRendering(0);
VirtualDub.video.SetPreserveEmptyFrames(0);
VirtualDub.video.SetFrameRate2(0,0,1);
VirtualDub.video.SetIVTC(0,0,-1,0);
VirtualDub.video.SetCompression();
VirtualDub.video.filters.Clear();
VirtualDub.audio.filters.Clear();

Command line for using this file is (including my paths):

C:\Program Files\VirtualDub>virtualdub /s "C:\Documents\! projects\Video Editing\Flip ADPCM to PCM for Vegas.vcf" /b "C:\Documents\! projects\Video Editing\to_process" "C:\Documents\! projects\Video Editing\processed" /r

Job done!

Categories: Uncategorized