30 Dec 2005

album art widget 2.4

quick note. a mainly long overdue bug fix release with the album art widget. made saving album art to whole albums less error prone and added a nice icon if the art is fetched so you can actually see what page it got the artwork from.


as usual, download it from the album art widget page.

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28 Dec 2005

an english-ish christmas

this year, for a change, i spent christmas in england. and in true english style, i managed to spend it in the countryside of england. thanks to alastair beresford for inviting me and patricia to his mum's home in suffolk near ipswtch. a big thank you to mrs. beresford for keeping us fed for the three days we were there. it was so much fun, and very nice to be in the english countryside instead of dullbridge, oops, i mean cambridge.

here are some musings from a very un-informed guy about english countryside and english christmas -- so if you're english, you'd probably won't find this very informative:

christmas eve (24th dec)

so we set off on christmas eve, only a day and a little since we got back from austria. traffic was very light, as i suppose most people had already made their way home for christmas. i'm not sure about other places, but in england, it seems that the whole country goes home to spend christmas with family. it is very similar to thanksgiving in the united states and canada, and i suppose chinese new year in chinese countries. but this year, christmas eve fell on a saturday, so many people must of taken the chance to avoid the rush by going on friday night or various times during the saturday.

the peculiar thing with christmas in england is that everything shuts down. its quite incredible to see how the country just grinds to a halt on christmas. on the 25th and 26th there would be nearly no public transport. little to no trains would run on christmas and boxing day, however, some shops open really early on boxing day for the post-christmas sales. anyway, the fact that there are no trains means that we were to spend both christmas and boxing day at chez beresford.

we set off just before dark and by the time we got there it was totally dark. the beresfords live in a place that has no street lights. it's kind of weird coming from a big city where there are street lights everywhere. there were B-roads we were on had no street lights. these were very narrow two way streets. the street their house was on was pitch black at night. i knew because we went out after dark on christmas eve to a pub in close by woodbridge for a pint, or three, and literally couldn't see the ground while we were walking out.

woodbridge purportedly has around 8,000 people, and has 14 pubs. that's around one pub to serve 500 people. and that was really nearly the capacity of the pub we went to. i'd never seen a busier pub than this one. it seems like a huge school reunion with everyone coming back to the area to reunite and update each local friend on what they've been up to, gripe about how many people there were in the pub. along the way to the pub were some weird decorations above the front door of people's house. the most striking of which is that theres people so enjoyed showing off their christmas tree, they decided to stick a 2 feet height christmas tree smack on top of their front door, with lights. its was just really odd, and i'd even dare to say tacky. i wish i took a picture of it!

christmas day (25th dec)

we started the day with some light breakfast. light because we knew that christmas dinner would start later in the afternoon, at around 3pm. yeah, dinner at 3pm, that is how dedicated the english are to christmas food! in the morning, the vegetables were prepared along with the turkey. nice thing is that it is so cold, that there is no reason to put the turkey in the fridge, but you just leave it outside the back door!

there was the present opening thingy. mrs. beresford is a school teacher, and so she has a whole load of presents from her students. so it took her nearly an hour to open all of them.


after presents opening, we went over next door for some pre-xmas drinks. what i learned was that these guys were rich! they had basically bought out all the land around the beresford house. and i don't mean like a strip of land, they've bought out acres and acres of land, as much land as far as the eye can see, and then turned it into a meadow. they even have two horses that graze on this land.


that's the rich dudes house on the left and that white speck you see on the right, thats their pony! yes, they have everything, including a pony! and that green stuff, all theirs. anyway, they were very nice people though, at least i could see they had a very happy family.

of course, after much fluffing around, there was a short walk before the dinner. actually the walk should be after the dinner, but knowing that it was going to be dark by the time we finished dinner, we chose to have some pre-stuffing exercise. walked around melton and even across railway tracks that had such charming signs:

i'm very happy that my grammatical style has been vindicated by the official railway crossing signs in this part of the world. hurray for the misplacement of capital letters.

