Monday, September 6, 2010

Top 10 #2

The Jam - That's Entertainment

Well, in total contrast to #3, here is #2 and in keeping with being
fair, after a punk rock anthem, here's one from the Mod revival of the
80s and from the Modfather of British Pop, Paul Weller.

The Jam were Weller's first band and like The Clash were very energetic
and Weller's lyrics were rather political, something which didn't always
endear him to the record buying public. That's Entertainment is an
acoustic gem. Still with energy in the playing but different from what
was around at the time. I still find it grabs me and I have to sit and
listen when I hear it. Surely a sign of a great song.

Check it out here

Saturday, September 4, 2010

10 Greatest Songs - #3

The Clash - I Fought the Law

I've liked the Clash since the 70s. My sister (I think) had the London
Calling album and I loved the variety of stuff they did along with the
raw energy of their punk rock sound. It wasn't until a few years ago
that I saw a video of the another cover of this song from the 60s. I had
no idea it was a cover and always assumed it was 100% Clash but it's
not, it's by Sonny Curtis and the Crickets (post Buddy Holly death).
Anyway, The Clash's version is just exploding with aggression and energy
and I love it. You should too!

Check it out here

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 Greatest Songs - #4

Guns n Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine

Do I really need to explain this one?

Naaah, thought not.

But you might also (for fun) enjoy this cover

Friday, August 27, 2010

10 Greatest Songs - #5

The Police - Roxanne

I seem to recall my mother (who worked at a Job Centre) telling me that
she'd asked a client if he had a police record (as the job vacancy
needed to know) and was told he had Regatta De Blanc. I also recall many
comedians in the early 80s doing their versions of that joke but I also
remember how exciting The Police were at that time. They were something
new and had their own style - the bleached blonde hair. Roxanne was the
first big hit they had and was unusual for chart sounds at the time in
that it changed in tempo several times in the record. The song is the
story of a prostitute and her boyfriend who wants her to quit. Many of
The Police's songs had stories to tell (but did "De Do Do Do De Da Da
Da"? Probably not.

Watch and listen here.

Only four more to go... and you might be surprised ;)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Return of the King?

Aha, a nifty LOTR reference. My attempts to pension off the Linkstation just keep failing.

My "low power server" isn't as low power as I'd like (cos the Linkstation has spoiled me with 10W or so) so I keep coming back to the LS. I've worked out a way to use the Linkstation to send Growl notifications from Digiguide (as reminders of TV shows) and from NZBget when items have been downloaded. So that's another job a PC could do that the LS can now do.

I even looked into some media streamers to replace my Ion boxes. They can do NAS-like things but none have the CPU power of the LS so again its the triumph of the LS's energy efficiency.

I'll report on Linkstation Growling in due course.

(Low) Power to the People !!!!

10 Greatest Songs - #6

David Bowie - Heroes

I'm not quite sure why this record does the job but it just does. The music is rather background to the lyrics but is still very important. It's also a very uplifting record with lyrics like "We can be heroes, just for one day". I like a lot of Bowie's stuff in the 70s but this is probably my favourite.

Give it a twirl here at YouTube

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10 Greatest Songs - #7

Blondie - Maria

Blondie have always been a favourite of mine since my youth (!) and of course like all red-blooded males I thought that Debbie Harry was hot. We all grow up (sorta) and obviously Debbie is rather older too but this comeback record was brilliant. Her voice has mellowed with age but the band still have that great pop sound and it's still unmistakably Blondie.

Listen and watch here

Monday, July 26, 2010

Linkstation Pensioned Off?

Finally retired? Well maybe not. I've found a few tasks that the faithful Linkstation cannot do and for which I need a Windows box. So let's look at the box I have chosen to build.

Case - Chyang-Fun

This is a nice mini-ITX case which, unlike the Chenbro ITX server case,
isn't hugely expensive. I got mine at which is a very
well run ITX specialist shop where you can get good advice too. The case
has space for four 3.5" hard disks in hot swap bays plus a single 2.5"
laptop drive (boot drive or in my case a 500gb drive for the always on
parts of the system). Finally the case allows a full height PCI card.

Mobo - Gigabyte D510UD

This is fairly standard D510 (dual core Atom) with NM10 chipset. This is
Intel's current energy efficient setup. The difference on this Gigabyte
board is that it has an additional onboard controller for 2 extra SATA
and one IDE ports. This gives a total of 4 SATA ports and one IDE (for 2
devices) and supports AHCI and hot plug. The board also supports
overclocking (and undervolting) depending on your preferences but an
Atom isn't really about performance is it? I'm plugging an IDE to SATA
adapter into the IDE port to give me a 5th SATA port for the boot drive.
The single PCI slot will be occupied by a Pinnacle dual DVB-T card and
the Ram slots with 2x1Gb of DDR2


My 500gb laptop drive partitions to 65Gb for OS and 400Gb for Data. The
data partition can keep all the "always on" data accessible on the
lowest power consumption drive and allow the main larger capacity 3.5"
drives to spin down when idle and save power. So, web server, torrents,
downloads, documents, pictures and music can be fitted on this drive.

