Weekly Rewind #62

Hello everyone. This week’s update finds me sat enjoying a sunny Sunday evening and unable to move after the delights of my home made beef Cannelloni. Ok not completely home made, I have to admit the Cannelloni was bought from a shop but the sauce and other things are original. It was delicious and I’m now stuck to my chair with a full belly. Putting this fascinating information aside though let’s talk about what happened this week.

On Monday I released a new episode of Rathole Radio. Episode 29 to be precise, the one I pre-recorded before England’s dismal World Cup defeat to Germany. I had to put the media files for this show on my Dreamhost account because I’d hit my data limit for the month on Libsyn. I can host up to 250mb of files on there which might seem a lot for a fortnightly podcast but in reality it works out at 2 episodes of the show. It’s released at 128kbit quality so the music is listenable, if not pristine, and also there’s an ogg and mp3 version for each one. I usually scrape in at about 240mb a month. It seems that because months are not exactly 4 weeks long over time you end up with 3 episode release dates falling in one calendar month. I could up my Libsyn account to the next level but it seems pointless for the odd time this happens and besides it would be expensive. All fascinating stuff for you I’m sure but this is really a long winded way of explaining why you might experience a slightly slower download for this show. It should all still work fine though.

A photo of the bar area at the Static Gallery
Static Gallery, Liverpool

On Tuesday I got to work on one of my first custom Drupal modules. It’s been a bit hit and miss so far, but I’m attempting to use the hook_user function to log visitors to a site into an external forum at the same time. This is done via SOAP messages and web services. Once (if) I get it all working I’ll explain the process. I needed to do this for one site and decided it would be good to make it a reusable module with some simple settings in the admin area. It’s got some way to go but I’ll let you know how it turns out. In the evening I went out to see the band and we worked on more new material. We should be recording some of the songs soon to share with the world. I really hope people will like them as much as I do. Time will tell. Wednesday saw the inaugural meeting of Social Media Cafe Liverpool at the Static Gallery in town. I headed over to see some friends there and ended up operating the sound desk and also performing the crucial and highly skilled job of pressing the button to change slides for one speaker. We had a talk about data analysis from Liverpool Daily Post Digital Editor (that’s a title and a half isn’t it?) Alison Gow up first. Alison helped me promote OggCamp and my gig earlier in the year. She’s a great speaker and everyone enjoyed it. There was an interesting talk about Foursquare followed by WordPress guru Dave Coveney which the crowd seemed to appreciate. I stood behind the bar for the talks and even ended up serving drinks at one point. I actually quite enjoyed being barman for a brief moment there. I was even asked by someone later on if I “owned the bar”, which was funny. I wish. There were about 70 people in the venue which doesn’t sound a lot but it was packed and also a really hot night. I was sweating like mad. The whole event was a success and the plan is to hold them every month I believe with interesting speakers and guests. I look forward to it.

On Thursday night we did the first live episode of Linux Outlaws in 2 or 3 weeks. It felt amazing to be back in the saddle, if you’ll pardon the pun. We recorded for about 2 hours and chatted to people in IRC as we went along. It made me realise just how much I’ve missed doing the show during our short break. I’m still working on editing that but it should be out very soon I promise. On Friday I nipped over to a printing shop in Liverpool to pick up some Linux Fund posters for Barcamp Blackpool. I was asked if could take them with me and being the nice chap that I am I agreed. That brings us neatly onto Barcamp Blackpool actually.

