A Sydney Wedding

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Katie and Gabriel OsorioNarelle's cousin Katie was getting married in Sydney, so we bundled the family into a plane and headed over for the festivities.

I'd booked seats on Tiger Airways earlier in the year (taking advantage of particularly cheap tickets). One thing with Tiger is that everything besides a seat on the plane costs you extra. I paid for extra baggage allowance but decided not to shell out for the privilege of choosing allocated seats. There was a risk that Tiger's seat booking system might be so stupid that it could put the kids and the adults in completely separate seats, but I'm pleased to report that we ended up with decent seats all in the same row on both flights.

A few quibbles with Tiger – the PDF attachments they emailed me were blank. Fortunately I figured out that the attachment file name happened to be the confirmation number so you could still review the details by going to their Review Itinerary page. Their website also fails to mention the fact that they will carry prams for free (thanks to Margaret for finding that out).

I'm not sure if it's a measure of how trustworthy visitors to Sydney airport are, but you have to pay $4 to use a luggage cart – contrasted with Adelaide airport where the carts are free (and I'd suggest a better design too – 3 bags fit side-by-side which we couldn't do with the interstate model).

Not a Toyota Camry! I organised a hire car through http://www.airportrentacar.com.au/sydney/, who seemed to have the best price compared to some of the more familiar hire car companies. One thing I didn't find out until after submitting a hire request through their website was that they require a "CREDIT" credit card (ie. not a debit card) for security. So began a mad panic to try and obtain such a card in less that 2 weeks. Despite trying to ensure my credit union had all the paperwork required up front, it took a few days for them to ask me for a pay slip and then a group certificate. The Thursday of our departure arrived, but sadly the card did not (it was delivered the day before we got back home!) Thankfully Narelle's parents were also travelling on the same flight and were kind enough to use their card for the security (the actual payment could still be done on a debit card). Also in Sydney this company's office is actually within reasonable walking distance from the terminal. In peak hour if you don't have much luggage, walking may actually be faster than the free pickup they offer.

The car (a Toyota Camry Altise) was perfect for our needs, and we were able to just cram the kids into the back seat (with various booster/baby seats). Our own car is also a Camry (though a slightly older 1995 model) and by comparison I found the modern Altise quite responsive, a bit gruntier and with more headroom (something I tend to notice). Imagine my surprise to learn learn that the current model still has only a 4 cylinder engine. (And no, that picture is not a Camry!)

P1020144 P1020164We took the opportunity to do a bit of sight seeing, and visited Ocean World at Manly. We all enjoyed looking at all the various exhibits – especially walking through the tunnel through the aquarium. Boy those teeth look sharp!

Having grown up in Adelaide, driving in a big city like Sydney is not my idea of fun. The traffic just seems crazy, and it all feels like there are just way too many cars trying to squeeze along lots of too-narrow roads (even though the roads are usually multi-lane). At least this visit we did pretty well finding our way around – Narelle's old NSW navigation skills came through with flying colours.

It was a nice holiday but it is good to be home again.

Office Communicator and the tel: protocol

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I was wondering today whether Office Communicator offered any integration with web pages to enable calling a phone number on a web page. It turns out it does (as the Communicator team explains on their blog) via the tel: protocol.

I confirmed this by inspecting the registry on a computer with the Office Communicator 2007 client installed. Sure enough, it is registered for tel: (and also callto:).

If your page is just for your intranet, you can probably get away with the local number, but the RFC strongly recommends you use full "international form" – that way the number should be callable from anywhere. eg.

Telephone: <a href="tel:+3585551234567">+358-555-1234567</a>

I don't have Communicator installed on my home PC, but I do have Skype. A quick check of the registry confirmed that Skype has registered as a handler for callto: but there is no tel:.

Stack Overflow Careers

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Jeff has announced careers.stackoverflow.com, and I've jumped in quick to grab http://careers.stackoverflow.com/davidgardiner

Some other places you can find me in the social network "cloud" are:

Getting podcasts onto my new phone

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

add01_3301[1]I recently replaced my dead iPod Shuffle with a Samsung C3050 phone that amongst other things has music playing as a feature. I bought an 8Gb micro-SD card to go in the phone to store podcasts on.

