Some of Googles ‘hidden’ functions

Here are some other useful things you can do with Google that may not be immediately obvious.

Red Dear Close-up

Red DearOn a recent trip over to the Isle of Skye we stopped off at a car park on the A82 where we often stop to take in the view and stretch our legs, only this time there were a couple of red dear quietly grazing right on the edge of the car park. I’ve walked and cycled all over Scotland but this is definitely the closest I’ve ever got to these beautiful creatures.

Essential Tools, Sofware and Resources

I’ve been bookmarking sites with lists of essential resources for some time now, some are lists of open source software, others to resources with hosts of information for web designers etc. All of them are useful and help you find resources and software you may not have previously known about. So this is a series of links to many of the lists I’ve found useful recently.

Transferring music from cassette tape to PC with Audacity

I have a huge number of cassette tapes which have been languishing in a box unplayed for some time now. I always knew it was possible to digitise these and I had all the tools, but getting round to actually doing it was another matter. This is a simple run down of what I did. First the tools, if your PC sound card accepts external inputs (most do) then just connect any tape player (or LP player). In my case I used an old Sony Walkman. The software I used was audacity1Audacity, an open source cross platform sound editor. Since Audacity does not encode mp3s I also downloaded the Lame mp3 encoder. I set the preferences under Edit>Preferences to 2-channel stereo and 32 bit float quality, then selected the source to stereo mix and adjusted the input volume to 0.2 to get maximum volume whilst avoiding clipping. With these basic settings all I had to do was insert a tape, hit play, click record in Audacity and leave for 45 minutes (one side of a C90 tape). Now I had to chop the single track into individual song tracks and there’s an easy way to do this with audacity2Audacity using a label track. Place the cursor at the start of a track and select Project>Add Label at Selection (or Ctrl-B). This produces a label track below the two stereo tracks with a red flag at the cursor which you can type the track title next to. Continue doing this for each successive track remembering to cut any long sections of noise between tracks. audacity3Now to export the entire project, select File>Export Multiple, this opens up the dialogue to select the format and location etc. You can then type the artist and album data which will be tagged to each mp3 file and will end up with all the individual mp3 tracks being save in the chosen directory.

Wickerman Festival

wickermanJust back from the Wickerman Festival, a sort of laid back early Glastonbury, less commercial sort of affair. There were no real big names playing unless you count the Fun Lovin’ Criminals (who we missed) and the Proclaimers (who sadly we didn’t miss) and the Orb. The highlights for me were the Peat Bog Faeries who were excellent on the main stage and a few good bands who’s names I forget in other tents, especially the acoustic tent. The festival is loosely based around the Wickerman film which is shown on a small outdoor cinema each night and culminates with the burning of a giant Wickerman.

wickerman2At my age there’s not many places I’d feel comfortable dancing to ‘rave’ music but at this festival it seemed natural and I had a great time dancing with my wife and daughter. Perhaps it’s because your virtually outdoors all the time that makes people less inhibited, or maybe it’s because everyone else is doing the same sort of thing. There were inevitably some characters who went out of their way to give others a good time, I particularly liked the dark Spider Man especially when he was being hoisted aloft the crowd at the main stage. There were also a couple of guys who provided a few photo opportunities dressed as Frank-n-Furter from the Rocky Horror Show, I don’t know how they managed the soft grassy field in those heels.

On the Saturday night we hung around the top of the hill so we could see the Wickerman, we were quite a way from the main stage but unfortunately we could still hear the Proclaimers, fair go to them for building a career on one hit song but I really can’t stand them. At around 23:40 my daughter and I went to the toilet…bad idea, by the time we got out it was wall to wall people gathered to see the Wickerman go up in flames, it was just luck that we managed to bump into my wife again. wickerman3The show started with fire juggling with giant poi which was pretty impressive but I had to laugh when two cyclists on burning bikes cycled round the Wickerman in opposite directions, what mad genius came up with that idea? I did notice they got off the bike pretty sharpish after riding round the front of the Wickerman. Then the Wickerman itself went up slowly at first then into a giant running man shaped inferno.wickerman4 What is it with people an fire, we all seem to be totally fascinated by it and any show involving fire draws a crowd. It was all over pretty quickly though and the night was rounded off by watching some poi jugglers practising and listening to the Axis sound system from London. I think I’ll be back next year.

Shins gig

Got tickets for the Shins gig in Glasgow on Sunday, they were sold out when I found out about the gig but I managed to get a pair on Ebay, paid a bit over the face value but not much. For some reason the venue has been chaged from the ABC to the Barrowlands, I’ve never been to the Barrowlands so don’t know if it’s any got, looking forward to a great gig though.

Not moving to the isles :-(

Well we finally received notification from the National Trust for Scotland that our application to live on the Isle of Canna was not successful. Apparently they received over 500 applications from the UK, Europe and from as far away as Australia. I will be interested to see who is finally chosen though.

Island living…Well maybe.

Some time last year we heard that the National Trust for Scotland were looking for families to live on Fair Isle, one of the islands owned and managed by NTS. We thought about it long and hard but in the end decided Fair Isle was perhaps a little too remote, even for us. Since then we have often talked about moving to the western isles, possibly Skye and have looked at many properties. Then last Sunday I bought the Sunday Times, which I havn’t done for ages and there was an article about the people who had moved to Fair Isle last year. In addition there was information that NTS were going to be looking for two families to live on another of their properties, the Isle of Canna in the inner Hebrides, a small island to the south west of Skye. We are not fooling ourselves that this will be easy or in fact we will get selected as we know there will be a lot of applicants but we are hopefull and have sent for the information pack and application forms, so keeeping fingers crossed.

New Browser on the Block…Flock

I started using a new browser called Flock which integrates a few nice features like drag and drop images on your Flickr or PhotoBucket accounts, search results as you type, a news reader, a blog editor and the ability to synchronise and share your favourites. You can of course already do all of these things in other ways but it’s quite nice to have them all packaged together in the browser. It’s early days as Flock is still in beta form but the outlook is promising.

Wireless Lan

wireless routerWe’ve had broadband for just over a year now and recently we were upgraded to 8Mbs download speed, it averages at about 7.6 Mbs which isn’t bad. There was always a queue for the PC which was our only connected computer, either my wife shopping on Ebay, my daughter playing games or me just wanting to read my email. So I finally shelled out for a 3Com wireless router and I have to say the install went like a dream. Our main PC is connected directly to the router and I’m currently writing this in my garden on my laptop using the free wireless card that came with the router. I reckon I’m a good 50 feet from the router as the crow flies. The problem I have is in connecting my daughters iMac to the WLan. We also got a USB wireless stick with the router unfortuantely it did not have a Mac driver with it. I did eventually track down a Mac driver for the chipset and have installed this on the Mac. The instructions with this driver say you have to create another network access point and that this should automatically detect the new Zydas WLan which can then be configured to connect to the router. No such luck, the Mac just doesn’t see this network adapter at all so I may have to resort to a patch cable from the iMac to the router. I’m no Mac expert however and it’s possible I’ve missed something so I’ll keep digging and hopefully I’ll crack it. The alternative of course is to buy a USB wireless stick whick does come with a Mac driver. Anyway, it’s nice to be able to get online without having to wait in line.