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Saturday, 25 March 2006

Got the Warty -> Dapper upgrade complete on the media PC. New version of Ubuntu's very nice, including an with XvMC support (which still required patching MPlayer, though) and a kernel with the bcm43xx driver.

Friday, 24 March 2006

I've been looking at collaborative document production (and editing). The requirements are quite simple:

  • Structured document: sections, chapters etc.
  • All changes should be version controlled and the history (re)viewable.
  • Mostly text-based with a few images, however text contains lists etc.
  • Should be easy and quick to edit.
  • Should allow for keyboard-led input; for example, create a list without having to click lots of buttons with the mouse.
  • Should allow for offline editing, with merging of changes once connected.

Initial thoughts on collaborative editing suggest a wiki, however it's difficult to solve the offline editing problem, and it's a little too anarchic for some. Editing is trivial, however, and the wikitext syntax allows for structured documents without complicated markup.

Another option is Microsoft Word which supposedly allows the collaborative approach necessary. However, its features (such as they are) seem to be focused on review workflows, rather than collaborative production. It isn't conducive to having a well-structured document, for which tool assistance is essential when many people may be editing a document: its "what you see is all you get" approach isn't as flexible as something like LaTeX's "what you mean is what you get" pseudo-motto. Even on a cental file server, it isn't simple to allow two people to edit the same document at the same time and then merge the changes. One hacky solution to this is to break the document into a series of atomic sections, only one of which is likely to be edited at a time. Eugh.

Another option is a document storage system, such as Lotus Notes or many other knowledge repositories. Although excellent in what they do, they generally don't allow two people to edit the same fields in the same document simulatneously, no matter how good Notes' offline and replication technologies are. Also, version control could be an issue; and the lack of semantic structuring of the text is similar to Word.

So that leads to a text-based markup file stored in Subversion, such as LaTeX, DocBook or XHTML. The appeal here is obvious: simple to edit offline and merge/resolve conflicts; version control is trivial and well-suited if already using Subversion for source code control (and who wouldn't? ;-)); structured documents are trivial and the eventual style is well separated from the semanticallyidescribed document. Including images in a consistent way is a little tricky, and for those who'd prefer a graphical editor (such as is really possible with a semantic markup) it could be a problem.

So it appears there isn't really a good solution. Or maybe Lyx/LaTeX or Bluefish/HTML combined with Subversion would?

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Finally managed to get some video encoded which'd play back on the Nokia 770. The problem with my test video is that it's audio is at 48kHz - adding the appropriate resample option to mencoder to downsample it to 44.1kHz made it playable. Updated the Maemo wiki entry on VideoEncoding with this key snippet of information.

Encoded the TNG promo so it'd play back: STTNG.avi (3.8MB) and also stuck it on YouTube so it could be watched online.

Lots of talk about the funding of polical parties after the "Loans for Lordships" scandal. Several people, including the Conservatives, are suggesting at least partial state funding. However, can you imagine the headlines in The Sun when the BNP gets taxpayers' money to fund their election efforts? "Blair gives fascists cash" etc.

Monday, 20 March 2006

Watched Serenity and promptly added Firefly to our rental list afterwards. It's a really neatly put together film; and many of the comments of Joss Whedon in the extra features prove both a) his geek credentials and b) his passion to tell a good story in a logical way and to make the best film possible.

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

From the set of emails I sent out on Saturday to home automation/networking specialists in and around Rugby, only one responded. He came round this evening: seemed to know his stuff and was very enthusiastic and understanding of our requirements.

Unfortunately, damage to our (relatively) nice, new, walls is inevitable - and the cost of running cables through a new house is probably going to be exhorbitant. Still, something to bear in mind if we ever build our own house.

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Having failed to find the ST:TNG promo video I had on my A3010 (it came on about 6 floppies you had to stitch back together to get an Acorn Replay file and featured shots of the Enterprise-D instead of the boring text on the title sequence), thought it might be interesting to try and recreate it in iMovie. Ripped the Encounter at Farpoint title sequence using Handbrake to an MP4 file which imported into iMovie with no problems. Unfortunately, iMovie is clip- rather than track-based, so getting used to dragging and dropping clips around and fiddling with them to be the correct size was a little bit of a learning curve.

The current v1 is about 11MB as an MPEG-4 file - no more than twice the size of the original Replay file, but features 128kbps AAC stereo audio and PAL-sized, full-colour, video. A bit sad and geeky though, I'll admit.

Spent the afternoon at Mum & Dad's: after a short (cold) walk, they were cooing over Alex as he's now smiling and half-giggling; this is the kind of thing that grandparent's love :-)

Thursday, 09 March 2006

Had a play with Democracy - a project combining RSS, Bittorrent and VLC to provide "real" Internet TV - and the legal uses are pretty interesting in and of themselves.

What'd be really good would be a way of deploying it as a batch job on the Linux media PC, meaning the new videos would just popup in Freevo.

Peapod is an RSS aggregator allowing BitTorrent enclosures, which seems to work, but needed some patching to get it actually working. Now need to come up with a system of highlighting new videos to be watched, and expiring old ones. Something using find(1) and access/modification times should work.

The real power here is a way of copying them automatically to my Gmini or 770. Talking of which, Microsoft/Intel/Samsung/Asus' new Origami-platform devices look interesting: about the same size and weight as a Psion netBook, with many of the features as the 770. Unfortunately with the bigger size, I'd like a screen with a higher pixel count but the biggest nail in its coffin is the abysmal battery life: 2 hours?! The connectivity with ethernet and VGA ports is quite nice, though.

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