Archive for July, 2007

July 31, 2007
Filed Under (Cycling, Mountain Biking) by Ollie Cronk on 31-07-2007

So I’ve finally worked out the cycle route to work, originally I wanted to find a road bike route as it would be quicker but I couldn’t find one that completely avoided a major A road (dual carriageway). So now I’ve actually found a more direct (as the crow flies) route that takes in mostly restricted byways (including a bit of the Ridgeway). It looks like its going to be a really nice route. It will be about 10 miles each way and will probably take 45 minutes to an hour to start with – I hope to have that down to between 35 and 45 minutes before too long!

Grassy Byway Sunset Byway

[Update] Took me 50 minutes door to door, once I get fitter that time will definitely go down!

[Update – Sept 07] Now down to as little as 40 minutes! Usually do it in around 42 to 44 so thats a result! So far I am managing to ride about 2 -3 times a week. Going to have to try and continue that through the winter – which will be a challenge!



July 20, 2007
Filed Under (Life) by Ollie Cronk on 20-07-2007

So what a crazy day today was for weather. Torrential rain from 7am until 2pm, lots of flooding, people broken down and crashed by the side of the road. Main roads were a nightmare so had to take the back ones which were very interesting in places! Streams forced their way across lanes as they turned into rivers and fields turned into lakes. Kat had quite a struggle getting back from Richmond on the train – she got as far as Reading where I had to find a route to her. As the line to Newbury was completely closed due to flooding. A4 was completely grid-locked so had to go through the villages.

See here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/berkshire/content/image_galleries/flood_july_2007_gallery.shtml?2 for some photos



July 19, 2007
Filed Under (Ubuntu, Web Development) by Ollie Cronk on 19-07-2007

2 word summary = Works well! -Here’s a picture of one of the boxes I got in for work recently:

HP Proliant DL385 Server

Thought I’d share a few notes…

Firstly these don’t appear to ship with Optical drives as standard as (after talking to my friend who works at HP) most large customers use network based deployment systems to install the OS.

Not an issue though – just get hold of a USB CD or DVD drive to do the install from. Once I got hold of one of those everything just worked. RAID (using very flashy 2.5″ SAS drives), Ethernet everything – so thought I’d document that as when I ordered not much came up on a Google search for this specific model. And is working well after 3 months of use as a LAMP and SVN server.

Currently we are using 2 in my dev team – one for Wiki and SVN and another to host our LAMP Development work on a central box – Apache 2.2, MySQL 5.0 and PHP 5.2 – having a central development box really helps when working together (I will write an article on that in due course!).

The iLO feature on these boxes is quite cool too – for those of you that don’t know iLO (Integrated Lights out) is basically a mini server inside the server that has its own Ethernet network connection – you can use a web based interface to boot, reboot or even install an Operating System – if you have the relevant HP software). Very handy – particularly when the server isn’t in the same area as you!

At 7city we ordered IBM xSeries servers for LAMP use but those generally needed a little bit of fiddling to work on Linux (an X336 required a Kernel parameter so it would shutdown/reboot properly) none of that needed with these HPs – they just work – very impressed.



July 17, 2007
Filed Under (Technology) by Ollie Cronk on 17-07-2007

My new home office setup is starting to take shape!

Olivers Yard under Construction

New black Ikea desk looks good (well what you can see of it anyway!) was pretty cheap and matches my chair pretty well. Going to have lots of space for all my kit once I’ve got it organised! A new black 20″ Widescreen monitor (probably a Samsung) is definitely going on the Xmas wish list!

p.s. Shame the blinds are shut as you’d get to see the Woods out of the window – when its finished I’ll take a day shot!



July 17, 2007
Filed Under (Life, Technology) by Ollie Cronk on 17-07-2007

Use of Bookmarks Toolbar folder, RSS feeds, Ta-Dah lists, some organisation and Google Browser Sync to keep your online life on track!

I find that its all too easy to endlessly surf the web from page to page making discovery after discovery but obviously this is very time consuming. I found that my browsing would match my thought patterns – jumping and connecting topics from one page to the next – quite often afraid to stop in the fear that I would loose my great surfing session(!!) Quite often this ends up with late night and my long suffering (well not that long – only 2 years!) wife getting annoyed by me staying up late!

So I’ve made an effort to organise my web browsing a bit more – I’ve heard of techniques such as making a list of things you want to do on the web and sticking to it (hmm I do love lists!) but I have come up with something a bit more high tech which is working well for me. Also with web applications and colloboration sites sometimes you don’t have fixed objectives in that way!

Basically it involves making the Links toolbar on firefox work for you a bit more. If you haven’t heard of Google Browser Sync I suggest you check it out (with the usual privacy disclaimer): http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/browsersync/ its a Firefox plugin (rather than an Internet Explorer one). This is really useful by itself if you use several machines to get on the net (eg one in the office, laptop, desktop at home) but when you start to organise your links toolbar too it really start to become handy.

Click on this screenshot for a better idea of what I am on about:

Google Browser Sync

I use the top level of the links toolbar as links I am looking at the moment type area (these then get dragged to sub folder in my bookmarks – which I have thoroughly organised!). Under the different headings I then have:

  • News sites (BBC etc)
  • Personal (sites I visit most frequently eg facebook.com linkedin.com)
  • a Dev folder (for sites I am developing/working on) this could be called projects
  • To Do folder which you can see in the screenshot – which makes use of the Live Bookmarks featute which lets you take a list of summaries (known as RSS) I am using Ta Dah lists here – a great Web 2.0 app for keeping lists -n below is it in action in more detail:
    Ta-dah lists
  • AEA – my work place has a range of Intranets and other sites (an Intranet project is one of my potential future projects part of which would be consolidation and integration which will hopefully render this one obsolete!)
  • Web Dev Docs – quick access to things like the PHP and MySQL manuals, the Zend Framework docs, various other specs.