The additional drive bays will initially have a pair of 2Tb drives in
(with 2 more to come) and could use RAID. However, RAID will mean that
all drives spin up when any file is requested off them. As the files on
these drives are all video (and replaceable) I am inclined to not do
RAID and use Windows 7's libraries to amalgamate the files into a single
video library. Any non-video data on these drives can be backed up to a
2nd physical drive and then drives can be allowed to sleep, minimizing
power consumption, when not needed.

To cover the tasks that the Linkstation can do it will have

Windows 7
WAMP server (for web serving and re-directs for other web servers)
uTorrent (bittorent client with own web interface)
SABnzbd (usenet download client with own web interface)
Sickbeard (media manager which can identify shows you follow and auto
download them)
DVB Web Scheduler (low resource TV recording s/w)
Digiguide (the TV guide service with its own web server)
Growl for Windows (to enable alerts to be sent to other PCs, iPhone,
DNLA server (probably Twonky, perhaps Mediatomb, to enable Xbox360 to
read files but might not be needed)
Printer - it will share my USB printer across all the network

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Moth Goes to the Flame Again

Yup, it had to happen. After buying and selling and buying and selling and.. well you get the idea... I've been through a fair few Linkstations and I had a review copy of the Linkstation Pro XHL.

Well I couldn't resist or find a better more economical solution so I bought a Linkstation Pro XHL without HDD which will be fitted with 1.5Tb drive and flashed to open firmware and have many goodies added to it.

Can't wait for delivery. Watch this space Linkstation fans! :D

10 Greatest Songs - #8

Roxette - It Must Have Been Love

Funnily enough I worked for Barclays Bank some years ago (okay.... many years ago) and I recall one of the managers talking about how one of our account holders had recorded a single. Honestly can't remember if we held the account of Roxette or of the studio but the single was "The Look" from the album "Look Sharp". Ever since hearing that I've found I enjoyed the simple pop that Roxette record. Great vocals from Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle too.

This particular track, apart form tugging at heartstrings and emotions (which not many records can truly do), was also on the sound track from the hit film Pretty Woman with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. So many people have heard it there and many have seen the video on MTV.

Well worth a listen, as it the compilation of singles, "Don't Bore Us, Get to the Chorus".

Friday, February 26, 2010

10 Greatest Songs - #9

Meatloaf - Paradise by the Dashboard Light

Whilst most people will agree that Meatloaf was incredibly successful, a large number of opponents criticise the songs he sang as bland and basic and not radical enough. I don't agree. Meatloaf was the performer that made Jim Steinman's work sound best. For those who don't know, Jim Steinman was the man behind Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell album, one of the most
successful albums of all time. The two fell out and Jim recorded the follow up himself.

Bad For Good was a great album but not the same. Jim's vocals are not Meatloaf's and the chance to have the same success again was missed. But Bat Out of Hell has its own legacy and history. If you've not heard it then you've neglected your musical education.

So why Paradise by the Dashboard light? Well it's music that makes me smile inside. The imagery of the 17 year olds desperate to "do it" is compelling. I could almost imagine this music being sung live.

Music at Amazon

Video at YouTube

Friday, February 12, 2010

10 Greatest Songs - #10

Hawkwind - Uncle Sam's on Mars

OK. This one will probably have 99% of people thinking "WTF" but bear with me. Hawkwind are a very long standing band starting in 1969 and still playing. Known as the band that started a genre of their own, called Space Rock, Hawkwind have never been a chart topping band (well apart from the single Silver Machine in 1972) but are often cited as an influence on other bands. Some small notoriety came when the follow-up single to their #2 single (Silver Machine) was banned by the BBC. The record, Urban Guerilla, was accused of romanticising terrorism, many years before terrorism became the problem it is today.

So, why Uncle Sam's on Mars? Well, while I could say there are many good Hawkwind tracks this has a number of ingredients that make it a worthy entry into my chart.

