Saturday, 17 September 2011, new home

The domain  and hosting (mostly used for the our mail addresses) have been hosted by the same service for over 10 years and the services have not change one iota in that time and I was still paying the same price.

Nowadays, e-mail messages are much larger and I had been having quota problems so I decided that I would look if I could get a better deal. I first tried my existing mail/web host service ( and discovered that they were still talking about the same packages as I got 6 years ago with spaces measured in MB still!! What is more they have not updated their site in 4 years, I think maybe they have lost interest.

After a quick look around it looked like hostpapa had one of the best deals with pretty much unlimited space/bandwidth and a great set of services for €2.95/month. Compared to my 250MB limit for about twice that. They also offered a free domain for life (as long as you stay with them I guess) so I was able to transfer from from to tucows (host papa's registry) at no cost. Their pre-sales on-line support was excellent and instructions for set was clear

Planning the move was quite nerve wracking making sure that the break in service was as short as possible but I need not of worried. I was given an ip address at host papa which allowed me to set up mail accounts and stuff, then once the auth code had been requested &  received from the old registry (requiring a phone call and them pleading with me to stay for 10 minutes)  and passed on to the new registry all I had to do was wait. I backed up the old mailboxes and up a redirect on my old mailbox so I knew when that stopped redirecting the new domain address had been propagated. It all took 4 days from signing up to being transferred (with no loss as far as I know). Most of that time was just waiting for the internet to propagate my new address through the global DNS. Now a lll I need to do is shut down the old service.

Upshot is I am now running gardiner-smith with hostpapa. No homepage yet, but you can look at some photos of my new grandson and our China holiday at

If all goes well over the next few weeks I might go back to hosting my own blog rather than using bloodspot. Mainly depends on how difficult the migration is.

p.s. The more observant may have noticed a few posts from my old 2002/2003 architecture blog just for nostalgia's sake.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Your Good Healtth

Or mine actually.

Given the origins of this blog I thought I should mention the current state of my health four years on from that fateful day 1n 1997.
  1. I am still alive: This in itself is more than I could have hoped for and I seem to well into the long tail of the morbidity statistics for my condition. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that I am terminally ill.
  2. Side Effects from my condition or treatments: It is difficult for me to tell which is which, and the doctors can't tell either.
    - My Brain-Speech connection still has problems and I lose words and forget names more than is normal (or was normal for me). It may be getting worse, but it is definitely a slow progression ifit is. It is the only thing that still scares me, the idea that I might at some time lose my ability to communicate.
    - I still have some insensitivity on my right side but either it has got better or I have gotten used to it, I think this was a by-product of my biopsy, but as I said nobody can prove it one way or another.
    - I still get headaches on the left side of my head in the mornings, on waking, several times a week, but they are not severe and they usually go away within 30 minutes.
  3. Drugs: I only take Timonil (Carbamazepine) 300 twice a day as a precautionary measure against seizures. This to make sure that my regular EEG doesn't show too much craziness in the damage areas (see plot below) because if it did  I would be banned from driving. (Given the drugs I am more likely to get banned for other reasons, but more of that in another post perhaps).
  4. Monitoring: I am now down to 2 check ups a year which comes down to alternate EEG / MRI appointments. Sometimes I feel embarassed taking up the time of the guys and gals at the hospital just so that Professor Neuro can say "No Change"
Just in case anybody is interested here is my latest EEG from yesterday:
Interesting bit is around 3:47 where the sensors (FP1-F7, F7-T3, T3-T5, T5-O1) around my damage get a little crazy,
but not crazy enough to worry Prof. Neuro thank goodness
 P.S. I have added a tag Health so you can track just the health stuff

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

More Ooh & Aah pictures from Jayden

Just Me
Me Again
Just me and Mum
with Mum and siblings

with Nanny (& u. Joss)

Nanny Again
With Aunty Amber

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Extending th Moser arm - Jayden Tyler

Just a quick blog to announce:

Jayden Tyler Moser

Arrived at 12.02am in Baden Weighing in at 3.3kg (7lb 4oz for the imperalists), 49cm long, quick birth mother (Kayleigh) and baby are fine.

This extends the Moser arm of the Gardiner-Smith's to 3.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

My Dad

I just noticed I did not publish my dad's Eulogy from back in April. Pretty embarrassed actually.
Sorry Dad.

