Getting into the Groove

August 25, 2008 – 13:01

Catherine and I put on a barbecue this weekend, in theory it was a housewarming party, however we have been here for 16 months – so not really a housewarming. One of the things that we didn’t have to put any effort into was the music, and that was down to something called Grooveshark Lite.

Groveshark is a Florida start up company who’s business model is basically to allow users to upload their music collection to Groveshark’s servers, registered users can download the music (at a price), of the said price a cut goes to the artist, a cut to the person who uploaded the music and presumably the rest goes to Groveshark.

The lite service allows you to stream music for free from the Groveshark library without even registering, in addition there is an auto play feature that is similar to Pandora which picks music based upon your tastes, which you identify by rating each track as a happy face or a sad face.

The best thing about using Grooveshark for the music is once a couple of people had been shown how to use it all of our guests got to choose the music, someone would come along and queue up a couple of tracks someone else would come along and rate some of the tracks, when the track listing ran out Groveshark guessed pretty well.

As far as I can tell it is a legal service, as they are sharing out the profits from downloads to artists, ReadWriteWeb and TechCrunch seem to suggest that it is legal too. The fact it is in Florida and has not been shutdown by the RIAA is also a good sign.

In summary, if you have a party give Groveshark and your guests the job of picking the music, you won’t be disappointed.

Watching Films

August 21, 2008 – 21:36

I spent some selfish time on Tuesday watching Donnie Darko. I wasn’t giving the film my full attention so I had to watch it again, in between I spent some time on the website and reading the FAQ both of which are well worth going through, however they are full of spoilers, so best to watch the film first.

Anyway, watching the film re-kindled my love of watching films with a complex plot, films like WALL-E, The Dark Knight and Iron Man are great to watch, however you hardly leave the cinema wondering what just happened… in a good way. It is a fine balance between creating a film that totally confuses, and makes you think.

The one thing that has stuck out from talking to people about it is that it doesn’t make much sense if you look at it in linear time, what we watch in the film is the final iteration. I won’t say much more as I am sure there are people who haven’t seen it before.

The final upshot of watching spending selfish time is I went on the hunt for other things to watch in the evenings, these are three of the best CGI Animated Shorts I have seen over the past few days, sorry about the YouTube quality, it is the best I could find:

Enjoy and post your favourites in the comments as and when you come across them.

Edit

Seen this one before but couldn’t find it untill now, not sure it beats the above it is a great story however.

Driving Lesson #10

August 19, 2008 – 19:14

20 hours of driving lessons completed now, and Kev and I took the time to go through the Driver’s Record that the Driving Standards Agency provides people who book a theory test for the first time. The Driver’s Record is broken down into twenty driving skills and four other skills related to car ownership. You can read more about the Driver’s Record on direct.gov.

Each of the 20 driving skills are rated between 1 and 5, where 1 is Introduced and 5 is independent without prompts from the driving instructor. In total I have one of the skills at level 5, three at level 4, twelve at level 3 none at level 2, two at level 1 and there are two that I have not looked at yet (emergency stops and parking). I am pleased with the progress I have made although I expect I will need another 40 hours of lessons before I will be close to being able to take my practical test.

Onto the actual content of the lesson, we spent some more time reversing round corners which along with turning round in the road, I find quite difficult. We also covered some more roundabouts and junctions both of which I am improving on, but still find difficult.

Kev also taught me a technique for moving off faster, essentially it is moving from the step by step approach to moving off to being about to prepare to move off quickly. Here is the process I have been using up until now, taken from the safely stopped position (i.e. handbrake on and in neutral):

  1. push the clutch down
  2. change into first gear
  3. give the engine a bit of gas
  4. bring the clutch up to biting point
  5. put more gas on to get the revs back up
  6. check the internal mirror, right door mirror and right blind spot, only move on to the next step if it is safe.
  7. take the hand brake off
  8. keep feet in the same place until moving
  9. come off the clutch and add more gas until up to speed

The technique Kev taught me today was to combine 3, 4 and 5 with a single movement to bring the clutch up to biting point and the gas down to provide sufficient power from the engine. It was good fun, I don’t think I have got it yet but I am improving.

Unfortunately I haven’t got a lesson until next Wednesday, I know how learners feel now if they have to wait a week between each lesson.

Twitter by SMS is no more

August 18, 2008 – 21:23

In Europe at least, Twitter was unable to come to an agreement with mobile phone operators to continue to send incoming Tweets to mobile phones via SMS, at least one person thinks that SMS is a deceptively profitable service for the network operators. Surely services that use SMS are going to generate more revenue as people pass funny Tweets onto non-Twitter users.