Firstly, Bob Calvert. Bob Calvert was a poet, singer and visionary. He is creditted with masterminding the Space Ritual experience that Hawkwind brought to stage in 1972. Calvert was a little left field in his views and struggled with mental problems all his adult life. He left Hawkwind and rejoined and eventually was kicked out when the other members found they could no longer cope with his mental aberrations. That's not to say he was bonkers but he is reported to have tried to kill bandmates. But Calvert was a real talent, a wordsmith and a performer. His solo album Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters was themed about the failings of the infamous Widowmaker plane, the Lockheed Starfighter and was very different from the mundane offerings around the time of its release. For me, the Calvert years of Hawkwind, and the partnership with Dave Brock, made of the best albums, like PXR5 and Quark Strangeness and Charm.

Secondly, the vision. This record is a biting criticism of the US spend on the space program but at the same time talks of optimism for the future ("America has left the Moon"). Look at the lyrics where they talk of pollution, global warming, consumerism gone rampant and about US expansionism ("looking for life to stamp out"). This was all ahead of it's time. How many people talked of global warming 30 years ago?

Oh and here's a YouTube video some Hawkfan has put together

Lyrics here

10 Greatest Songs Ever

Of course... they have to be... and I am choosing so Tough Titties if you don't agree with me... if you don't feel free to argue away!!!

This is my Top 10... and I'll explain each choice.... Probably they'll all come from MP3 tracks on my iPhone but who cares...

First one in a mo....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


OK a prize to the person who gets the "Shiny" reference ;)

I tried Chrome yesterday for the first time. Well not for the first time but I found I could use Chrome for the first time. And it's GOOD.

I have long been a Firefox fan. The customisations offered by Firefox addons are a god send and enable you to do so much more. Internet Explorer is a dinosaur and always playing catch up. Tabbed browsing for example was in Firefox (and Opera) well before IE got it. I hate to see my workplace is still stuck on IE6 (and have recently blocked my
previous "mods" to enable Firefox to be used!!).

For me the critical Firefox addons that made me never want to use any other browser were:

Adblock, Flashblock, XMarks, Download Statusbar, NZBdstatus, Pleasuredome Ratio addon, Greasemonkey scripts

Anyway, recently I saw a Chrome Portable install and thought to revisit Chrome again. I Googled to see what extensions I could use and found a few that looked promising. Only bad thing was that it seems they don't
like to work on the Portable Chrome so I installed Chrome alongside Firefox.

The extensions for Chrome I chose were:

Adblock, eBay, Firebug Lite, GoogleMail checker, IE Classic, RSS Extension, SABconnect, uTorrent

Now I can do almost all I could with Firefox and more, with that slick and quick operation that Chrome has. Bookmarks synchronised automatically.

Downsides? There always are. Some insignificant (like having no extension to monitor my Pleasuredome ratio) and some significant like in the bookmark department. Google Chrome Bookmarks are not the same as Google Bookmarks. This is strange and a mistake IMHO. It's great to auto sync bookmarks but those synced bookmarks cannot be read via the web. Surely some mistake? It would have been so helpful to have been able to
read my home bookmarks at my workplace during those lunchtime browses!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Oooooooops - AROS

It's been FAR too long since I've posted..... Sorry!

I've long been interested in the Commodore Amiga and in emulating it.
WinUAE does a great job on Windows machines in emulating an Amiga and
I've tinkered before with Amithlon, which is a Linux kernel that takes
over the machine and basically turns it into an x86 Amiga. Well, there
are other options I've not explored before and the one today is AROS.

AROS is a recursive acronym - it stands for AROS Research Operating
System - a bit like MINT on the Atari ST ("Mint is not TOS"). It's a new
implementation of an Amiga OS and runs on x86 CPUs. It's not an
emulator. It's been around for some years but recently seems to have got
to a very usable state and runs on a large amount of PC hardware. I did
however discover that it didnt like to work on very large HDDs. I only
have 1.5Tb drives and that's too big. Luckily there is a "Nightly" build
of AROS that now can cope with larger HDDs.

I have a motherboard that I think is ideal for this purpose, as well as
for Amithlon, OSX (Mac) and Ubuntu (Linux). Hopefully I'll be quintuple
booting shortly. I've also been on a pre-Xmas splurge to get some
different kit - now I have two mATX boards and one ATX board suitable
for all the above OS. For the record, Gigabyte GA-EP31-DS3L (ATX),
Gigabyte GA-G31M-ES2L (rev1, mATX), MSI G31M-F (1600FSB rev, mATX). The
key things to look for are Realtek gigabit ethernet (RTL8111B/C ideally)
and Realtek audio (ALC662 or ALC888 for example) plus Intel ICH7 (found
in 945GC, P31/G31 and G41 chipsets). I went for the G31 as it overclocks
much better than the G41, according to reports.

Anyway, as a taster for Icaros, have a look at these YouTube videos from
ClusterUK who sells the iMica systems which are designed for Icaros.