Goodbye Amy

Shocked by the news of Amy Winehouse's death, even if it was somehow inevitable that she should die young. Such a wonderful songwriter and an incredible singer. I am almost ashamed that on the day after such atrocities in Norway that it was this news that brought me to tears.

I have not felt quiet this way since John Lennon died and I was so much less of a jaded character in those days.

You will be sorely missed Amy, by this fan and millions of others. Rest in peace my lovely.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Weather On-Line Part 2

Since April, when Carol gave me the Weather station, way too much of my time (and not to mention cash) has been spent on this new hobby and I haven't even got started yet. So far I have just mentioned that I got the station, now I will bore you with the details.

The most important part of the set-up is a Davis Vantage Pro 2. This consists of two major pieces, the ISS (Integrated sensor system) which contains most of the sensors and has to be mounted around 1.2m off the ground. It looks like this:

ISS, mounting & owner

The Console
 The console (shown left) gives you access to all of the data from the ISS (including some basic graphs)  keeps history and is where all the system set-up is managed.

The console is also where you plug in the data logger for connecting to the outside world (more on that later).

The ISS contains sensors for:
  • Temperature & Humidity (in the white thing underneath) and a powered transpiration unit (fan) to keep the air flowing around them. The power comes from the large set of solar cells on the right of the aspirator.
  • Rain (the big black thing which is the rain collector)
  • Solar & UV detectors (behind the rain detector, you can only see solar here)
  • Wind speed & direction (on the arm to the left of the post)
The console adds sensors for (inside) temperature and humidity.

On the front of the ISS there is a little white box where everything is connected together and then sent via wireless to the console and powered by the little set of solar cells on the front. Together that gives you a great standalone weather station.

Hello World
This is all very well if you want to keep yourself to yourself but this weather thing becomes much more fun if you get connected to the internet and onward to the rest of the world.

To do that you can plug a USB data logger into the console and connect it to a PC. The Davis WeatherLink software that came with the data logger was pretty crappy on the MAC so I got a copy of Lightsoft Weather Center which has a wonderful set of graphing tools and all the connections to the Internet Weather Networks you could want.

What is a Weather Network?
Weather networks allow you to provide your weather information to them so that anybody can gain access to your weather data. There are around 20 such networks around but most of them have some kind of local focus. Exceptionally the Weather Underground is global.

In the top right hand widget of this blog page you can see, updating every few seconds, data from my weather station via the Weather Underground (WUG) in almost real time! Now isn't that cool? More than that, if you go to my station on the Weather Underground website (try it by just clicking on the widget) you can look at historical data and statistics from the day the station went on line (around 4pm CET on the 30/4/2011).

WUG also uses sets of data from around the area to provide extended info, almanac's and forecasts. You can look at this here or just go to "current conditions" from my station's (IAGKINDH2) site.

Always on
So all that sounds pretty cool, so what is all this extra stuff that has been taking up my time during May, June and July? Well first up, was I didn't want to have my Mac on all the time to feed information into WUG. In theory I could have could switched it off and update less often, but that kind of defeats the object of real time don't you think? To fix this a clever German guy (Hi Boris) had already thought of this (and much much more) and produced a piece of linux based software (meteohub)  that can run on tiny headless PC's to handle all of your weather data requirements.  This sounded perfect and would run on one of the little Alix boxes which I had already experience with when building my firewall a couple of years ago.

After a few issues trying to get the software image on a CF card the Alix motherboard was put into a box, the CF card put in and the Alix booted up. I was pretty nervous about the changeover from LWC to meteohub but once the meteohub was set up and running the changeover went like clockwork. So what you see on WUG is being supplied by my very own 24x7 weather server since 5.6.2011.

Not enough wind (unusual for me)
As you can see from the ISS photos, the anemometer and wind direction sensors are mounted on the same pole. Given our shielded garden this was not good enough for accurate wind readings so the sensors had to go to the roof.

Of course, this is nowhere near the ISS so I had to either run a long cable across the garden or use a Davis wireless kit to have the wind sensors talk directly to the console, I went for the latter. So the 3m mast was delivered along with the wireless kit and I was ready to go.

Disaster, on my first explorations for an appropriate site I discovered the house was falling down (OK exaggeration) due to a split beam that should have been fixed nearly 4 years ago (when I was more interested in staying alive than anything else)! So in came the builders to fix that before the mast could go up.

