Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Maple Leaf Rag for Beginners

Just how hard can it be? Scott Joplin's iconic ditty is etched into the minds of classical music buffs the world over but what exactly does it take to be able to play it?

It's this basic question that prompted me (who cannot play the piano) to embark on a musical experiment extraviganza. Just how much time and effort would it take for a 'non-pianist' to polish this merry little tune. And so begins a journey which will end, hopefully in me being a whole £100 pounds richer as my wife seems fairly adamant that I can hardly scale the back door step let alone this musical masterpiece. Little does she know I have a very precise plan of attack: As follows.

1. Obtain the music. (already done thanks to

2. Obtain some kind of suitable instrument (I'm working on this: Serious offers greatly appreciated on

3. Find out what 'key' its in (its got four little 'b's on the music... once again for answers from all you 'muso's') Once I know the key, I will begin practicing the 'scale' unless I don't have a piano, in which case I'll practice in the apple store on their's...

4. Locate a patient, kind-hearted piano teacher who voluntarily will surrender their time teaching a complete beginner a piece of music that's on the 'Trinity Syllabus' at grade 8... Whatever that means.

5. Ply said individual with alcohol and anything else within reason until they agree to oversee this wonderful feat of human achievement.

6. Practice every day.

7. Weekly reassess my progress.

8. After I can play half, take a month out to ponder my achievement thus far (and prepare myself for the really difficult bit).

9. Attain note perfect recital abilities.

10. Perform in public. Become world famous and possibly audition for a TV talent competition where my unique abilities can be appropriately demonstrated.

And so, I begin the task. I've given myself six months to do all this which by my reckoning will allow me to learn 180 notes if I learn one a day. That means that even where you press more than one button at once, I should still be able to learn it... Eventually...

Updates to follow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

B of the Bin?

It looks like the beleaguered B of the Bang sculpture which is the largest piece of artwork in the UK is set to be taken down.

Originally constructed to mark Manchester's holding of the Commonwealth Games in 2002, the artwork began to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when the integrity of some of the 180 spikes began to fail.

Currently cordoned off, the local council have settled out of court for around £1.7m which covers the original sculpture cost of £1.4m plus the extra costs incurred keeping the surrounding area safe.

Some local residents wont be sad to see it go although I think that when any work of public art is removed from built up cities, there is always a tinge of sadness. I'd love to see the council recommission something in its place.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Free GPS on Android...

The 'amaze' GPS platform has been offering free (ad based) GPS solutions for mobiles since they began to incorporate the GPS chips in the handsets.

The software has proved to be very useful on more than one occasion, and as its free, new users aren't limited to a trial period or the usual 'crippleware' which removes key features until money changes hands.

This kind of free software should be the 'norm' for google's new opensource handset but time alone will tell. In fact on this occasion, lots of other users from handsets like Nokia's N96 can also share the love and download for free as well (no joy for iphone users though!).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween 1992: BBC Ghostwatch

Some of the older readers to this blog from the UK will have very vivid memories of a particular BBC television programme broadcast at 9.25pm on October 31st 1992.

Ghostwatch was billed as a live investigation into poltergeist activity in a suburban street in Southern England. In reality it was a prerecorded drama featuring TV presenters previously associated with factual programming. The plot was simple, the programme would start normal enough but would build to a terrifying conclusion. Of course by that time, everyone knew it was indeed drama but not before some people in true Orson Welles style, had run for the hills.

So many people complained to the BBC that the recording was banned, never to be repeated and the producers guidelines now advise against newsreaders, factual presenters taking direct, long roles in TV drama's. The content which started tame enough became edgy with mystery ghost sightings and some clever editing for its day. Personally speaking, it was the best evenings entertainment that I remember from childhood, it scared the whits out of me until the plot obviously gave itself away.

As Halloween 2008 draws to a close, I thought I'd trawl the internet for a bit more info about Ghostwatch and struck gold. You can now watch the show again via youtube and in fact, contribute your own GW memories for a new documentary that is being made. Simply head over to the special GWbtc Youtube page or visit the official blog to find out more information.

