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.

From WinXP to Windows 7

Monday, 5 October 2009

My home machine used to be pretty state of the art, but that was a few years ago now. It has an Intel D865PERL motherboard. When I first got the machine, I used the built-in RAID to strip the two SATA disks together to get better I/O performance. This has proved quite stable, but unfortunately Windows 7 does not natively support the Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller (the Windows 7 Upgrade advisor will warn you about this).

So armed with this knowledge, I bought a brand new 1Tb SATA disk (a Hitachi HDT721010SLA360) and then attached it to a spare SATA card that was leftover from rebuilding Dad’s computer.

All looked good until I started up the computer, and was greeted by a message from the SATA card that had found the Hitachi disk, but then did not proceed any further.

This card identified itself as a Silicon Image SiI 3112 SATARaid Controller, with firmware version 4.1.34. I obtained the BIOS update utility and latest BIOS 4.2.84, upgraded the firmware and rebooted.

This solved that problem, and the machine was able to complete startup and boot Windows XP successfully.

I then tried to install Windows 7 from DVD onto the new Hitachi drive. First problem was that Windows 7 didn’t see the drive at all. Eventually I figured out that copying the "SiI3x12 32-bit Windows SATARAID Driver" to a USB flash drive, so then it could be loaded by the Windows 7 installer (don't make the mistake of trying the 'BASE' drivers – they're intended for motherboards, not cards).

Now Windows 7 could see the drive, but it refused to install on the drive. Next stop was to change the motherboard BIOS to make the Hitachi drive the first drive (instead of the original RAID drive)

That did it – Windows 7 was now able to install.

One final thing to try out was whether Windows 7 could actually use the old driver for the Intel RAID controller. I located the 'drivers' folder (Program Files\Intel\Intel Matrix Storage Manager\Driver) and copied those files to somewhere that the Windows 7 installation could see them. Fearing a possible BSOD, I located the 'Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller' entry in Device Manager, and upgraded the driver to this driver.. and it worked!

So I was then able to backup files from the old RAID disks onto the new Hitachi (which I'd also split into two partitions).

The good news is Windows 7 runs pretty well. I've still got a fair bit of migrating of applications but so far so good.

Hotmail accounts hacked for sending iPhone spam

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

I've had a few family and friends now who have apparently had their hotmail email accounts hacked for the purpose of sending spam to all the people in their contacts (including me!)

The spam (who's grammar should make it obviously not from the original sender) takes the form of

hi,
how are you?
recently, I got a nice site: www.nottheoriginalsite.com
I brought some items from them. Wow, it is very nice.
low price and good quality (iphone new model 3GS 16 GB only 385 euro)
they also sell Wii, DJ, TV, laptop,camera and so on.
how do you think? login and have a look at it!
yours truly,

As best I can tell, they've done this either via guessing passwords or maybe via some kind of phishing attack. One reason for this belief is that for one incident I saw, the spam was saved in the sender's "Sent Items" folder, just like other regular email that they had sent.

If you have a hotmail account, I'd strongly recommend you ensure your password is long enough to be extremely difficult to guess. A passphrase instead of just a password is probably the best way to do this.

Why Websense is stupid (and I told them so)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

One of the vendors who happened to be exhibiting at TechEd Australia this year was a company called Websense.

They were giving away T-shirts, so it was only after I had received my free shirt from them that I then proceeded to tell them how stupid and horrible their software was.

This seem to take the Websense staff a bit by surprise and they tried to defend their product assuring me with words to the effect that their software was wonderful and couldn't possibly be faulty and had the "largest database". Well let me assure you "quantity" definitely does not equate to "quality", and it may be no coincidence that their company name rhymes with "nonsense" :-)

Don't believe me? Well take a look at this example:

Try and browse http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license.html through Websense and you are greeted with this response:

Reason:

The Websense category "Entertainment" is filtered.

 

URL:

http://www.opensource.org/licenses/bsd-license.html

Presumably the legal department must have a fair bit of influence at Websense, Inc. as I don't think anyone else would consider reading software licenses 'Entertainment'.

It just goes to reinforce the enhancement Mitch Denny made in his Software Development Pitfalls talk to point 5 of Jeff Attwood's Programmer's Bill of Rights :

Every programmer shall have a fast, unfiltered internet connection

Ah, we can but dream.