Andrew's Stuff

Windows Live Session #2 (and stuff)

Posted at Wed, 17 May 2006, 18:58:39

Once again I'm typing this from the train, since the Cardiff -> London journey is painfully long and boring. At least this leg of it isn't too late - a three-hour trip around midnight is the worst. Yes, it's that time again: time for another Windows Live Session. Pre-event details of today's programme have been somewhat thin on the ground, but that just leaves me with more to write about on the way back and that will keep me at least slightly occupied, so no doubt further down this post will be a pseudo-update written on the way back. I say pseudo-update because I won't actually be able to post this to the 'net until I get home, by which time I will have already written the second part, so no one other than me will notice it being written in two sessions, apart from the fact that it will read totally differently - not least because the frequency of typos in my writing increase dramatically at that sort of time. Not that I'm perfect now, of course - I just managed to save this document as "blogpsot.txt" - but there is a much greater liklihood of the existence of errors later on.

Anyway, on to possibly more interesting matters... A lot has happened since my last reasonable-length post and now I have the unenviable task of trying to recall it and transcribe it into a hopefully comprehensible format. I can tell you now that there is no chance in hell of anything I write about for the rest of this half of the post being in any kind of logical order - you will just have to read about it in the order I decide to write it. It certainly saves me a lot of effort ;)

Firstly, seeing as it'll be mentioned and utilised throughout the rest of this post quite heavily, I imagine, I have written myself a nice (yet fairly basic) gallery application for this website. None of it is particularly pretty - and don't even think about asking me for the code so you can use it on your own site; the admin control panel for it is almost non-existent: I much prefer to avoid writing much of an ACP and instead just use phpMyAdmin for most control, with any ACP being reserved solely for tasks that would be difficult or otherwise time-consuming to achieve manually - but it works quite nicely, I think. Thanks to PHP's EXIF extension I am able to have it extract a lot of interesting information from photographs I add to the gallery, such as the make and model of the camera that took the photo, etc. ...Well I think it's interesting information, at least. It also allows me to extract the thumbnail of the photo if the camera stored one, which saves a bit of processor time generating one with PHP itself. As such I'm likely to link to a whole album on the gallery instead of adding clickable thumbnails in the post itself. We'll see how things go - it's definitely interesting, anyway.

On the subject of additions and/or changes to this site, you may have noticed that there is another section to the sidebar on the right-hand side of this page detailing my "DC:X Status". This is simply indicating whether or not I'm currently playing Dark Century: X - the Neverwinter Nights persistent world I have been playing on for the best part of three years (not continuously, you understand - I have to stop to sleep occasionally). It merely checks the DC:X Players Online page and if it sees any of my characters in the list it indicates that I'm online and which character(s) I'm currently using. Having said "characters" it only recognises two of my characters - Frin Antin (my rogue/fighter/shadowdancer halfling) and Vilmar Di'ren (cleric/paladin/wizard elf), though I very very rarely use any of the others so it's hardly a problem. It's also my first practical use of AJAX (that's Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, not the cleaning product). AJAX is, for those of you who don't know, basically a combination of technologies that, together, allow for web sites to be updated without having to reload the page. GMail (sorry, that's Google Mail in the UK, thanks to a stupid trademark dispute..) was one of the first well known applications to utilise it and is widely attributed to kick-starting a wave of web sites using; some for useful purposes, some just because they could (and, arguably, shouldn't - it has a number of drawbacks if used incorrectly, but you can read more about those in the Wikipedia article I linked to above). Since the players online web page that has to be referenced is on a remote server (which, in turn, contacts another remote server), the loading times for it can be a few seconds, so if the PHP script that generates pages for this site was to retrieve that information itself it would add a number of seconds to the page load time, leading to pages taking anywhere up to five seconds or so to be generated - and that's before they're sent to your browser for rendering. I thought that this delay was totally unacceptable so I just added it with AJAX: once the page has been loaded your browser will fire off a request for the data and process it appropriately; in the meantime you are able to continue reading the page or navigating away as you wish. Seamless.

