Monthly Archives: December 2006

Smiffy on Flickr

Smiffy is now on Flickr, the photo-sharing, social-networking site.

Whilst I have browsed through Flickr on previous occasions, I have never had a strong reason to become engaged with it. Now, however, I think the time is ripe; I have a mobile phone with a built-in camera, and Flickr would appear to be the place to store my pictures, whilst looking at other camera phone pictures for inspiration.

Although my phone has the same resolution imager as my old Olympus compact digital camera, it lacks the quality optics, is almost impossible to hold steady, only works well in bright light, has little manual control – I could go on. However, as I have the camera, I am going to experiment and, whilst I will not be expecting to take any clear, sharp, pictures, will be looking at how this gadget can be used to create Art.

SmiffyCMS Toolkit

DC.blog, the software behind Smiffy’s place, is part of a development process to produce an accessible CMS/blogging application.

Whilst DC.blog and Smiffy’s Place will continue to be the development area for this software, I am assembling the SmiffyCMS Toolkit, a set of PHP modules based on the best of and the most flexible parts of DC.blog.

SmiffyCMS Toolkit will be released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license. The Toolkit will not be an easy-to-implement CMS solution like Drupal, but will form the means by which bespoke CMS systems may be produced, without having to work from first principles. Documentation will be limited to code comments as I will be selling the creation of bespoke CMS solutions, based on the toolkit, as a service.

Features

This is a list of some of the features that SmiffyCMS Toolkit will inherit from dc.blog:

  • The Slvg Lookup concept for handling redirect URIs and looking after obsolete URIs from legacy content.
  • Inclusion of fields in main page record for Dublin Core metadata.
  • Inclusion of a field in the main page for the URI of
    an audio equivalent of the content. This would be rendered
    both as <link rel="alternate"/> in the page
    header and as a link with optional icon in the page body. (None of this would appear if the URI were left blank.)
  • Automatic creation of a Google sitemap on page creation (can be over-ridden by the author).
  • When page categories are implemented (as with blogs), default metadata may be assigned to categories, which will be added to the dc.subject field, when the page is displayed. These will also be added to the list of categories for a page in an RSS2.0 feed.
  • Automatic creation of RSS (2.0) and RDF (RSS 1.0) feeds for categories and data ranges (mostly of interest for blogs, news and more dynamic pages).
  • Ability to integrate PHP CGI applications into the page template. (They would be run under the main programme, the functions being pulled in from an include file.) These would not be modules – remember, this is a toolkit; they would form
    part of the bespoke application.
  • Integrated RSS aggregation – create pages from feeds. (This was planned for Smiffy’s Place but has not happened as yet.)

When?

SmiffyCMS Toolkit should be available in some shape or form early in the second quarter of 2007.

Another Address Lost

Spammers have finally started sending to blog2@smiffysplace.com. Good luck to them, because that address is now history. Although I get a large amount of spam through my business address (which I will not post here for obvious reasons), my "sacrificial address" concept seems to work fairly well.

Regular visitors to Smiffy’s Place may notice a new contact address at the bottom of the page. At the moment, I have to set this address in the database that drives this site. My plan is to improve this process by having a single programme that changes the address in the database, removes the old address from the Postfix mail server virtual users table and inserts the new one. I will document the technique used, as I cannot see how disclosure will benefit spammers.

Tea Heaven

I have been a tea drinker since I was a wee laddie. How many gallons of the stuff I have drunk in over quarter of a century, I dread to think.

Since coming to Australia, I have sourced most of my teas from Adelaide, principally Kim Wang’s Asian supermarket at the Central Market.

Last week, I finished the last of my Temple of Heaven Gunpowder (I buy it by the half kilo) and was distressed to find that the spare I though was in the cupboard was actually the one I had just finished.

With no trip to Central Market planned for the near future, I started to investigate obtaining my teas online. eBay turned up far less than I expected. Further searching finally brought me to teas.com.au, from whom I ordered a couple of full-sized packets of tea, and a couple of sample packs. So, not only do we get our coffee online, but our tea as well. (My tea – my wife does not drink it.)

So, for the first time, I am trying white teas, green teas that I have never heard of, and am renewing the acquaintance of Nilgiri – one of my favourites.

I am now in tea heaven.

User Agent Reporting Tool

ShowMe is a tool I have just finished working on that provides information about the visiting user agent. This information includes things that can be determined from the Web server environment and also some that are found using JavaScript (if it is available).

Feel free to play – the password is currently foobar.

Ice Cream Too Hot

This morning saw my second attempt at making ice cream, or at least the start of the second attempt. We have a Breville (a manufacturer from whom we will not be buying anything else) ice cream machine which uses passive cooling – you have to freeze the bowl before use. This makes things a bit more difficult than with a machine that contains a refrigeration unit – the mixture has to be pre-refrigerated for some time before being introduced into the machine.

The first batch was not too impressive, partly because it was a gelato (just milk, no cream), there was a hint of scalded milk (the recipe specified boiling) and ice crystal size was a little too large, making it a bit on the crunchy side. It was also too sweet, with 200 grammes of sugar in 750 millilitres of fluid.

Today’s batch, or rather tomorrow’s batch as I have only made up the base mixture, has fifty grammes less sugar and the milk was only heated to 80° Celsius.

When cooking the mixture, I observed some granulation occurring when the temperature rose above 80° Celsius – doubtless coagulation of either milk or egg protein. If the final texture is less than desirable, I will take the next batch off the heat when the temperature reaches the high seventies.