The split beam
One advantage to this small disaster was that the builders were able to build me a mount for the mast on which the wind stuff was to be mounted saving me the trouble.

So on Saturday 7th July I got out my big scary ladder and with a bit of help from Joss and a few prayers to the patron saint of ladder climbers (St. Jacob, I think) up went the mast and my wind readings became official.

The next day out came the my little ladder to help me mount the wireless box. Unfortunately I didn't spend as much time stabilizing this ladder and forgot my prayers so while I was up putting in the last screw, the ladder decided to leave me hanging on the balcony to which the box was attached. I still have some of the bruises caused by the ladder which I had to land on because their was nowhere else for me to go.

Mast with Anemometer   
Wireless Box
No bones broken so I was able to stand back and admire my work and to check if everything was working. After a few days I could tell (and you can check too if you like) somewhat higher wind speeds and significantly more consistent wind directions.

So what else was there still to do?
Well, when I went over to meteohub  from LWC although WUG didn't lose any data (as the data logger was still on line to the console and recording until meteohub came online), meteohub itself didn't have any of the LWC data from the previous month and that was needed for other purposes (graphs, pc dashboards etc.

So after finding out the LWC and meteohub respective data formats with some help from Boris (Hi Boris) I set out to brush off my Perl skills (which apparently had gone down the drain) to get my lost data into meteohub. This is a work in progress as I keep finding myself some new weather maths to play with on the way.

So when that is finished I will be able to sit back and enjoy my weather station .....
or maybe not ......
here is stuff  on the to do list so far:
  • Getting my Meteohub  on the Web - so you too can look at all the fun I am having
  • Adding a weather (360 degree) CAM so I have records of cloud formations
  •  Before the winter sets in get my rain sensor heater so as I can measure water content of snow fall too (don't believe me?)
  • Virtual cloud sensor for meteohub to record cloud classifications (a whole subject on its own)
  • Lobby LWC to support meteohub (I do love their graphs)
  • Learn more about weather forecasting
That should keep me busy for a while.

 HINT: The cheap way to feed you interest in the weather:
  • Buy an i-Pad or use one that you have lying around
  • Download weather Pro-HD (CHF 6)
  • Enjoy

Storm in a Teacup

The repeat performance of Wednesday morning's storm didn't occur on Thursday, no lightning, no hail and almost no rain. We went out for a walk with the dogs on Friday and many of the large footpaths in the woods around our house were impassable and we had to wander off to get around.

Yet another blow for the trees but at least not as bad as Orkan (Hurricane) Lothar from Christmas 1999 the remnants of that devastation still scar our landscape.

Here are some of the pictures I took of the damage we saw within a  km from the house last Friday.
No Comment Necessary

I know there was  a path here last week (really)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

About the Dog(s)

Ah yes, you remember back in January I finally introduced Pepper, well we liked her so much Carol decided she needed a new friend to play with so last week we went looking for soft toy:

 And here it is,  she is called Daisy (mostly, but I preferred Chilli as in Chilli & Pepper)

Turned out to be another dog.

She is from Italy (can't you tell) and is around 3 years old. She was found tied up at a parking stop next to a motorway. Can anybody understand what kind of person would do that?

Like pepper she loves us all and vice versa but she does seem to be especially attached to Carol, almost literally. So here they all are together (Pepper, Carol & Daisy)  in their favorite place, the Kitchen. Actually Carol's second favourite place next to the Garden.

Weathering the Storm

It seems I have weather on the brain and after the storms we had here last night (see Heftige Regenfälle in der Schweiz), who wouldn't have.

At around 2am, the whole household was awakened instantaneously  by the sound of almond sized hail   dropping on our roof. As our roof is large and we have no attic this sounded like somebody throwing 1000's of rocks on it. This was accompanied by and the most spectacular thunder and lightning I have ever seen and heard. Most of it was fork but was was going between clouds and the multiple concurrent strikes were unending. Just as we were checking that the dogs were OK (er plural, more on that later)  the power went down and the search for candles and torches proceeded. The dogs were actually scared ****less but thankfully without ****.

My weather machine recorded over 30mm of rain (including melted hail, I guess) in the last day and wind gusts of up to 66km/hr. The main storm passed us in about 20 minutes but left a trail of devastation, and I spent sometime afterwards transfixed by its eastward journey carrying  with it that extraordinary lightning. You can click on the Metric Underground widget at the right to get the  story in numbers.