Hopefully this is food for thought and you’ve come across a few things here!



July 17, 2007
Filed Under (MS Windows Vista 7, 8 etc, Sony Stuff, Technology) by Ollie Cronk on 17-07-2007

Sony Vaio VGN-SZ3HP Overall Review

I knew it was time to replace my ageing HP Omnibook when some of the keys stopped working (well actually stopped working in combination with the shift key – which is really strange!). This time I knew I wanted something far more portable that the 15” desktop replacement that the Omnibook 6000 was – as I’d be using this on my train commute into London every day*. And although I wanted a small notebook I didn’t want to comprise too much on performance -hence the dual core & nVidia powered SZ3 appealed…

Ollie’s Vaio SZ3 running Ubuntu

 

I am often asked for purchasing advice on laptops and Sony is often my response – mainly on reputation as I have never owned one until now. People often say with a Sony you are paying the brand name – whilst this is true to a degree I also think you are paying for R&D and build quality. This certainly comes through with the Sony SZ3 – a well thought out compact & light but powerful notebook.

The SZ3HP is the entry level machine – with a slightly lower spec than that of the top of the line models mainly in processor and memory terms. I couldn’t justify spending much over the £1K mark and didn’t feel you got much more for quite a bit more money. The higher spec model is a different colour and has a fingerprint scanner, is marginally lighter with a thiner screen – quite how they can make it thinner than mine is beyond belief!

See the Vaio site for full specs and info on the SZ range (I see they are now on to the SZ5! I should have published this article sooner!)

Some of the nice features the SZ has are:

  • Dual Performance modes “Stamina” and “Speed” – with a switch to change between – requiring a reboot to changeover – this mainly changes between the Nvidia graphics and the on board Intel graphics.
  • Screen Mounted Webcam – not particularly high res but works well for MSN etc
  • Performance – both in speed and usability – for example the screen is excellent.
  • Design and looks – never fails to get comments from people – as it is a very nice looking machine!

Some of the annoyances are:

As shipped the Hard Disk has been split into 3 volumes – one for System use, and a C: and D: drive. Although I have now re-partioned the machine and dual boot Ubuntu and Vista (got the upgrade via a free deal)

Some of the Vaio software nags you quite a lot unnecessarily

Lack of a physical volume control or mute button like I had on the Omnibook. As it can be annoying when you realise you’ve just booted the thing up on the train and the Windows startup sound is about to play full volume! The only way of changing the volume is via the Fn+F4 and F5 keys which don’t work until your in Windows! I have just discovered you can assign muting to the S1 button – but this can be a bit flaky.

Slightly rattle to the battery – there is a small amount of play in the batter which slides into the back. This might just be my machine (and maybe I should have returned it – but couldn’t be bothered for such a small thing)

Initially it took a while to get used to the keyboard – as it was quite different the HP – the keys are bigger (strangely for a smaller machine!) and surprisingly there is a bit of flex in the keyboard – but I don’t really notice now I’ve been using it for a while. I got on better with the trackpad better than I was expecting (it better than most of the trackpads I’ve used before) to although on occasions I do miss the trackpoint (IBM Thinkpad stick style mouse) that the HP has. I use it in the Speed mode most of the time (apart from on really long journeys) as that gives well over an hour of battery life with good performance. I have managed to get over 5 hours out of the machine in Stamina though (on a trip back from France) using it mainly to read some documents, but also some image editing in Photoshop.

In terms of performance the machine has amazed me – dual core really is impressive – unfortunately with Windows I suspect that 1 core is used to power Windows and its inefficiencies and the other for your applications! It certainly runs a lot cooler and quieter whilst doing nothing on Linux than on Vista! The application that my desktop has been struggling with – Adobe Premiere Elements – runs well – again I think Dual core helps here.

Haven’t played many games apart from a short spell with Secondlife (which I gave up after a few hours – after realising I just don’t have time for games anymore!) which worked better than I expected – the nVidia graphics chip is pretty good.

Vista Notes

Okay so currently I can’t get the Webcam working under Vista (I probably just need to have a bit more of a play with the drivers but so far no joy)

Runs noiser and hotter under Vista than XP or Ubuntu Linux

General Vista issues

– Some software not working (or having to be hacked to get working – like 4oD)

Wireless gets disconnected everytime you lock your notebook (using the Windows Key and L)

More to follow when I can remember them / they annoy me again!

* As it turns out I am no longer doing that commute, but its useful having a truely portable notebook and as I plan to cycle commute the light weight and small size will come in handy!



July 11, 2007
Filed Under (Life) by Ollie Cronk on 11-07-2007

We have now moved! The relocation to the country is complete! My photos and this blog are currently served from home so they are back too (although they might go offline again from time to time as I sort stuff out…)

Let us know if you haven’t got our change of address and need it.

Expect lots of DIY related articles soon!!! So far I have laid laminate floor in 2 rooms and put up an aerial in the loft and done lots of other bits and pieces – still lots more to do though (eeek!)