After all, all of those jokes that zip round like wildfire whenever something happens in the news aren’t just the creative juices of the masses expressed in a short message, they are written by the networks to encourage people to send more messages (by passing the jokes on).

All is not lost however, I have been using jTwitter for a long time and it does a great job of keeping me up to date on the move. The Twitter API seems good enough to allow anyone too interface with the service without extensive programming knowledge – I suspect we will see more services that allow access to Twitter from a mobile phone.

Driving Lesson #9

August 15, 2008 – 19:44

Well roundabouts went well today, I am still not anywhere near confident on them but I was bringing my speed down most of the time. I must admit I am itching to get out in a car again to practice more. I will have to wait as my two weeks of regular lessons have come to an end, could only book one lesson next week as Kev is off to Rivercamp on Friday, and has lessons the rest of the week.

So anyway, enough lamenting about driving lessons. Kev introduced reversing round corners to me, which I found similar to turning round in the road, in terms of things to think about. Certainly skills I learnt in turning round in the road helped, particularly controlling the car with the clutch and foot brake.

On the basis I have only done this twice, this may be wrong… very wrong. Essentially this is another way turn the car round so that it is pointing in the opposite direction. After doing the five point check – right blind spot, right door mirror, front windscreen, left door mirror and rear window – I reverse round the corner keeping the kerb an equal distance from the car all the way round,  Once straightened up round the corner reverse the car into a parked position.

Driving Lesson #8

August 14, 2008 – 21:28

If you are following me on Twitter you will have seen that Peacehaven was very wet this morning, of course by the time I have left my basement office it was bright sunshine. I was glad of it as we went off towards Shoreham and then onto the A27 to head back towards Newhaven. It seems that driving fast and overtaking comes fairly easily to me, perhaps being on my bike has provided me with practical practice.

Roundabouts unfortunately don’t come so easily to me, at the moment there is too much to think about. For some reason I struggle with slowing down in time, changing gear, seeing what is coming round and getting the indicators properly. Practice I feel will be the order of the next few lessons.

So anyway here are some “pretty pictures” of roundabouts and what I have in my head with regards to what to do with them. As always this is not intended to be instructional, and it may well be inaccurate, I have had to make corrections to several of my previous posts.

Priority on Roundabouts

I made the sudden realization when in the car today that roundabouts are circular one way streets, traffic will only be coming from the right! As an analogy it is not very useful, I thought it was quite amusing.

In this diagram the red car is me, I will try and describe what the other cars are there for as I go along.

On roundabouts you must give way to cars already on the roundabout (in the picture the yellow car). Assuming that the green and purple cars moved off at the same time as me at the same speed (which should be slow, i.e. 10mph), then the three of us would move round the roundabout without affecting each other.

Again this was not something I had thought about before, but roundabouts allow traffic at intersections to split, merge and continue very quickly.

Turning left at a Roundabout

On the approach to the roundabout first thing I need to remember is to slow down to 10mph or below (I will mention this several times). This will allow for the maximum amount of time to assess the situation.

Essentially the roundabout is treated in the same way as a T-Junction on a one way street. On the approach to the junction I need to use the Mirror-Signal-Manoeuvre-Position-Speed-Look procedure.

So on the approach, I need to check the left hand mirror then signal to the left, the manoeuvre comprises of: position, that is being in the correct lane and being in position to make the turn, speed, below 10mph and in the correct gear – second gear if moving or first gear if stopped.

Once the way is clear move round the outside of the roundabout and out of the first exit.

Going straight ahead at a Roundabout

This section used to be titled “Going straight over a Roundabout”, Kev since mentioned that wasn’t the way to describe it, however I must point out that the Police and local council don’t take kindly to driving over roundabouts… it tends to damage the floral displays.

Again going straight over requires the use of the MSM-PSL procedure, however in this instance you do not indicate until you have passed the first exit. This prevents following vehicles from expecting you to turn left onto the first exit.

It is important to note that the outside edge of the roundabout should be followed as if you use the inner lane of the roundabout you are cutting up the drivers turning right.

Going right at a Roundabout

MSM-PSL procedure as expected; So first check the internal and left mirror signal to the right, positioning myself to turn onto the roundabout, if the way is clear I would continue or move off onto the roundabout.

Unlike the previous examples I would use the inner lane of the roundabout continue to indicate right until I pass the exit before the exit I wish to take, at this point I apply the MSM-PSL procedure to move off the roundabout on the exit I wish to take.