This morning we had some cleanup to do, but we were lucky, all the slates are still on the roof!
Carol's garden was a mess though with broken plant material littering every corner. The tomato house I built was still standing and had no extra holes which I think is some kind of miracle. Apart from the plants (poor old Carol), the most damage was two broken garden lights (hail had just smashed the covers to pieces) and some quite artistic almond shaped dents in one of our blinds (see the nice  pictures I took for the insurance man below).

Now there is just time to batten down the hatches for tonight's expected repeat performance. 

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Weather on-line

Carol bought me a brilliant present for my Birthday. A Davis Weather station.
More on this later, but for now just admire the new gadget on this page, just click on it to get the full details of the weather in Kindhausen now! (Ignore wind stuff, anemometer mouting not properly done yet)

BTW,  last MRI shows no change in my health, beating the stats by miles now.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Eulogy to my Dad

A Family’s Eulogy to their dad, Frank Edward Smith,
on the occasion of his funeral, 

 presented by his son Ian on 19th April 2011

at St. Peter’s Church, Marymead, Stevenage, England

I spend much of my working life standing in front of people and explaining abstract concepts to them in order to help them to use such concepts in their professional lives.

So why is it that when preparing for what I wanted to say today,  to describe the great love that one man had for his family,  I found myself  mentally dumbstruck? Perhaps it is that that love was so profound and all encompassing that it was almost impossible to put into words. I still feel uncomfortable presenting what I want to express and I hope you will forgive me if I flounder like some babbling idiot. Just to remind you of how  I feel to day I would like to wear this, I hope your god doesn't mind (cub cap on head).

Today I feel small, scared and somehow excited, very much like how I felt on one evening in my early life, a Wednesday I think, when my dad took me to a little event that was an experience to spark of in me a lifetimes worth of interest in the world around me; and for my dad it was the start of a renaissance.

But those emotions that I felt that day have a very different significance today:
I feel very small
- Compared to the memory of my father, a great man
I feel a little scared
- That what few words I have found will be an injustice to that memory
I feel somewhat excited
- at the prospect of eulogising such a wonderful warm and loving man
and I feel sad , very sad - that my dad is no longer with us

One cannot talk about my Dad's life without mentioning the Scout Movement. Dad was involved in the Scout's both before and after the Second world war, but after the war, as for many young men returning from their service, dad came back to a different world, and the Scout movement, I guess, had reduced its relevance to him at that time. He married my mum in the last year of the war and a couple of years later she gave birth to their first daughter, my big sister Janet, followed a few years later by our tiny explosion Carol, I followed at the end of the 50's, the only boy in this quartet, and our sixties sister Marion arrives just as the sixties were getting interesting and completing my dad's first family.

On that evening in the mid sixties, the one I mentioned earlier, the day I joined the Cubs, I remember looking for him to take me home only to find him talking to a visiting scout leader in another room, dad had signed back into the movement and the movement would never look back.

My sisters and I have many fond memories of our dad and I asked each of the girls for just one to put into this eulogy. At first, I was a little surprised, by the seemingly small events that they retold and that those events had stuck so long in their minds and grown to such enormity.

Marion remembered
A drive in Wales on our way to one of our adventures where dad, as always, eager to help leaped out of the Transit van, that we were in, to provide guidance for our driver's particularly difficult manoeuvrings round a narrow country lane. Dad disappeared into a ditch taller than his 5'6" and the driver drove on only to be stopped by our plaintive cries from the back.

Carol remembered
Her wedding day; everybody was waiting at the registry office and dad had not yet arrived. A quick phone call confirmed he had decided to wash the kitchen floor as "he had the time". Anyway, sure enough, he arrived on time on his moped in his leathers and like some festive superman he peeled them off to reveal his Wedding suit beneath.

I also remember him burning his nose on the Iron while ironing shirts "Just testing if it was hot enough", the Red nose was there for weeks.

Were we remembering how accident-prone or absent minded dad was? I think not, I think it was the sense of fun that he exuded especially at times like these when he would laugh with us and at himself. Something I think we all inherited just a little from him.