the most important, and probably the last thing i can remember before bed. the christmas dinner. we had some fabulous potatoes, veggies and most important of all, turkey. i failed to take a picture of the turkey before we had it! grrr .. anyway, let me assure you it was big and meaty. mrs. beresford had some amazing cranberry sauce that was out of this world. it went so perfectly with the turkey! of course there was some stuffing, ham and sausages.

to top it all off, there was no shortage of dessert. we had christmas cake, christmas pudding and christmas trifle. i don't even know how we managed to eat all that. but after that, i needed to lie down.

boxing day (26th dec)

after recovering from the christmas dinner, we vegged out a little and then went for a boxing day stroll along the seaside down in alderton. it had started raining on and off, and the weather was a little brisk, but not too crazy. the seaside was beautiful, and we had to wade through some farmland though. very tempting free salad!

and for the first time, i saw my proper stony beach in england. after years of laughing at them, and even getting close to one in southwold (it wasn't completely stony), this was a proper pebble beach.


and on our way back, we encountered the british army's secret torture machine, they call it the nutgrabber:

actually, i have no idea what it is.

post-boxing day (27th dec)

finally, home time! after breakfast, we packed our bags while ali b struggled with getting the train times out of the computer on the other end of the phone. what should of been a 2 hour journey back home turned into a 5 hour epic. this just shows how incompetent the british rail system is. there was a little snow in the morning:


and we had our train cancelled at both the single track station in melton, and we luckily hitched a ride down to ipswich station (bigger station in suffolk) where another train we were going to take was cancelled. to add insult to injury, after waiting an hour for the next train, they ushered us on to a single carriage train, and then after sitting in the carriage for 15 minutes, they announced that this train had broken down earlier in the morning and they were carrying out some repairs on the train that wasn't successful. so we then had to take a 2 hour coach ride on the icy roads. it was one of the worst coach rides i've been in, the driver was all over the place, and right when we got into cambridge, the passenger sitting right in front of us threw up and the whole coach stank of her christmas dinner(s)!

i asked the driver to let us off immediately because that smell was so sickening that if i had another minute in the bus we would of thrown up as well. luckily we got dropped off around 2 minutes walk from our house and got home a whole half hour quicker than if we had gone all the way to the station.


anyway, despite the long trip home, it was well worth it. the beresford's have such a wonderful home, and mrs. beresford was extremely kind and generous for preparing such a wonderful christmas dinner and accommodating us for three days! thanks!!

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27 Dec 2005

canvasgraph 0.6 update

over the christmas weekend, i used the recovery time between meals to fix some bugs and rolled it up into a new release. so canvasgraph 0.6 update is now available.

two new additions to the canvasgraph page is the unit test page so i can check for regressions in the code. this is a nice basic start point for people who just want to check out how canvasgraph works in real life.

the other addition is the beginnings of a dynamic graph generating webpage. a dynamic table that allows you to input numbers for canvasgraph to plot. all done purely in javascript so if you have some simple data, just plug it in and it'll draw a graph for you.

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27 Dec 2005

podcasts you should check out

i've recently discovered the ricky gervais show podcast, an extension of his show on xfm and/or bbc radio, which is hilarious. i nearly fell off my bike laughing while listening to it on my way home.

An extra-long, seasonally anti-climactic edition of post-yuletide chaff brought to you by Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant; ably hampered by Karl Pilkington.


another nice one is the happy tree friend's video podcast (xml). our cuddly suicidal friends are now bought to you in weekly rss glory. most people who know me in real life will know that i use the happy tree friends ringtone!


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27 Dec 2005

hilarious sushi video and crazy delicious snl skit

this is a hilarious video about sushi eating etiquette (google video). try and spot which parts are real and which parts are fake.


also doing the rounds is talk of the very funny lazy sunday (chronic-icles of narnia) saturday night live skit(itunes link) from the lonely island guys that is now released on itunes for free. more on the chronic-icles of narnia rap on boingboing.