Summary

As I mentioned, I find roundabouts very difficult, I never really got them when I was on a bike, as it felt like you were putting yourself in the middle of the traffic on a vehicle that appears to make you invisible.

I am sure that I will spend more time practicing roundabouts, and over the course of the next lessons I am sure I will be able to update everyone on my progress. Still enjoying it all, although today was particuarly tireing.

Driving Lesson #7

August 13, 2008 – 17:25

I don’t have much time to blog today, so it is fortunate that much of what I described yesterday was practiced today. It was a narrower road and it was much harder to get it right. I have got the procedure down in my head now though, will need more practice but I am making progress.

Tomorrow is “driving a bit faster” which should be fun, not to0 fun mind… I am not one for speeding… intentionally.

Driving Lesson #6

August 11, 2008 – 21:59

Today’s lesson was very distinctly split into two, Kev allowed me to drive off from work in Hove much to the amusement of the caretakers who didn’t know that I couldn’t drive. From there Kev took me through the area between the Old Shoreham Road (A270) and the coast road (A259) drilling the MSM-PSL junction procedure I had been taught previously. I have been having trouble linking up the stopping at junctions and starting off again, basically I spent too long at a junction that in some cases I shouldn’t have to stop at.

The second part of the lesson focused on turning round in the road, as the title suggests this is the process of going down the road in one direction and ending up going in the other direction. The skills involved are the based upon the skills acquired in previous lessons with some extra checks built on top.

The basic steps are to start off on the left and steer the car towards the opposite side of the road, this should place the car at a diagonal on the opposite side of the road. In reverse the car is steered to the left back to the other side of the road, this then places the car on the left hand side of the road facing the right hand kerb. From there the car can be steered onto the correct side of the road for the desired direction. The whole procedure should be using the full range of the steering (that is full lock) and the full space of the road and as slow as possible.

The whole process is broken down into three phases, I have tried to describe these below in conjunction with the diagram above. Again this is not meant to be instructional, it may well be wrong, if you believe it is please do feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Phase 1

Before moving follow the five point checks: rear window, left door mirror, straight ahead, right door mirror, right blind spot (in moving between rear window and left door you should see anything in your left blind spot). Start moving off in first gear and turn the steering wheel full lock to the right as you approach the other side of the road straighten up.

Phase 2

Again check the five points, this time in the opposite direction: right blind spot, right door mirror, straight ahead, left door mirror and rear window. Keep looking out of the rear window and start to move off in reverse gear turning the steering wheel full lock to the left, again as you approach the kerb straighten up read for the next phase.

Phase 3

Check the five points in the original order: ear window, left door mirror, straight ahead, right door mirror, right blind spot. Move off in first gear turning the steering wheel full lock to the right this should eventually place you in the normal road position allowing you to drive off.

I found the whole thing complicated and hard to keep everything in my head, it is going to take quite a bit of practice before I can do it without holding up the traffic, and some considerable practice learning where to try it in a safe, legal and convenient manner.

Still enjoying the whole thing though, not got a lesson tomorrow as Kev has got a full day of driving arround so the next driving update will be on Wednesday.

Where the hell is Matt?

August 9, 2008 – 11:18

I know this is quite old news really, but I had not seen this until it was linked on Twitter, so I thought I would blog it on the off chance that some one else hadn’t seen it either.

Essentially all it is three videos of some guy (Matt Harding) who travels round the world recording short clips of him doing a little dance (very badly – his own words), each video has been set to the lyrics sung in a dieing Solomon Islands. in the third, and most recent, video Matt is joined by thousands of people who wanted to dance with him.

It sound really lame when I try and explain it all I can say is watch the videos it is worth it!

“Where the Hell WAS Matt?” – Origional Video

“Where the Hell is Matt?” – Second Video

“Where the Hell is Matt? (2008)” – Third Video

You can read more about him on his website at www.wherethehellismatt.com. There is also a really interesting lecture by Matt in three parts on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Never underestimate the power of the Internet?

August 8, 2008 – 23:21

I have been using StumbleUpon for a couple of years now, it is a superb way of finding websites that you wish you had known about a long time ago. Once in a while you stumble upon a page that you really wonder how they got there so fast.

I am not sure if this person has underestimated the capacity of the Internet to spread information really quickly or if it is a marketing thing. I have decided to blur out the identifiable information until I can work out which of the above it is.

Update:

Well it seems that I was wrong, unlike some recent events it seems that putting invitations up on the internet and them working their way onto socal network sites dosn’t always end in disaster.