As I mentioned, never could such a show be made again on the BBC, they even advertised a call centre number on screen as part of the drama. At one point, over 20,000 callers were trying to get through to speak with the programmes presenter Michael Parkinson.

For anyone out there who remembers the poltergeist/ghost called 'pipes', heres a clip with all the 8 sightings from the show, enjoy!

Google's new G1 handset is a real mixed bag

Firstly, lets point out that this is Google's first mobile handset (in conjunction with HTC) but that didn't stop the iPhone being an instant hit. So what about its newest rival?

The Gphone has come a long way in a short time. It carries many features that are hard not to like such as a built in keyboard, touchscreen and navball and the screen display is bright and easy to use. However I have noticed one or two niggles which I will outline in a little more detail.

Good, but no cigar!

1. Battery life = pants!
If you make the mistake of trying to use all the features on this handset, the battery will be hard pushed to last a single day. I've resigned myself to no GPS, WiFi or 3G in order to stop the handset drying out on me whilst on the road.

2. HSDPA 3.5G Yes, Tethered modem mode for your laptop? No
Theoretically, this handset can support transfers up to 7.2megs per second but you are limited to using whatever you get on your handset. Just like Apple's iPhone, you cannot 'share' your 3G connection with your laptop on the road and in my opinion, that is simply inexcusable.

3. Video Recording (lack of)
Again, following suit from Apple, there's no video recorder on the handset and I can't help feeling that this is another opportunity that Google/HTC have missed out on.

4. No gmail/googlemail account? No point!
Not surprisingly, the handset has very tight integration with the Google apps like mail, calendar and contacts. The phone will even sync OTA (over the air) so that your data is backed up on your desktop via the Google website however it does feel slightly restrictive in that you must have a Google account in order to even use the phone!

5. What! No Google Earth?
This should have been one of the devices 'killer apps' especially given the fact that t was launched on iphone/touch last week however you won't find it on your shiny new Gphone handset. I admit, it's not a devastating blow and its likely to be rectified soon but it should have been on there, out of the box.

6. Addicted to Facebook? Poke Google for an app then!
If you're like millions of others and spending far too much time on Facebook then this may not be the phone for you. In short, Google and Facebook don't get on so there's no facebook app on your phone and there isn't likely to be one any time soon!

7. Handset 'creak'
A personal bugbear of mine, although the unit is fairly well constructed, there is the odd plastic 'creak' here and there, largely due to the sliding keyboard and thin(ish) plastic back. Don't get me wrong, this is far from poor but still irritating nonetheless.

So what have Google got right?

Lets flip the coin and look at the good points on offer with the Gphone.

1. It's opensource!
No red tape to navigate for the developers. There will soon be an abundance of apps to download to your handset. Google have even released the operating software itself meaning that features and functions can be easily tweaked by the community.

2. The core O/S can be updated OTA (over the air).
This is a biggie that has been missing from the mobile industry for years. If improvements are made to your device's software, you can simply update via your data connection so no need to plug it in to your computer at home.

3. Google is almost as good as Apple.
We all know no one like meany Micro$oft, but Google are the good guys! This may be down to marketing but the real-world consequence has created a very positive platform onto which this product has been launched. Its seen as a very much 'moddable' and open device.

hose are a few of my early observations. Overall, I'm very imressed with the device, even more impressed with its potential.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cabinet Ministers

Oh dear! looks like there's more trouble and strife in store for some UK Members of Parliament in the light of new claims that some have used public money to buy furniture for their homes.

I won't name names as I can't afford terribly good legal representation but these kinds of stories in the press, once again damage public confidence in the political system.

In light of ongoing war and a worsening economy here at home, this is bad news, no matter where your political allegiances may lie.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Standing up by sitting down

How can British MP's express their utter disgust for government passed policies in the house of commons? Well it seems that one way may be to walk out, hopefully to walk back in again later on.

The Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis MP was unable to resign in the house of commons, the speaker deeming it to be inappropriate given the matter was voted on yesterday so he stepped outside to step down from arguably the next government here in the UK.

