This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A message for Ian

A message for Ian
Originally uploaded by adactio
Around the world messages of love an support are pouring in for Ian Forrester- AKA Cubicgarden, who fell ill a couple of weeks ago, and is in intensive care in Salford. Herb Kim paid tribute to Ian at Thinking Digital today too.

If you'd like to follow Ian's recovery his family are keeping up a Caring Bridge journal.

The BBC Backstage blog, which is Ian's usual stamping ground, is under my tender care for the moment, and we hope to post major updates on his condition there in future.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Arch Umbrella

Ok so this one is more by way of illustrating the antithesis of my ideal. Sort of. This is a top end brolly from Swaine Adeney Brigg- possibly the most archaeic purveyors of overpriced, underspecified and lovingly crafted flimflammery. All jolly lovely if your idea of quality is to have had someone employ medieval techniques for hundreds of man hours over a design that hasn't changed in generations.

And frankly, yes, that sometimes is good, but what I realy want is the high tech uber design approach.

Still in the mean time check out this absurdly expensive, moderate understated, well made, umbrella with a secret booze compartment!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Brolly update

This is a glorious addition to the catalogue of excellence in umbrellation. An evolution of the not so humble sword stick, this is agressively pushing the envelope of the collapsible rain cover- bravo!

Le Parapluie Uncassable pour Self-Défense

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to fix an old alien

A few years back I wangled an Alienware M9700 to do tests on high end graphics and their impact in UI. This is an insane device- twin SLI video cards, raid0 striped hard drives, HD screen, 64bit processor. A very fetching metalic green too. Absurd, and at the time, for about 3 weeks I think, it was the fastest laptop money could buy.

Today it's still a very grunty machine- perhaps a little low on RAM to be considered truely top flight, and the video cards don't support the latest video formats. Never the less, when it started to cook itse;f and break down, it was well worth trying to fix. I spent weeks downloading various alittle bits of software to get into the temp sensors and see where the problem was- SpeedFan turned out to be a slightly patchy but useful tool, and showed that Elphaba was running hot enough to cook on, and that was why she was conking out after about ten minutes of doing anything complicated.

There is a coda to this inspection- at some point or other I downloaded an inspection tool that infected her with a really nasty 'windows security' virus. And at that point things went south fast. Anti virus software was working so hard and taking so long to hunt down the virus that it would conk out before finishing a scan! Heat, illness, all bad!

So, the first thig to do was to fix the hardware- cue a full heatsink stripdown, clean out and application of Arctic Silver, as described perfectly here! To be honest I was a bit nervous about this process- but the instructions are nice and clear, and after a dry run, the process went pretty well I think. Yesterday I just about managed to get Gimp running some pretty big transforms to push the processor and the temp topped out at 72 degrees, but was well handled by the fans and quickly drawn down again.

Now all that needs to be done is to completely rebuild the software layer, and I'm thinking of trying a 3way multiboot set up with win XP (for reliabilities sake) ubuntu 64bit (though possibly not with Grub2- found that very awkward in the past!) and Windows 7 x64. You know, for giggles! Might upgrade the RAM and disks too. One to ponder. Suggestions for OS's welcome too by the way- always up fro trying something new. Bear in mind though that just to turn on this beast really does need some pretty odd drivers!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Phinding the Ferpect Phone Part 1

Android, Symbian, WinMob, Apple, what to put in your pocket? As I have whinged a few times before, I'm on the road a bit these days, not least on the two and half hour commute to the office, so it seems sensible to explore how I can get on with the day job away from the desk, either at home or in the office.

I do have a very deeply retro Nokia Communicator 9500 at the moment as my personal phone- I occasionaly get it out amongst geeks and it couldn't get a better reaction if it was a portable difference engine with a foolscap Ada Lovelace OS.

It's actually a pretty dreadful phone, and a borderline useless PDA more or less gaffer taped together - the screen is ace, but almost completely wasted by the truey grotty UI with mixed UI patterns, nasty menus, and useless implementation of the d-pad pointer controller (apart from the random old school opera lite instal).

In truth, I only use this machine as an SMS terminal and phone, and it has been the source of may tweets etc. Crucially, I've not really developed an understanding of smart phones at all.

Next Post- The New Work Phone!