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 550ml milk
  • 2.5ml vanilla essence
  • 200g cream (to be added at the last)

Motorola RAZR V3i

Preamble

The first mobile phone that I ever used was made by Nokia, was extremely heavy and came in a satchel. It comprised a handset attached to a base unit by a coiled cable.

The first mobile phone that I as ever issued was also made by Nokia and could be carried in a pocket – if the pocket were large enough.

Recently, I have used various Nokia models, all of which broke in some way or other, and a couple of Ericsson R320s, which have possibly the worst battery life of any hand-held appliance.

Not being able to obtain spare battery contacts for my broken Nokias (the ones that fell apart through poor design rather than the ones that had accidents) and my Ericssons not being much use unless they could be charged daily, I realised that the time had come to bite the bullet and get my hands on something that was probably designed in this, not the last, century.

Desperately Seeking Mobile

front view of phone when closed

After going through the models listed by the Australian Choice Magazine (a bit like Which? in the UK, and researching them further through Google, I had not seen anything I particularly liked at a price that I was prepared to pay.

Furthermore, restricting myself to manufacturers with a good pedigree – ones that have been making mobile phones since they first came out – things were not looking good.

Moto

Only when I started looking at vendor Web sites did I start to see anything of interest, and these were products of Motorola. As I am something of a fan of Freescale, what was Motorola Semiconductors, I thought that these would warrant further investigation.

I remember the original Motorola flip phones – a breakage just waiting to happen and the reason that I never touched a phone with moving parts until I acquired a second-hand Nokia 7110 earlier this year (the battery contacts broke).

Despite my wariness of such phones, the Motorola RAZR V3 caught my interest. PC World magazine ran a feature about a year ago, "The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years"; the RAZR found itself in 12th place.

With an aluminium shell and what appears to be a well-engineered hinge, my RAZR V3i (an upgrade on the original model) seems to be anything but a flimsy flip-phone.

Motorola OS

Software-wise, this phone runs a proprietary operating system of Motorola’s own devising. Had I not needed this phone for another year, I could have obtained a subsequent model running Linux, with a QT interface.

Although it may be a proprietary operating system, this does not mean that I cannot do things with it. The phone sports a Java virtual machine and Motorola provides a free SDK, documentation and code examples. It appears that I should be able to develop applications for this phone using the Netbeans development environment. I have downloaded Netbeans, the latest Java SDK and runtime and all the appropriate Motorola stuff. All I have to do now is to learn to programme in Java, something that I have now been meaning to do for the best part of the last ten years.

As regards the operating system itself, it appears to be
very hackable and much hacked – there are many sites, such as
MotoModders, devoted
to the subject. I will be leaving this well alone until
such time as I can obtain an official Motorola firmware backup.

As one who has to travel with a bag of various mains adapters,
the RAZR has won my heart as it can be charged through a USB cable. Therefore, if I have a laptop with me, I do not need
the mains charger for the phone. The fact that this phone is also genuinely pocket sized (and not just for large pockets) is another big plus for the traveller.

Camera

Like nearly every other phone on the market nowadays, the V3i has a camera on board. Whilst the original V3 only had VGA resolution of 640×480px, the V3i has a resolution of 1.3 Megapixels – a meaningless figure that can be translated as 960x1280px, a shade better than SVGA.

How exactly one is supposed to hold steady a device so light and – for a camera – with poor ergonomics, I have yet to find out. In good light, this is not an issue, but as soon as a long exposure is required, there is a problem. I would imagine that this would be even more so when using it to record MPEG video.

The greatest annoyance with the camera is that when I hold the phone in what I consider to be a comfortable and steady position, the lens is totally obscured by my hand.

I intend to persevere and will treat it as another novel form of photography like building your own camera and making your own plates with egg and silver nitrate – something different and interesting, but with less than perfect results.

Faults

  • Sometimes, when going out of camera mode and shutting the phone quickly, the outer display goes grey and stays that way until the phone is power-cycled.
  • Date and time formats are restricted – the inability to set 24 hour clock is very annoying. Come on Motorola, please read ISO8601 and realise that we are in the twenty-first century.
  • Whilst used to and forgiving of the linguistic quirks of translated instruction manuals, when I took the time to RTFM, I was less than impressed. The manual was written in English and is really no better than some of the more iffy translations I have seen.
    I found it easier to work some things out by working through the phone’s menu system than by using the manual. If I had a dollar for every good product marred by poor documentation…
  • Saving the best to last, this phone can act as a media player. With the possibility to have up to half a Gigabyte of SD memory fitted, this seems quite good. What is more, the phone has Bluetooth and Motorola
    offers a good Bluetooth stereo headset. What the developers neglected to do is include the Bluetooth A2DP profile (part of the firmware) that allows stereo audio to be sent over Bluetooth. To me, this seems really, really stupid. I am rather hoping to see a new firmware release that can be applied to these phones to fix this issue. It is probably just as well that I do not use portable audio devices otherwise I really would not be happy.

Conclusion

So far, I like this phone. None of my issue with it relate to the actual hardware, which has always been my cause for complaint with previous phones. I hope to have it long enough to do some software development on it, although my track record with mobile phones so far has not been that good.

I look forward to hearing from anyone from Motorola who might read this, regarding where and when I can get my firmware update.

Software

For the technically minded, who know something about RAZRs,
here are the specifications given by the phone:

Flash
R479_G_08.B4.89R
Flex
GSPSLQAT678RS146
DSP
63242400
Java (J2ME)
CLDC v1.1
MIDP v2.0
Language Pack
0055 (UK English, Chinese simplified, Greek, Italian, Tieng Viet [Vietnamese])