When I unpacked the phone from its packaging, I discovered that this phone uses a slightly annoying custom socket to connect to a PC, headphones or power jack. It also didn't come with a USB cable in the box (so when the box said "supported USB" it didn't mean "easily"). I ended up making my very first e-bay purchase and bought a $10 cable which did the trick.

Now to get podcasts syncing…

I had been using WinAmp with the Shuffle, but I found that its support for a basic USB drive (which is how the phone's SD card appears when connected to the PC) was not perfect. After scrounging the net to find a decent podcatching application. Some of the problems I encountered along the way included MP3 files getting filenames that the C3050 didn't like, MP3 files ending up in the wrong location on the SD card, and some software that just plain didn't like the feed – the "." in ".NET Rocks" seems to be a common cause of that.

I finally found Mediafly. This site offers feed aggregation as well as software for syncing podcasts to various devices.

I'd already started using SpokenWord.org to aggregate my feeds, so I just added my aggregated RSS feed URL - http://rss.spokenword.org/playlist/2940 – to Mediafly. It then started downloading the latest files, and I was able to sync them over to the SD card.

So far it looks like this is working pretty well.

The C3050 is a pretty basic phone (what do you expect for less that $100 from the local Vodafone shop), and the music player has a few annoying quirks – in particular it too easily forgets if it is part-way through playing a track, and there's no way to determine (from the PC) what tracks have already been listened to. But in spite of that it does the job, which is the main thing.

Upgrading the Media Center to Windows 7

Sunday, 11 October 2009

After my success with upgrading my not-so-modern PC to Windows 7, I thought I'd take another plunge and do an upgrade of my Vista Media Center machine. This is the family TV so any problems would not go down too well!

The Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor didn't flag any major showstoppers, but it did suggest uninstalling the ATI Control Center (which I did). It also warned that I may need to upgrade the drivers for the iMON device (this is the front-panel display on the Antec Fusion 430 Silver case and IR receiver for the remote control). Conveniently, just before I installed Win7, iMON reported that there was a new update available so I allowed that to go through, hoping it would help avoid some of the problem some people have had.

I inserted the Windows 7 Ultimate x86 DVD, ran setup and selected 'Upgrade'. Probably about an hour later (and 2-3 reboots) it was all done.

A quick check confirmed that yes, live TV still worked (phew!) – and so did the remote control.

Going to the Guide showed the new layout, but oh dear – there were no listings for any of the ABC or SBS channels – hmm that could be a problem. But that was enough for one night, so I left it there.

The next morning, I woke up to discover that the kids had already figured out how to watch the previous night's recording of Ice Age – which was a good sign that nothing had changed too dramatically!

I recall seeing mention in the Australian Media Center Community forums that Windows 7 would finally allow use of the FM radio tuner included in the Hauppauge HVR-2200. I went to the FM Radio menu but it said I needed to add a tuner, even though the upgrade had found the 2 digital tuners ok, so I followed these steps:

First, choose Analogue antenna 

Confirm 2 analogue tuners are available

Now choose to set up the digital tuners

Confirm 2 digital tuners

2 analogue and 2 digital tuners will be configured

Scanning begins

Analogue as well as digital channels are found

TV Signal is now finished

Then I was able to go to the Radio menu item, choose FM Radio, then enter the frequency for a local radio station!

Enter 107.9 to get Life-FM in Adelaide

I was intrigued about what to do about the missing TV guide information for the ABC channels in the guide. Mike Hayton (from Microsoft) posted this explanation of how the guide gets updated, so I configured the Automatic Download setting to ensure the guide gets a chance to grab the latest listings..

Windows 7 TV Guide

So, thus far everything has gone very well. The upgrade went without a hitch and everything appears to be working at least as well as before. One problem I did have with Vista MCE was for some reason I was never able to upgrade the ATI video drivers beyond around version 8.4. Every time I tried a newer version, the machine would BSOD. So far the upgraded machine seems stable with the latest video drivers from Windows Update (8.632.1.2000 17-Oct-2009).

I see from New Magic's drivers page that there's an updated driver for the HVR-2200 for Windows 7. I'll have to check whether that got installed through Windows Update, otherwise I'll install that just to keep current.