By forcing a by-election, he will keep the matter very much in the media spotlight but who exactly will he fight in his re-election campaign?

The Lib-Dems have decided not to field a candidate given the fact that they agree with his stated reason for resignation and the Labour Party may lose whatever they choose to do.

Meanwhile, the Conservative leader, David Cameron who's riding on the back of a massive 20-point opinion poll lead may find that this single act of 'heroism' could cost his party especially if the public do support a 42 day detention law.

Watch this space, anything could happen!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

This blog ranked 215 for UK politics...

I had a surprise email yesterday, apparently this blog ranks quite high as far as UK politics goes.

At 215, I have been told that my blog is worthy of a badge that has been duly added. In the meantime, let's not forget some of the big political UK based blogs out there such as Guido Fawkes and my facebook buddy, Iain Dale.

Politics makes an ideal focus topic for bloggers an politicians alike. Still leading the way is webcameron which leads the way as far as political blogging and citizen (style) journalism goes.

Wikio - Top Blogs - Politics

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A mobile revolution!

There's some amazing technology coming out across the handheld platforms and one such example is QIK.

This software basically hijacks your mobile phones camera and streams the sound and pictures straight to 'youtube' style website. What makes it special is that it does this in near real-time.

That means that as you are streaming the content, its being displayed and it's this 'live' element which makes QIK so impressive.

Visitors to the website can also interact with the content creator via built in 'live chat' which gives instant feedback which is once again, in near-realtime.

At the moment, QIK is invitation only and in alpha testing so we can expect to see even more features added to the impressive list I've already mentioned. One feature which is already here though is blog integration, which allows your live or recorded clips to feature directly into a html webpage or blog.

You can check this out for yourself here.

One feature I found really impressive was how this 'live content' is much more impressive to the casual surfer. Knowing that its possible to view live videos being shot away from a webcam is impressive in itself but then to be able to interact with that person takes it to a whole new level altogether.

I checked out the mobilediner via QIK and then was also able to visit the website too. Who would have thought that I could interact with political bloggers in the USA, sat in Starbucks by the Whitehouse in realtime via the QIK website and their N95 handset...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Clinton Vs Obama: As seen on flickr

What do you do when you want to become president of the USA? There's quite a few things to think about but you wouldn't think that keeping your flickr account up to date would be one of them. You'd be wrong though.

Yes, both Clinton and Obama can boast a high turnout as far as uploaded photographs go. It seems that every moment has been recorded for the candidates and despite trawling through a good 20 pages per politician, I haven't seen them holding the babies up just yet.

Now I have my doubts that they really are spending so much time online but I'm no sceptic when it comes to the question of communicating with as wider audience as possible. Gone are the days of radio, tv and newspaper battles, replaced instead with online blogs, video sharing websites and even, it would appear, photo sharing ones too?

What next? Bebo?

You can browse Hillary's photostream here. Obama's is here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

My Photos help to recreate RMS Titanic

Here on the socdoc blog, I have written an article about how some of my photographs are helping maritime historians keep the interior designs of the RMS Titanic as fresh as they were on the first day of sailing. You'd be amazed at what artifacts you can find in hotels, offices and even private homes which make this possible.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Life in HD

My video work should start to look a little sharper now thanks the the JVC Everio HD3 camcorder. Although I'm only shooting at 720p rather than the 1440p that the camera is capable of, I am quite impressed with the images from such a small camera.

If you'd like to take a look at my first vid, fresh from the camera's disk drive then click here.

HD camcorders are becoming quite affordable now and although It can be a bit tricky to set up your computer to edit and export on widescreen HD,the results can be really impressive and I'm looking forward to applying some of my photography skills to film making even if they take ages to export and compress!

My MacBook can't cope with 1440p HD so at the moment, here's the stats for anyone who cares.

Camera: JVC 3CCD Evero HD3
CPU: Macbook 2.0ghz Dual Core with 2GB ram
Size: Uncompressed, full quality 2.9gb / H.264 Compressed normal to 227mb
Software used: Final Cut Express 4