More amazing google

We were pleasantly surprised the other week when we found that googling a film title gave you easy to read information on when it was showing nearby.

Now we find Google can tell you all that, and a whole lot more, by text message too. See http://www.google.co.uk/sms for more information. Now you don’t have to text me when you’re stuck in a pub quiz, you can go straight to the horse’s mouth.

I tested it with the last q to arrive by text for those purposes, and it doesn’t appear that Google SMS knows who the transvestite in the Rocky Horror Show is after all. Maybe you’ll still have to text me.

Stumbled across the information about the SMS service whilst trying to find out if I could do something else easily / cheaply. I have now, thanks to eBay, got a sat nav GPS system for my mobile phone (Navicore). It has the capability of being a beacon, in a limited way — you can configure it to send a text message containing your co-ordinates at an interval you specify. It doesn’t appear to be able to send e-mails with the same information, which would be much more useful.

I was wondering if I could find something simple (hah!) that could receive text messages then plot where you’ve been on a map. Maybe even in real time over the internet. Then people wouldn’t have to text me to know where I was and what time I’d make it into the office. They’d know I was “stuck in traffic on the M1” (and not, in any way, still in bed).

Google Earth Plus seems to be able to take in GPS data, like a list of waypoints. I’m just not sure how I can get the text messages onto a computer without spending huge sums of money doing it.

This looks like it might be halfway there. I’m not sure my coding is up to it, and what’s Zope?

In the normal run of things, I don’t do a huge amount of travelling. There’s a finite amount of places I could be. It would have been far more interesting to have plotted my movements around France earlier in the year, for example.

Environmental meme tagging

Although I said recently I didn’t believe in tagging people with memes, I’m taking that back in aid of a good cause. And the chance to start my own meme.

Earlier, I gave a list of things on my desk that are plugged in. And earlier in the week, I was looking at signing up with a green electricity supplier that just happens to have an affinity programme with the Lib Dems.

Good-Energy mention on their website that mobile phone chargers that are left plugged in are using electricity even when you’re not charging your phone. We’ve all known for some time that it’s better to unplug your telly overnight than leave it on stand-by for the same reason: appliances using power they don’t need to. Saving power is saving yourself money in leccy bills and prevents some unneccessary carbon dioxide from being released.

So here’s my meme: what’s plugged in on your desk? What doesn’t need to be on all the time? Blog your answers, and then tell me you’re now switching things off if you weren’t before.

What’s on my desk:

13 things that need plugging in on my desk

  1. PC
  2. Monitor
  3. Old PC which still has some files on it I use occasionally
  4. KVM
  5. Laptop
  6. Modem
  7. Router
  8. Lamp
  9. Speakers
  10. Scanner
  11. Printer
  12. Answerphone
  13. Mobile charger

And splitting that up into what does need to be on all the time:

  1. PC (at least when I’ve left it busy downloading)
  2. Modem
  3. Router (for the other computers in the house and the downloading)
  4. Answerphone

and what can safely be turned off when I’m not actively at my desk:

  1. Monitor — can be off even if PC still on
  2. Old PC — only needs to be on when I’m actually using it
  3. KVM
  4. Laptop — doesn’t need to be permanently on charge
  5. Lamp
  6. Speakers
  7. Scanner
  8. Printer
  9. Mobile charger

I’m going to achieve this by switching the second list appliances to a separate, switchable plug-board. And I’m going to turn that off at night.

So, what are you going to do, Rob, Mike, Leigh & Kathryn (different blogs, same desk, I think), Stephen, Alan, John , Neil, St E, Nomad, Radders, Matt?

Oh, and this is a meme! Make your friends do it too!

How did you find me?

I’ve now been using MyBlogLog for barely a day and I’m already puzzled at how and why people come here.

In particular, it looks like some people have asked questions of Google, and come to me looking for answers, which they won’t have found. This feels frustrating. People have come to me in their hour of need and left empty handed. As a public service, here are the answers they should have had:

  • “What to do with jam-jars”
  • Easy answer to that one. Sterlise them with boiling water, or in a dishwasher. Put them in the oven GasMark 1 whilst making jam. Then, er, fill them with jam.

  • “No pressure in my homebrew”
  • Oh dear. I guess that means one of two things: either your pressure barrel isn’t airtight (did you remember to grease the seal?) or your homebrew isn’t fermenting. Which means it’s not, strictly speaking, homebrew.

    This reminds me that half of the barrel of beer I made nearly a year ago is still sitting undrunk and probably undrinkable in the cellar. And there’s no cellar in the new house. Can I make beer in the shed? Where will the wine go?