Janet, the elder, remembered helping dad with Sunday dinner, this was our mum's day off, by order of dad, probably the only order he ever gave to her. Jan also has fond memories of hanging wallpaper with him as I think we all did. Was she remembering the chores we had to do? I think not, I think it was all about the quality time he spent with each of us in the gang of four and the love that he showed us all in every action he took. After my mum died in 1969 he did not pull into himself as he could well have done, but just poured more love out of his ever-full cup.

What we all remember is his gentle way of dealing with all of us and that tiny push of encouragement he gave to us to step outside of our comfort zone and thus make as much out of lives as we wished to. We also remember his impeccable morals, and the manners that he showed to every man woman and child of every creed and colour.

My dad had so much love in his heart to give, one family was not enough so he had to give this and his massive enthusiasm for living life to the full, to the many lads and lasses who sought adventure and fun through the scout movement which became his second family, this only added to his first families lives.

After we, the gang of four, were well on the paths to our own lives he re-married and took on yet one more family by marrying our step-mum Doris and bringing in our two step brothers Frank & Ian, you can imagine the name confusion with brother-in-law Ian and my wife to be, another Carol, as well.

We all miss you dad, but you will forever stay in our hearts, minds and actions. We all hope that we have taught our kids just a fraction of what you have taught us because if we have, they will turn out to be great citizens of this world, our earth.

So I'd now like to take this hat off to him for the last time, and wish from all of us to you, god speed dad.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Frank Edward Smith: 29th December 1919 - 29th March 2011

Announcing the death of my father at 91 years.
Too much pain to say much else at this time.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Ian's Top 21 Albums of 2010

As Promised, my top albums for 2010. I haven't done this before, but given that music is such a big part of my consciousness and my tastes are kind of eclectic I thought you might be interested in what I think is good and interesting.

To put this stuff into context
A.    It only contains stuff I have heard and bought (and that is the real limiting factor)
B.   2010 was not a good year, in fact the mainstream had almost nothing to offer, and if we have to suffer one more talent show winner I think the day the music died might be soon
C.   I have only chosen albums released in 2010 so those released at the beginning of the year have had more time to grow on me
D.   There are no compilations, new performances of old stuff, re-releases, re-masters or re-treads (old stuff new to me) and that covers at least as much music in my collection again. Maybe I'll do "best of the rest" if I ever finish the unrest.
E.   It is very difficult to put these albums in order,  its more like a tendency than a real position. It is particularly difficult at the top where the top 5 or 6 are pretty much equal 1st.

Things I found interesting in my collecting this year: a clear move even more out of the mainstream of pop/rock with one or two exceptions. Little new Classical or Jazz excluding a modest blues collection expansion. A significant increase in Folk of which most sit in retreads  and, as usual, no Hip-Hop (when will that mostly ugly music leave us forever).

So here goes, Ian's top 21 (yeah I know 21? -- I wanted Mugstar in here):

21 - ...Sun, Broken... - Mugstar
Hawkwind, early Floyd and some heavy Can influence with a hypnotic beat. Good with Space cookies I would think ;-)

20 - Returnal  - Oneohtrix Point Never
First track (Nil Admirari) is a shocking but original noise rock classic fronting up an album of Minimalist synth rock with some strong Tangerine Dream influences. No outstanding tracks just lovely meditation music most of the time.

19 - Midlake - The Courage of Others
The folk rock sound of Texas Band Midlake takes a lot of its character from early 70s English bands like the Moody Blues & Camel with a touch of America.  Their dreamy style and unusual lyrics tend to hark towards 19th Century small village sensibilities.

18 - Amy McDonald - A Curious Thing
A little more production and more orchestration than on the excellent "This is Life" tend to push the songs on Amy's 2nd a little close to  anthemic rock but this does not detract from this young Singer-Songwriter's potential. Despite what the critic`s say, I like Amy's voice, her simple songs about life and her naive guitar work.

17 - Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
Watch out Springsteen, old style romantic anthem rock sung by guys young enough to make it work (unlike Bruce nowadays).

16 - Victoire - Cathedral City -  Most Suprising Debut of the year
Now where are we to put Victoire; Modern classical, Minimalist, Psuedo-Classic, Art Rock, Post Rock or my favourite Chamber-Rock. This is Victoire's debut album, five talented, if a little strange, women lead by composer and multi-instrumentalist Missy Mazolli and sounding like  Laurie Anderson dragged up to date and sideways. Intelligent but perfectly listenable chamber-rock.