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24 Dec 2005

back from austria

so i'm back from austria. didn't manage to get any internet access anywhere, even though i lived right next to a building in salzburg that said WIFI on the side:

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anyway, austria was beautiful, it snowed for the first two days we were there and also the last. salzburg is especially pretty in the snow. we managed to visit from christmas markets there and also went on the sound of music tour! the sound of music tour was actually quite good despite it being winter. in fact, the outskirts of salzburg is extremely pretty, makes me want to go back again just to snowboard.

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we took a train to vienna from salzburg, and was actually really comfortable, even though i slept most of the way there. vienna itself has some magnificent buildings, from gothic to baroque to hundertwasser:
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last but not least, we managed to visit the vienna christmas market near rathaus. we had our share of gluhwein (mulled wine, but miles better than anything in cambridge) and all sorts of foods they sell in stalls like langos (a deep fried pancake with garlic spread on top) and frankfurts of various flavours.

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thats all for now. will write more specific things about austria later. merry christmas everyone!

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17 Dec 2005

300+ people bookmarked canvasgraph

it is really encouraging that quite a few people were interested in my canvasgraph javascript work. not sure how many of those actually translated into using it. but there are 216 people here and another 112 here who bookmarked it on del.icio.us, so that least i know i'm not on the wrong track. also got mentioned in mozilla developer center and already(!) used in some smalltalk charting library.

this is actually more exciting than getting a paper published. i hope my supervisor doesn't read this. heheh.

an embarassing note though, i just realised that in the table that shows the multiple dataset bar chart data sourced from a table. emm, i accidentally wrote that 2 squared is 2. whoops!

i apologise for my egotistic boasting .. i'll try and keep that under control with my medication.

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17 Dec 2005

away for 5 days: friend's wedding + austria

i'll be attending a friend's wedding in cambridge today and then heading off to austria early tomorrow morning. so will only be sporadically checking mail and possibly not even get any internet access.

will try to blog if possible, however, i believe i'm not allowed to bury my face in my powerbook in the middle of the day in austria because i'm supposed to be enjoying the place :) will be in salzburg and vienna and hopefully be back by the night of 22nd december.

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17 Dec 2005

better rss/atom feeds for liquidx.net

i rejigged the backend to my feeds to display some slightly better formatted rss and atom feeds so they're slightly more human readable to aid debugging. also experimenting with adding a tracking redirect in the feeds so i know how many people are coming from rss/atom feeds.

i suspect that i can make the assumption that anyone who hits a content page without a referrer is going to be from an rss reader, but i'd just like to know for sure. just something i really want to know for sure.

the comments feeds at the bottom should now be validated as i previously included a relative url rather than an absolute one. btw, i still can't seem to understand how to use the higher level syndication feed in django for anything more complex than just the latest blog feed, so i'm just sticking to the lower level one.

so let me know if i've killed your news reader or aggregator with these changes.

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15 Dec 2005

pointless yahoo-google homepage widget

google launches widgets for their home page, i guess it's their attempt at dashboard and konfabulator but without being on your desktop. i never go to my personalised homepage for google.

anyway, i spent 20 minutes doing what any self deprecating coder would do, write something to deface and cripple a web page. observe, yahoo-ized google:


i'm thinking of actually making it work properly and then submitting it to google to see if they'd like to approve it so it can be installed much easier. right now, to use it you need to do the following:

1. log in to your google personalised website
2. press add content
3. add "developer.xml" to the "create a section"
4. then you'll see the "My Modules" box in your page, type in the "add a module" box: "http://bits.liquidx.net/misc/yahoogle.xml"
5. now the yahoogle box will come up, but it won't change the logo because the module needs to be "inlined".
6. tick the "inlined" box for yahoogle.xml and reload the page.

now, all your searches are belong to yahoo!

how pointless is that. (btw, i love using google, but recently i've been experimenting whether i can live without google -- it turns out the answer is no.)

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