  • “long time no mail”
  • Oh dear. One of those dilemmas. Is there a technical problem or do your friends suddenly now hate you? Here’s some things you could try: Phone your friends and check for frostiness on the line. Check your e-mail using a different mail program (eg PopTray or SMB) or the website www.mailreader.com to see if your account at your ISP looks the same as it does in your regular program. Check your ISP’s service log to see if there was an outage on your mail server. If you run your own domain, have you done something stupid to your MX table?

  • “civilization iii serial three hour”
  • Actually mate, you’re probably better off not finding that serial number. Just think how much of your time Civ will waste when you do actually get it running.

    Can’t leave without mentioning:

  • The aforementioned “barrister strike blog”
  • Although we were talking about this in the pub last night, there’s nothing here specifically about that. Yes, it’s a blog. Yes, I mention the word strike occasionally. But the only previous mention of barrister before I got intrigued about my google hits was talking about the Lib Dem candidate in the Hartlepool by-election. And this despite having a good friend and former housemate who is one.

New house update

We’ve been homeowners for a week now. I keep fielding the question ‘are you living there yet?’ but you’ll know there’s a lot to do before that will be possible. Target moving date, early to mid-December.

The following still to do

  • Builder to fix wall and vents
  • Plumber to fix drains
  • Electrician to look at wires
  • Recarpet (contractor)
  • Repaint (ourselves)
  • Move furniture in
  • Move in ourselves

Doesn’t actually look that bad…?

There’s been a feverish progression of tradesmen through the doors of our new abode. The electrician looked and nodded, and solemnly informed me that chaste electrical sockets are more expensive than mounted ones. The quote arrives a few days later and I realise that the technical jargon is in fact ‘chased’. Which has a similarly bizarre mental image, if I’m honest. Surprisingly, the electrics that are there are perfectly safe and reasonably contemporary. There are just too few fittings throughout, so we have to instal more sockets. There are 13 things on my desk alone which need plugging in [1]. And there’s a single electrical socket in the bedroom that will be my office in the new house. The job will be to instal lots more sockets, and replace the existing, frazzled looking fittings. The quote is within budget. I didn’t ask about installing an ethernet backbone in the house.

The drains man is called Juan and is short and entertaining. He’s reviewed a video inspection another company made before we finalised the purchase and it doesn’t look good. This is hardly news to us, but we certainly weren’t able to deduce this from watching the video ourselves. Juan thinks that the clay pipes that were put in when the house was built some 80 years ago have had their day, and the drain needs completely replacing. This may be expensive. We haven’t heard back yet about the cost of this.

We’ve tried to establish whether the current budget allows for recarpeting throughout. A friendly local firm seems to think they can do the entire house (sauf hall stairs and landing which have been repapered and recarpeted in the very recent past) for under 400 quid. But that does mean getting the cheapest carpets and sticking them to the floor using spray-adhesive rather than anything more traditional like, say underlay. My feet are always cold in the new house so we’re definitely going for underlay.

[1] 13 things that need plugging in on my desk

  1. PC
  2. Monitor
  3. Old PC which still has some files on it I use occasionally
  4. KVM
  5. Laptop
  6. Modem
  7. Router
  8. Lamp
  9. Speakers
  10. Scanner
  11. Printer
  12. Answerphone
  13. Mobile charger
  14. (using powe r and creating CO2 just by being plugged in, say GoodEnergy)

Tech update

Just a few tech things that have changed around here over the previous few days.

  • New, buttony-goodness now in the links section. With thanks to a dead handy website that can make those distinctive 80×15 buttons on the fly.
  • New technology from MyBlogLog a utility with a free option that tracks what people click on and where they come from. (Why on earth did my site come up when someone was googling “barrister strike blog”? Creepy: we were only talking about that last night…)
  • Google Adsense is back on my blog. I only initially installed it because I was intrigued to see what the robots would choose to advertise on my page, and that has been interesting. The programme is now earning me a healthy $2 a month, which is, of course, far less than the $3 a day EU cows earn. Many thanks to all those of you who choose to click.
  • I’ve finally got around to Geotagging this site. You can see my ‘meatspace neighbours’ by clicking here. And you can automatically see Geo-aware sites with this useful Firefox plugin

Hitting the big time

I heard a few days ago that one of the recordings I made for the Librivox project (note new url) was played out loud to a party of 600 well-connected Internet industry people in California.

It’s particularly scary that this piece was chosen because it’s the one where I ‘do’ an American/New York accent that in no way stands up to scrutiny from real Americans.

Luckily the clip that gets played doesn’t go as far as the dialogue.

Hugh, the leader of the LV collective, taped the speech which included the extract of the piece. Someone in the audience says ‘wow’. How chuffing!