15 - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
Imagine the whole of the 1970's in an alternate dimension designed by Frank Zappa transmitted through a compressed fidelity wormhole to the year 2010. Its good.....but I Hope it is NOT the future

14 - Emily Portmann - The Glamoury
A great set of traditional and self-penned English folk songs that fit together with each other perfectly, beautifully sung with spectacular  modern arrangement's that feel just right with these songs.

13 - Simon Harper
Paul Simon's son makes his debut at 40 with an Album of lightweight Americana. Sometimes sounding uncannily like his old man, but with his own style and strong songs. Shame he didn't start his career earlier.

12 - The Sadies - Darker Circles
The 9th album from the Sadies shows their mix of country and garage rock (think Garage Byrds & Flying Burrito Brothers) as strong as ever. Faultless but  not too inspired.

11 - Bellowhead - Hedonism
I discovered these guys on a brilliant Folk Christmas event on the BBC in 2009. I immediately bought their previous album, Matachin. But Hedonism is a major improvement on an already wonderful mixture of "Big Band" traditional folk tunes with a touch of trad. jazz embellishments.  For those that know what Swiss Gugga music is, Bellowhead are a bit like English Folk Gugga Music but a little more in tune).

10 - Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
I still have trouble with this band; maybe it is Win Butler´s voice that does not let them into my heart of hearts because everything else fits, and tracks where Regine Chassagne takes the lead are brilliant. This makes it difficult to place to chart this as a whole album, however even without Regine´s tracks it deserves a top 10 position.

9 - Massive Attack - Heligoland
Yet another great album from Massive Attack, these pioneers of trip-hop cannot do wrong in my book. Not my absolute favourite (that would be 100th window or Mezzanine) but close.

8 - Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson - The Gift
Mother Norma and daughter Eliza from the great English folk family formed from the marriage of Martin Carthy and Norma (of the earlier, just as great, Watersons folk family). Bunch of great folk songs (Poor Wayfaring Stranger, Boston Burglar, Bunch of Thyme, Shallow Brown) with lead singing past back and forth between mum and daughter. Norma´s voice has the ease and warmth expected from 50 years of singing great folk tunes without losing any of it´s power ( Wayfaring Stranger is just amazing). Eliza with a mere 20 years of professional singing behind her has managed to keep her youthful touches and a husky voice to challenge Rod Stewart's but much more refined. As usual, Dad is involved and the usual bunch of friends including Danny Thompson from Martin´s early folk days.

7 - Chris De Burgh - Moonfleet
In the mid 70´s Chris De Burgh was a great Folk-Rock songwriter with classic storytelling albums like Spanish Train and songs like "A Spaceman Came Traveling" and "Don´t Pay the Ferryman". But as we edged into the doldrums of the 80´s he fell into the cheap pop trap (among many others like Billie Joel) with stuff like "Lady in Red", so I lost interest in him. Then in January I picked up a copy of the 2010 album Moonfleet and was interested in the suite of songs telling a true story of Piracy on the high seas around the turn of the 19th Century. This was De Burgh at his Crusader period best, simple but effective and passionate tunes beautifully arranged with orchestra and folk rock band  supporting a great story. Welcome back Chris, it only took 30 years.

6- Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
This is supposed to be Joanna Newsom´s masterpiece, the triple CD garnered amazing reviews, so given that I have been a big Joanna Newsom fan since her first album what went wrong? What I liked so much about Joanna previously was how everything she did was so......quirky. Well "Have one on Me" is just not quite so quirky. Maybe she has broadened out in her performance, maybe her voice has matured, maybe the arrangements are more precise, but now I keep thinking of other artists while I am listening to her; Kate Bush one minute, Laura Nyro another, Tori Amos another and then a touch of Björk. That never happened before, and I am not sure that I like the move to Piano for so many songs.. Do not get me wrong I love this album but I kind of miss that squawky little voice accompanied by the divine harp of "The Milk Eyed Mender" and "Ys". I guess I may have to grow with Joanna, maybe this will be my No.1 for 2011.

5 - Sophie Hunger - 1983
This lady just won the Swiss awards 2011 for entertainment plus both her first album Mondays Ghost and 1983 went straight to No.1 in the Swiss album charts. So what (I hear you say), well Sophie Hunger is the best thing to come out of Swiss Music since Yello. Great songs, great voice a great talent. Try her you will like her.

