First Aid Advice MP3’s

Now this is a great idea. Sussex Ambulance Service has created a series of MP3’s with first aid advice. The idea being you put them on your MP3 player so that you always have them with you. I had a quick listen to them and they helped refresh my memory on a first aid course I’d done a while back.

Continuing the health theme, the NHS in Doncaster have created a Glossary of Yorkshire Medical Terms (NWS) – PDF file. I was surprised, there were a few in there I didn’t know.

Rocket Commander

Dan Fernandez, Product Manager for Visual Studio Express product range, made an announcement on his blog that all Visual Studio Express products are now permanently free. I always wondered what the logic was of having them free for a year and then charging. Perhaps a clever bit of marketing to get quick uptake on it?

I’ve not had chance to tinker with them properly but I can see why they’ve been downloaded over 5 million times! SQL 2005 Express is incredibly useful and if you’re doing something like database mirroring its pretty fundamental. You can have a box running SQL 2005 Express as a witness which keeps track of any changes between principal and mirror databases.

Anyhoo, the lower section of Dan’s blog post lists various things created with the Express products. What caught my eye was Rocket Commander which is written in Visual C# Express.

RocketCommanderScreenshot1 RocketCommanderScreenshot2

The game is pretty good and its a great demo of what the Express edition of C# can do. There is a series of video tutorials taking you through the coding of it, that I’m going to have to take a look at at some point. Its completely free and the source code is also available. The only snag is you’ll need .NET framework 2.0 and DirectX 9.0c in order to play Rocket Commander.

The Flower Commander mod is a laugh.

Newsgator Outage

I’m glad I wasn’t near a computer on Monday and Tuesday since it looks like I wouldn’t have been able to read my precious RSS feeds in FeedDemon. Whilst an outage isn’t a good thing, I like the way NewsGator has handled it.

Greg Reinacker, CTO of NewsGator, held his hands up and said it was a problem at their end but also went to the trouble of explaining what happened. They’re still investigating the full cause of the outage, but its great to know what’s going on. Its that level of honesty that helps to create loyal customers.

We have the same policy at work. If there is a problem with our software, we’re up front about it and tell our users as soon as possible. Even if we can’t fix it straight away, we give them a heads up to say we’re looking into it and will keep them informed of progress.

Back from Whitby

We spent a long weekend in Whitby visiting Kate’s relatives. Had a great time as always, but its damn tiring. We got in late last night and were both back at work today. Most of the time was spent pottering around Whitby but on the Monday we went to Flamingo Land, which is a Theme Park and Zoo about 20 miles south of Whitby, with some of our nieces and nephews.

We went on the Wild Mouse ride first which we foolish thought would be a nice slow ride for the kids to enjoy. Hmmmm… we had one who’d nearly knocked themselves out on the side of one of the carriages, another who burst into tears as soon as the ride started to descend and another who was almost threw up and ended up with a nose bleed. We decided after that to take them on gentler rides and they loved it.

Its a bit of an odd place. On first impressions I wasn’t exactly blown away and if you’ve been to somewhere like Alton Towers then the theme park doesn’t really compare. Parts of the park are really old and need overhauling, but it looks like thats exactly what they’re doing, with new areas and replacements of old rides. In a few years time I reckon it’ll be pretty impressive.

The zoo was great (Lynx’s are odd looking cats) and I was impressed with how they’d combined the water ride (Lost River) with the lion enclosure. The highlight for me was watching the meerkats fighting! Vicious little buggers.


Browsing the web with the PSP

I’ve had a long standing opinion that the web and small portable devices (E.g. PDA’s, Mobile Phones, PSP, etc) just don’t mix with the web. The majority of sites have a hard time working properly in IE, Firefox and Opera, what chance has a PSP?

Well I thought I’d try a few of my usual sites on the PSP browser (Gmail, Ars Technica, Shacknews, BBC and eBay). The majority work ok, with, as I mentioned before, the BBC offering the best accessible site. The width restriction wasn’t too much of a problem since you can scroll around the screen. The view options to set it to the screen width don’t really work, I preferred leaving it to sort itself out.

Unfortunately anything with lots of graphics seemed to fire up Out of Memory error messages, with no obvious way to get round. Closing pages doesn’t always work. I’ve had to close the browser entirely on several occasions.

I use FeedDemon for reading RSS feeds which links to a NewsGator account. So for a laugh I tried to logon to NewsGator online to read my RSS feeds… hmmmm yes, it wasn’t very successful. I got lots of error messages about not supporting the AJAX engine they use. Oh well, it would have been really cool. I know the PSP now has a RSS reader, but I have like 200+ feeds and I don’t really want to have to set them up again.

Perhaps in future browser revisions that’ll get sorted. I’ve seen a few sites and discussions showing support for getting Opera on the PSP. Given they already have a mobile phone version (Opera Mini), it doesn’t seem so unlikely.

So I still think for serious browsing you need a PC in one form or another. For quick casual browsing to say check your email or news updates, its fine, but the screen size restriction and lack of a proper input device hinder it. Maybe a mini USB keyboard would be useful?

Incredible Machines

Rube Goldberg (wikipedia entry) has a lot to answer for:

He earned lasting fame for his “Rube Goldberg machines” — devices that are exceedingly complex and perform very simple tasks in a very indirect and convoluted way.

If they’re done properly they’re great to watch. I’d love to have a go at one if I had the time. Maybe involving it cutting the hedges and mowing the lawn. Various Rube Goldberg style contraptions have been around for years, Back to Future had a ton of them in. 

Widespread recognition in the UK seemed to come with the Honda TV advert called Cog (video download, 11MB). I watched a documentary about it a while back and they given 2 full Honda Accords to work with and after 3 months, thats what they came up with! Actually, cool Honda adverts is a subject in itself.

Fric posted a bizarre and convoluted German built machine a couple of weeks back, which had a very industrial style look to it, whilst Bear mentioned a Google Video link that shows the Japanese once again trumping everyone at it. For me it wins outright due to cunning use of a jar of Marmite. Mmmmmm Marmite…