Friday, 22 October 2010

Select your Windows Phone 7 handset with Silverlight PivotViewer

Windows Phone 7 devices are now available in Australia. I dropped into a Telstra shop yesterday and spent a few minutes playing with their demo model. At some stage I'm hoping I'll be able to actually purchase one of these things for myself! (A definite step up from my super-basic C3050, who's primary reason for purchase was that it could at least play podcasts*).

Of course, the main reason I'd like a Windows Phone 7 is to play Nigel's Word Puzzle game, but there's also the whole "smartphone" thing of email/calendar/podcasts etc. If they can fix the "just show only the default calendar for a single email source" limitation (so that I can retrieve all our Google calendars for our family), then I reckon I'd consider getting Narelle one too, so that I could finally solve my calendar problem.

Anyway, so how to choose from the "vast array" (slight exaggeration!) of new handsets entering the market?

Why not try out a new Pivot Collection I've created that lets you sort and filter by your requirements – just go to http://pivot.lobsterpot.com.au/WP7/ and have fun!

image

Thanks to Rob for kindly hosting this on the LobsterPot Solutions site.

* – And I'm not even doing that right now as I've lost the earphones, and it has a silly non-standard plug so I haven't replaced them yet. Not that I'm saying the loss of earphones alone is justification for getting a new phone!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Writing a Media Center Application in Visual Studio 2010

Rocky River, Kangaroo IslandMy ISP (Internode) provides a number of unmetered streaming radio stations for its customers. A while back I'd followed some instructions on how to set up shortcuts in Media Center to link to some of these stations. This worked pretty well, until the ISP reorganised their server and all of the shortcuts broke. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write a simple Media Center application that could grab the current radio list from the published radio stream RSS feed, list those stations in Media Center and allow selecting a station and getting Media Center to start playing it.

  1. Download and install the Windows 7 Media Center SDK. This install some samples, the SDK help file and some templates (but only for Visual Studio 2008).
  2. Go to Charlie Owen's blog and download his Addendum.zip. Amongst other things, this contains both project and item templates suitable for Visual Studio 2010. Follow the instructions to copy the templates into your Visual Studio templates folder.
  3. Download and install the latest WiX 3.5 build (WiX 3.5 includes support for 2010)

Now you can start Visual Studio and you'll see a new project template in the C# language section. There's a few more things I needed to update to get everything working properly:

  • Search for "Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v6.0A" and replace it with "Microsoft SDKs\Windows\v7.0A" (eg. devinstall.cmd)
  • Search for "Windows Installer XML v3\bin" and replace it with "Windows Installer XML v3.5\bin" (eg. build.cmd)

Then it's just a matter of getting up to speed with the intricacies of Media Center application writing!

The source code for the application (InternodeRadioMCE) is published on Google Code. It is very rough at the moment. As I get more familiar with the Media Center programming model I hope to improve it a bit!

And the photo? It's of Rocky River (courtesy of our recent holiday to Kangaroo Island) – and the closest thing I could think of to a stream (as in streaming radio!)

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Rebuilding the home PC on a budget (part 2)

So there I was, looking down the barrel of having to basically rebuild my home PC. It's been more than a month since the box stopped working, and after further research I came up with the following revised shopping list:

Component Model
CPU AM3 x4 640
RAM Kingston 4GB Kit(2Gx2) DDR3 1333
Motherboard GA-870A-UD3
CPU Fan Noctua NH-U9B-SE2
That motherboard recently gained an 'Editor's Choice' award from XBit Laboratories, which is nice.

However, Duncan commented on my previous post that maybe the hardware wasn't at fault. It was a good suggestion that I should really try and isolate what the cause of this problem is before just "throwing new hardware" at it (as he put it!).

So I scrounged around and found a spare old hard disk that I was able to plug in to the system and successfully installed a clean version of Windows 7. So far so good, but then I noticed something odd – Windows insisted that I just had a basic VGA adapter. Nevertheless I then installed the most recent NVidia driver (96.85) and rebooted. Eureka! It booted successfully.

Buoyed by this success, I then swapped back to the original boot disk and booted into "Safe Mode with Networking", located the display driver in the Device Manager and uninstalled the existing driver. I then rebooted Windows.

Rebooting worked ok, and I was now in VGA mode again. I then repeated the process of installing the NVidia driver and rebooted again... And it worked!

So we're now back working again, and I can leave my shopping list for another day Smile

Friday, 8 October 2010

Is it worth going naked?

Following on from yesterday's post I thought I'd run through the numbers to see what savings are possible with a change to a 'naked' Internode ADSL service and porting our home phone number to VoIP.

Current monthly expenses
Service Description Cost
Broadband Internode Easy-Broadband-Classic (50GB)* 47.45
Telephone HomeLine® Budget# 26.95
Total   74.40

* – 'grandfathered' plan no longer available to new customers. Price includes 5% discount.