JonTheNiceGuy giving his presentation
JonTheNiceGuy giving his talk

On Saturday morning I set off for Blackpool in the car, only to realise about 15mins into my journey that I’d left my phone on the bedside table at home. So, after a little boomerang trip I was off Northwards again. I haven’t been to Blackpool since I was a kid and for some reason it’s always seemed like a massive journey up there in my mind. In fact it’s a lot closer than I remember from childhood, only 90mins in the car. That’s less than the average episode of Linux Outlaws. Perhaps it’s because I was a kid it felt like a longer time back then, you get bored quicker and it’s not long before the “are we nearly there yet?” instinct kicks in. Anyway, I followed my sat nav until I saw the Blackpool Tower on the horizon and I knew I was in the right place. The Barcamp was held at the casino in the Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park. They’d arranged discount parking behind the casino itself but being predictably late I missed all the spaces, so I drove around a little bit and found a £7 all-day car park not far away. After claiming my badge and checking in I was informed that it was “pie time”. The mind boggled as to what that could mean but it turned out it literally meant free pies from a van in the car park. I know how to time and entrance. I bumped into my good mate JonTheNiceGuy (AKA Jon Spriggs) and we took our place at the back of the now massive pie queue snaking around the car park.

A wide shot of some rides at the theme park
A sunny day at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

It was a really hot day and Blackpool was packed with tourists as you’d expect. I saw the donkeys all lined up getting their EU sanctioned 15mins break. I don’t know if it was the EU or someone else but I remember all the fuss when the law was brought in saying animals had to have a set break. It must have been a slow news week. The first session I caught after lunch was an introduction to sign language and it was fascinating. I learnt to sign my name and most of the alphabet, I say most of the alphabet because I’ve forgotten some of it now, not because they didn’t show us the whole thing. I don’t know why but learning those few signs made an impression on me and it’s definitely something I’d like to continue in future if I can. Next I went over to see another mate Les “Quarter” Pounder at his Ubuntu demo area. I also saw @heeed, another podcast listener and OggCamp survivor helping out. Les showed me his Joggler (no that’s not code for anything). It’s an O2 touch screen tablet which runs Ubuntu Netbook Remix beautifully. The only thing I can’t understand about the Joggler is why they don’t have a battery pack for it. You have to plug it in and I’ve been told that’s because it’s designed to be more like a digital photo frame than a mobile device. Next up it was Jon’s session about his Campfire Manager software in a nearby room. I really enjoyed his talk and I’m a fan of Campfire, we used it to organise OggCamp after all. It seems not everyone in Blackpool is so keen though and there’d been some heated words on the mailing list over it’s use for the barcamp. We had a good discussion, together with some of the people who weren’t as keen and I think some good suggestions we made. Later in the day I scrounged an Ubuntu 10.04 CD from Les and installed it on my laptop. Right in the middle of the main room as there was a talk going on. I’ve been so busy this year that my distro hopping has really suffered, it feels nice to be on a different distro at last. I’ve even moved the window buttons back to the right with a quick Gconf hack. Some people may think that petty of me but it really wasn’t natural having the window controls on the left. When I want to close a window I automatically click the top right corner and I’m not alone in that.

I chatted to many other folks around the venue and generally had great day. I have to say Gemma Cameron (@ruby_gem) did a great job of organising it all and it was good to finally meet her in person. They even had bars of Barcamp Blackpool rock which was a great idea. For foreign readers and anyone else who doesn’t know what rock is (in this sense), it’s a type or hard candy sweet that Blackpool is known for. It’s basically pure sugar as far as I can tell. I stayed for the evening party where we had a buffet and live entertainment from a magician, the £500 free bar didn’t last long but that was nothing to do with me. I was driving, but I enjoyed a free coke or two. So after a great day I went to see if my car was still there and enjoyed the drive back home on quiet empty motorways. I made it back in just over an hour which must be some sort of record. Sunday was a lot quieter and it needed to be, I was tired after a long week. I spent most of it getting used to the new Ubuntu.


Next week we’ll have the release of this Linux Outlaws episode I’m working on right now. There’s another LivLUG (Liverpool LUG) meeting on Wednesday night at 7pm and I’ll be there. Come down to Bold St and join us if you’re within striking distance of Liverpool, details and directions are on the website. There’ll be more Rathole Radio on Sunday and much else besides no doubt in the coming days. For now though I think I’ve gone on enough so I’ll speak to you next week with more dispatches from the front line. Take care till then.


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