Pagination has also been added fairly recently (that's those page numbers above/below the list of posts on the main page) so all the bizarre posts I made years ago are now available for your viewing, uh, pleasure... They aren't very interesting and don't make a hell of a lot of sense so it's probably best to ignore them, but the feature is there should you wish to use it. There's nothing more to say about that, I don't think.

I've just signed up for 360 Voice which allows my Xbox 360 to write its own blog. Isn't technology amazing these days? ;) It's currently only accessible at but I plan to syndicate it onto this website sometime soon, I just haven't had time yet. I only registered on Thursday and have been too busy with exams and so on since then to write the required scripts to copy its contents to this site's database. Shouldn't be too long away, though.

Speaking of exams I've had three and as such have one left, which is on Thursday afternoon. It's maths, but assuming I only need to attain 40% to pass the module I've already passed. The two courseworks I've completed were worth 50% together and I got around 90% on average between them, so that's 45% give or take. No need to panic, therefore, which is good, as most of the module sucks pretty badly. After that I apparently have a few months of doing not a great deal which is good. Haven't yet decided exactly how I will spend that time but I'm sure I'll find something to do.

It occurs to me that it has been so long since I last made a decent post here that any photographs I add to the gallery and mention here will actually span two cameras. I bought a new digital camera over Easter for about £250 (including 1GB memory card which I'll mention in a moment). It's a Panasonic Lumix LZ-2, which sports a 5 Megapixel sensor, some kind of funky "optical image stabiliser" which really does help to reduce blurring of images, a pretty crazy battery life (I've taken well over 200 photos on it so far, and have yet to change/recharge the two 2500mAh AAs I put in it when I bought it). The feature that really makes it rather cool, though, is the 6x optical zoom (which combines with the digital zoom to give an overall zoom of 24x, but no one sane cares about digital zoom). Need I say more? Cameras at this price rarely have an optical zoom above 3x, so having one with a 6x zoom is pretty impressive. So therefore some photos will have been taken with that, and some will have been taken with the old Fujifilm FinePix A210.

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Archived Comments

Comments by Matthew Roberts at May 18, 2006 3:28:06 PM

Very long post.. prehaps needing to be split into many sub categories with headings :P?

The Windows Live RSS hub doesn't sound that interesting at all, a lot of the things they seem to mention at these sessions seem hardly new or original... which is a shame as I bet you spend so long thinking "How is this even original" that when they do actually do something original, you don't immediatly realise.

You need to flip the image of the camera taking an image of itself so I can read the writing on the camera :P.. and it would be nice if clicking an imagine your post makes it open in a new window and bigger.. loosing your place in the entry your currently reading isn't good webmastering :P

The tablet PCs are still lacking.. I'd make a wager to suggest although people enjoy writing more, it is probably far more efficient to type something.

Also, though MS' version of Google maps might be good, bearing in mind a lot of the products they are demoing they have specifically prepared for.. The London eye for e.g... I would find it rather interesting to find when it finally does hit gold as to whether most areas are of that resolution.

When I have time I will be drafting the specification for SNS (it'll be so easy for a PHP guru such as yourself to include it :P) Hell it has to be more inspiring than some of the other stuff MS have been plugging to you ;-)

Re: Comments by Lord d'Eath at May 21, 2006 2:41:29 AM

Images now open in new windows. Thought they did already... My bad...

by Matthew Roberts at May 18, 2006 3:28:33 PM

Why are line feeds stripped :(?

Re: by Lord d'Eath at May 21, 2006 2:08:21 AM

Because I forgot to nl2br() them.

In other news... <b>testing..</b>.

Thanks For Coming And Stuffs :] by Romain at May 30, 2006 1:16:58 PM

Hi Lord :)
1. Thanks for coming
2. Great post - thanks
3. For the RSS hub - not it's not that new - it's just new for some people we are not genius :p but i think what's important is the fact that it might be useful
4. I totally stole your mod badge ;)
Hope I'll see you soon

Re: Thanks For Coming And Stuffs :] by Lord d'Eath at Mar 6, 2006 3:16:33 AM

#4: I knew it!

Hah. Was a fun evening, as always :)