# – HomeLine Budget plan activated before newer conditions were introduced which disallow non-BigPond ADSL providers, and also includes $6 to enable Caller Number Display.

There seems to be two possibilities – the "Easy" plan (which also counts uploads but tend to have larger overall quotas) or the "Extreme" (which don't count uploads). I've applied the 5% discount to the broadband plans.

Easy Naked monthly expenses
Service Description Cost
Broadband Internode Easy Naked Pure Broadband S :: 150 Gigabytes 56.95
Telephone Internode NodePhone2-Starter 5.00
Total   61.95

 

NakedExtreme monthly expenses
Service Description Cost
Broadband Internode NakedExtreme ADSL2+ Pure Broadband 60 Gigabytes 66.46
Telephone Internode NodePhone2-Starter 5.00
Total   71.46

So unless I've overlooked something, it looks like there's an opportunity to save up to $12/month.

One thing to be careful of – there does appear to be a risk if you choose the "Easy Naked" plan. Turns out that you could end up on either an Agile OR Optus DSLAM, and if you're not on an Agile DSLAM then I believe that NodePhone isn't an option. I'm waiting for clarification of this in the Whirlpool forums.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Internode introduced phone number porting

Good news for some Internode customers – this week they've finally launched phone number porting, so that if you want to choose one of the "Naked" ADSL products, you can keep your phone number and have it linked to a VoIP service, whilst no longer having to pay separate line rental.

This is great, except for those of us already on an Agile DSLAM. Turns out that Telstra aren't being very cooperative in allowing people to move from LSS to ULLS (which is the position I believe I'm in).

The other problem I'd need to solve would be how to mix the NodePhone service that the phone number would be linked to with PennyTel – the VoIP provider I currently use. For our particular call usage pattern PennyTel has been a good choice. I'll do some further analysis but I suspect NodePhone's standard call rate of 18c per call won't work out as cheap as PennyTel's 1.6c/min (timed plan) or 8c per call (untimed plan). 

Update 10am

One option that may be worth considering is ordering a new naked ADSL service on an existing spare copper pair, and then using the Simple Phone Number Port service to transfer the phone number to NodePhone VoIP and cancel the old phone line and ADSL services. The downside is some additional costs up front, but the hope would be over time you'd come out ahead.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Kangaroo Island Holiday

Our family has just returned from 4 very pleasant days holidaying on Kangaroo Island.

This is my fourth trip to KI. My first was as a Scout hiking from Cape Borda down the west coast. We also had a family holiday to KI (which I remember for the rest of the family being very seasick and me being very bored in Penneshaw waiting for them to recover!). The third (and most recent) trip was with a group drawn from various Adelaide Uniting Church congregations who went over to the island to participate in a church youth service. If I recall correctly that last trip was just after I first met Narelle so it's been a few years.

We caught the 9am ferry from Cape Jervis. It was a little choppy but no one was seasick. We were staying at Vivonne Bay (Australia's best beach according to some) in a really nice holiday rental property. Vivonne Bay may not have the facilities of Kingscote, but it is conveniently located on the island so that most attractions are within an easy drive.

Day 2 saw a trip to Flinders Chase National Park where we saw Cape De Coudic lighthouse and Admirals Arch (with lots of seals), Remarkable Rocks, and squeezed in an exhilarating 4km walk from Snake Lagoon (didn't see any snakes) down to the Rocky River mouth.

Day 3 we headed up to Stokes Bay on the north coast of the island. The beach where you park is deceptively disappointing (just lots of rocks) but if you follow the signs through the rock tunnel you make your way to a lovely sandy beach just around the corner. Speaking of sand, we then headed off to the Little Sahara sand dunes for a shot of sandboarding. Lots of fun, but exhausting having to climb back up the hill each time!

Day 4 we checked out some of the local honey at Clifford's Honey Farm, including yummy honey icecreams. Then over to Kingscote to check out some of the historical sites at Reeves Point (the location of South Australia's first European settlement in 1836). Plenty of time to catch the 4.30pm ferry back to Cape Jervis again and then the drive back home.

I can remember a few years back when I'd been seemingly working non-stop for an extended period and all I wanted to do was sit on a beach for an hour and listen to the waves. While that was effective, I think it is far better to take a pre-emptive break from the daily routine. Our trip to KI was just that (also because there's only Telstra 3G coverage on the island I left the laptop at home so 4 days of no computer too!)

One odd thing – I never actually saw a live Kangaroo this trip – just dead ones that had come off second best against road traffic.

There's also more sealed roads now than I remember from previous trips. You can get all the way to the south-west coast without leaving the asphalt, but there's still plenty of corrugated dirt roads (the short track to Little Sahara was probably the bumpiest).