Friday, May 30, 2008

The News Quiz in Bristol

Last night I went to a recording of BBC Radio 4 stalwart The News Quiz at the Redgrave Theatre in Clifton, Bristol. An experience I can thoroughly recommend if you get the chance.

Tickets are free, but they allocate more tickets than there are seats in the theatre, to ensure that there is enough of an audience for the recording. I applied for my tickets as soon as I heard the announcement after the Friday broadcast of the show two weeks ago. I was listening via a Freeview box and a PVR, so it was slightly delayed (but I was able to rewind and listen to it again to check I'd heard what I thought I'd heard). But I immediately opened my PowerBook went to the ticket site and filled out the form, and was finished about 10 minutes after the initial broadcast. The tickets arrived in the post a few days later - we had 217 and 218.

The venue seats 343 (according to it's website), and I heard one of the theatre staff say that over 600 tickets had been sent out. The theatre was completely packed for the recording, and there were lots of people milling around outside trying to get in. Some of them had tickets, but you had to turn up before the doors opened and get a numbered sticker on your ticket to ensure a seat. We arrived about 30 minutes before the doors were due to open and we got stickers 165 and 166.

They also recorded around 90 minutes of material for a 28 minute broadcast. So it will be interesting to hear what makes it in (and also explains why the scoring on the broadcast show rarely makes any sense).

The show will be broadcast tonight (30th May 2008, BBC R4, 6:30pm) and tomorrow (31st May 2008, BBC R4, 12:30pm) or you should be able to download it from the website for a week after the Friday broadcast.

See if you can spot me laughing amongst all the other people laughing.

And, by the way, it was so funny I broke my glasses.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Munroist #3806 - One Year On

Exactly a year ago today I finished my round of the Munros. A Munro is a mountain over 3000ft in Scotland, and there are 284 of them. I did my first Munro in 1987 and I managed to polish the lot off (along with the 3000ft peaks of England, Wales and Ireland - bringing the grand total up to 313) in a little under 20 years.

There are more details on my web site, and recently I've been making Google Earth/Google Maps .kmz files for many of the walks.

Since completing the Munros I've been travelling further afield (snowshoeing in Norway) and nearer afield (walking in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons), and I'm thinking about doing some walks on Dartmoor in the not too distant future.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Griffin AirClick

While I was out buying the Saturday paper yesterday I saw that my local technology shop - CAV - was having a closing down sale. Which of course meant that it was closing down. A bit sad as it was always a handy place for me to buy the odd computer or audio cable, optical media, RJ45 crimp tool, DVD player, etc.

So I popped in and found they were selling off a Griffin AirClick USB for £4. It advertises itself as an RF remote control for iTunes, but as I found out later it's actually a bit more generic than that.

As Macaroni Penguins are entering the 2008 gigging season I figured it might be useful to help me rehearse - I usually have the set list set up in iTunes when I run through songs and play along. Which means lots of running over to the PowerBook to skip backwards to go over some part of (or all of) a song again. I thought I could clip this to my guitar strap and I'd be sorted, so I bought one.

It was slightly disappointing when I got home to find that unlike most stuff I plug into the PowerBook it didn't just work straight away when I plugged it in. Or even when I installed the software from the CD that came with it. It turned out that you need to download version 1.1.1 of the AirClick software from the Griffin website if you want it to work on Tiger or Leopard, so I did that and it started working.

And then I found that not only can it control iTunes, but also a bunch of other useful applications (like iPhoto, DVD Player and Keynote (if I ever need to make a big flashy presentation for some reason)).

It actually turns out that it is easy to tweak a few of the installed files to make the AirClick interact with any application that uses AppleScript [link]. So this morning I hacked up the necessary code to make it work with EyeTV (I might make the files available for download soon, but if you want to encourage me to make them available sooner just leave a comment).

Previously I've done a similar kind of thing using Bluetooth, a mobile phone (thanks cms!) and Romeo but it's nice to have a tiny dedicated remote to make things simple. I guess that's why Apple started bundling them with their computers (although that's IR rather than RF), but until I get a MacBook I'll stick with the AirClick. In fact for £4 I'm rather regretting not getting more than one (although they are listed on for only £12.50).

The only problem I've found with it so far is that the USB receiver dongle is a bit wide and makes it a bit of a squeeze to fit another USB plug in the adjacent socket when it's plugged in. But it comes with a 1m long USB extension cable you can use if you want to plug extra things in, so it's only a minor niggle.