4 - Robert Plant - Band of Joy
We did not get the follow up to rising sands with Alison Krause that we wanted, but we did get something at least as good. This superb album of Americana almost makes you wish that the long awaited Led Zep reunion would never happen.......almost.

3 - Olof Arnalds - Innundir Skinni
I don´t know whether you know I am sucker for Icelandic music and not just Bjork (who I happen to think is one of the best artists ever) and here is a way for you to find out why. This contemporary Icelandic folk singer and harpist (I am also a sucker for harp) managed to produce the album that Joanna Newsom should have produced for me in 2010. If only I could understand Icelandic.

2 - Burns Unit - Side Show - The debut of the year
What do you get if you mix Scotland and Canada - The burns unit
This 8 piece indy supergroup uses the talents of its members to deliver one hell of a set of songs with an amazing amount of cohesion for such diverse influences. A truly eclectic band.

"From raucous guitar rock to Jacques Brel-esque torch songs to bittersweet country, they drew on a dazzlingly wide spectrum of influences...those in their audience may have come along to see their particular heroes or heroines, but they ended up united in loud acclamation of the whole." (The Sunday Herald)

1 - I am Kloot - Sky at Night
This rather oddly named Mancunian trio have been around for 10 years but I only discovered them through this, their latest album. We have got quite used to today's English folk singers allowing their local accents come to the forefront but in this case we are not talking folk but a truly British pop-rock band who write lyrics that bring tears of elation, hope and sadness to your eyes all at the same time with their simple but eloquent tales of real life delivered on top of some mind blowing but simple tunes performed without any pretense. Some might compare them to the Beatles, but that would not do them the justice they deserve as a fine modern band making beautiful unique music.  As one reviewer put it this is Harold Pinter to everyone else's Cecil B de Mille.

I think I am Kloot too. 


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Introducing Pepper

This is a short entry to introduce a new family member.

Pepper was adopted into the family back in October. She is a Bulgarian bitsa (as you can tell from her bark), we don't know who her parents are but we see Beagle and Appenzeller in her. Here is a picture, What do you think?

Why Bulgarian? Well apparently Switzerland does not have enough of it's own mistreated or deserted dogs so they we have to import them via a dogs home from somewhere that does. I hope her Bulgarian passport doesn't give us trouble at the border.

When we first got her she was scared of everything (shadows, noise, dogs, stairs, the car) except people. She loves our grandchildren and over time she has relaxed a lot and is now house trained.

We had all forgotten how much attention a dog needs, but we all love dearly.

P.S. This entry was my first written on an iPad blogger app as "mobile" browsers have problems with rich text web editors. These Web editors need single character entry and mobile devices do line by line entry like the old mainframe terminals :-)

Welcome to my Pad

Only a month between blogs this time!

Hope everybody had a good Christmas season and a good start to the new year.
I know I did.

Did nothing spectacular but spent a lot of time with the family and that is always special. Ate lots of delicious food, as ever, but still managed to keep my weight steady (ish). Now it is time to do the final 6kg to get under 70kg, and then I'll try and keep it there.

Lots of new gadgets around the house over Christmas,
  Notebooks (Dell thing for Carol & Qosmio for Joss); Nice but boring.
  Bookreaders (Kindle for Amber ; Oyo for Kayleigh
  I-Pod Nano (should be Pico) - Trying to wean carol off of the old PJB
  Playstation 3 (Mario) - Ho Hum
  and the grandchildren got some toys too
  but the winner this year (biased opinion) ......

Welcome to my iPad

My toy this year was an i-pad and I have to say I am well impressed. What surprises me most is how the thing slips into your life within a few days and starts to become a natural fit between the desktop and the Phone. The standard jibe of the  iPad detractors is that it is just a big i-Phone, and in fact they are right! But having 4 times the screen real estate actually allows it to handle different tasks.

As most of you know, I work at home (about 30% of my time) except when I am visiting customers or attending internal events. In my (recently converted to) Apple world:

iPhone- Goes everywhere in my pocket and keeps me connected and provides the "on the move" applications:  Agenda, messaging, timetables, maps, clocks & alarms, breaking news, dictionaries (mobile Leo is just wonderful to have around).

iPad - At home: Provides all of the casual browsing that the notebook or netbook tried to provide, but never succeeded because it all took so long to get going and was not a book format. Added to that lots of easy to use apps, including all of those (non-phone) apps carried across from the iPhone. I just love sitting with my coffee and iPad first thing in the morning going through my agenda and e-mail for the day on a screen that is big enough, but no too big to relax with.

Traveling: I think the iPad is going to replace my notebook PC when traveling. I have all the applications I need to work on the road.  Numbers, Pages & Keynote should fill in for Office apps and an easy to use mind mapping tool (iThoughts HD) replaces any thinking I need to do :-)

The proof of the pudding will come in a weeks time when I am off traveling for a few days. But given that since I went back to work at the beginning of January I have only opened my work Notebook PC for two things
1. (Ironically) to use the Cisco IP phone that is (due to some  licensing restriction) tied to the MAC (ethernet) address of the PC.
2. To synch it up on to my network server (so all of the docs are already available to all of my devices) 
What do I miss in the iPad? : The Phone, I know it may sound odd but it needs the Phone too, and for why? Because I only want to work on one device at a time. So each device needs all of the screen size appropriate applications.

The Apple vision for the end user applications and user interfaces now becomes clear. Many of the  Phone & Pad user interface elements already exist on Mac OS as do many of the applications (and since last week they can be delivered through an App store just like the iPhone and iPad). We also already know that the next major version of Mac OS will adopt the multi-page app view and no doubt a few more things from the phone-pad evolution. This means that whatever Apple end-user device you sit with in the future will feel the same and have the same stuff on it. Jobs Done (excuse the pun)

This also answers  the question of where does the Notebook and Desktop fit in: wherever you like without compromising on functionality! I feel, at the moment, that for me (human communicators & conceptual and planning worker) the iPhone, iPad (with occasional keyboard connection) & iMac will be just right. But for others (e.g. intensive image artists or wordsmiths) perhaps the larger but 0 spindle notebook format would fit better in the middle, or maybe as well as. Oh, by the way, the NETBOOK IS DEAD (Wanna by one?).

Cloud or Synch
So what is wrong with the iPad, or more correctly, what is wrong with Apple's device succession at the moment? Well actually not much, but when it comes to content management it is a bloody disaster.  It is almost as if Apple thought the PC was going to be the central "agent" device which everything was synchronised with when "other" devices were attached. But then they realised  that these devices were becoming realtime push and pull slaves to (what we are now calling) the cloud  (but which is actually a whole bunch of randomly organised servers using mainly proprietary access mechanisms). Worse than that, they couldn't decide what to use for this inappropriate synchronising.

So we have on-line stuff (like e-mail on imap and files on WebDav) and manual synchronising through the via MobileMe (web), via i-work (web) and through i-Tunes (usb)  depending on the phase of the moon. And within i-Tunes there are 2 methods of synch depending on the content being synched. Books, music, videos (things that you might purchase) are synched down through the browser whereas files for specific applications via an apps tab for the device.

Some developers have added some extras too like direct proprietary WiFi synch (e.g. Appigo ToDo) and Dropbox (e.g. iCabMobile, GoodReader, iCabMobile) to try and help out but at the end of the day they are just making it more confusing.

Calling Agent Apple
I think we should forget the USB synch and look towards a personal agent technology accessed via the Internet (I think we can assume that now). In other words something that knows primarily who you are  (login),  what you are carrying (iPhone, iPad etc) and what the chosen apps (e.g. iTunes) that are available on that device for the different types of content (e.g. MP3 sound) that are available to you. The agent's job would be to keep the latest version of your (device relevant) content on the device. This content may be stored close to the agent or elsewhere in the cloud, but it would be the agent that had the knowledge of where the content lives (licensed content or your own stuff), of the access credentials for the content, and  how to deliver it securely to where you are*. Something close to Dropbox technology (try it you will like it) with a bit more intelligence dropped in the box.

I  tried to build such an agent over 10 years ago ) and was quite successful for handling my own stuff agent to/from PC, but no other the devices  were around at that time. If I remember correctly I used  X.400 (mail)  & X.500 (directory/security) protocols on a Cobalt Qube (Linux Box appliance) to do the job...... I think we we need a new version :-)


So that's enough for today, my intention was to review my favourite albums of 2010, but I seem to have got carried away on the Apple vision and then got real geeky at the end there.
Let's hope I can get the enthusiasm up to do the top ten before it becomes favourite albums of 2011.

Ian, have a good 2011 y'all