Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Xmas already?

Is it Christmas already? Has the whole annual Xmas holiday been moved and I've missed the breaking news headlines? As far as I'm aware, it's still 25th December..

So why have i been listening to Christmas songs on the radio at work all day for the last week or so?

Is it me, or does it seem like every single year that goes by, people put up their decorations earlier, or shops start selling decorations earlier, or radio / tv stations start playing Christmas songs / adverts earlier?

"... but come-on, it's not even December yet!"

Problem with starting the celebrations early, that by Christmas day, everyone's sick of it! Now I'm no Scrooge, i love Christmas (especially egg-nog latte's from Starbucks!) but come-on, it's not even December yet!

That said, seeing as everyone's already in the mood for Xmas, I'm starting to look forward to it too! See the lights up in my local town (have been up for 2 weeks already!!!), the ad's on the TV, and 'Gears of war' in the local shops, i cant wait for Xmas now!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Convert video for the 360 (Part 2)

Sooo.. a couple of weeks ago, i made a post about how to quickly convert video for the 360. Tonight, i decided to try it out.

getting started...

So i downloaded the VLC software & the batch file to help with the encoding. This was pretty easy for me, and should be quite easy for most people. I proceeded onto the next step of the instructions, which told me to drag my selected video file onto the batch file, and then watch it encode.


So i selected an episode of Top Gear. One of my favourite programs, and will quite happily pay my TV license for it! Each episode of Top Gear is an hour long, so i thought "It shouldn't take too long".


I Dragged my .avi file over onto the batch file and watched as a command window flashed before my eyes. Surely it couldn't be done? It's not so quick, that it's almost instant, is it? So i spent 5 or so minutes looking for the outputted file. I couldn't find it, so i opened up the .bat batch file in Notepad++ to see what it was actually doing.

It turns out that the file path to the VLC player was wrong. Humm. Maybe i didn't follow the instructions.. Ho hum.

I set the File path and tried again. No luck. Double checked the settings, all fine. So what was the problem? I looked into the .bat file using Notepad++ (excellent tool btw!), and noticed that although the bat file was referring to a folder, it wasn't mentioning a specific program, so after altering the path, i tried it again, and success, it worked! I dragged the avi onto the bat file and then the dos cmd prompt appeared, and a few seconds later, the VLC Player appeared, and it started converting the video!


Half hour later, it finally finished (30 mins to convert an hour program? Not bad!). So now i had my original file (.avi) and my new 360 file (.wmv) Woot!

The only problem i could see was size. The avi was 350mb(ish) in size. The .wmv file was 1.6GB! WOW! Something should be done about that!

So next up was to play it on the 360, and surprisingly, it worked straight away and it played perfectly. No distortion, so sound problems, just an hours worth of solid entertainment! The only problem with it was that i had dragged it onto the 4:3 bat file, but the avi source was actually 16:9, so the perspective was wrong.

Never mind, i doubt i'd keep the new wmv because of the size. It's just a case of finding your 'sweet spot' between file & size and quality i guess.


However, first impressions on the guide to converting video for your 360 is spot on, after a few teething problems, it worked fine, and it's bloody easy!

Oh, and if i find a decent quality setting with a decent file size, i'll post it!

edit: After playing with the bat file & reading up on the Happybeggar forums, there seems to be a few tricks to try, in order to get the optimum quality vs size. In my original article, i mentioned that a 350mb file was converted to 1.6gb. I tried the same file with different quality settings, and got it down to 700mb. Still twice the size of the original, but not half as bad! And the quality wasn't bad either. Definitely watch-able!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

clubtrinity_previewclubtrinity_preview Hosted on Zooomr

I first designed the ClubTrinity website over 4 years ago, so last summer, i thought it was high time it got a bit of a re-design!

I started, concocted, re-invented, scribbled, and played with various different designs until i came up with something i was happy with. After a few more weeks of playing, coding, testing etc, I finally got into XHTML & CSS. So i re-built the new design using my new skills and now it's a hell of a lot cleaner (code-wise). I also had fun using syndication with the forums & galleries at ClubTrinity.

I also managed to get an RSS feed working for it (wooo! - That'll come in handy!)

Anywho, click on over to and let us know your thoughts :)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quickly convert video for the 360

I spotted this link somewhere (i forget where) yesterday, which gives you a quick run-down on how to convert video's to WMV (windows media video) format to play it on your 360.

I've yet to try it, but by looking at the details, it seems pretty good. I spent a good 6 or so hours converting a bunch of home movies to test them out on the 360 using a program called WinAVI. That was slow. If this is as quick as it suggests, then im laughing!

Check it out here

Quick note

Just a quick post to say that i'm still messing with the design of the blog. Things wont be staying the same. If you visit one day and it's looking a little broken, dont worry, it's just me playing :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the 360 is slowly taking over my lounge

Just over a week ago, Microsoft announced the 'fall update' to their xbox 36o dashboard. This brought over 70 new features to the dashboard. One of them being the ability to stream & play WMV video from a networked PC to your 360! This opens up a whole world of possibilties!

On top of that, Microsoft recently announced that they will be launching a marketplace for TV & Films. This suggests that you can download movies & TV episodes to your HDD, and then watch them when you want!

This is a great idea (imo), however, this creates a bit of a problem. All those people who have got 360's & the 20gb hdd will need to buy a new hard drive if they want to download more than a couple of films!

And then what happens when your hard drive fills up with movie content that you want to keep? Surely Microsoft wont allow you to transfer films from your 360 to your PC, because that would just be offering pirates a way to share films!

So what will happen? You pay £8 for a film, it takes up 2gb (HD films will likely take up ALOT more space)?. You can fit 6(ish) on a 20gb hard drive. So what happens when you want to download more than 6? I wouldn't want to delete films after i've payed for them!

So, the obvious answer would be get a bigger hdd, which Microsoft haven't announced, but there are plenty of rumours regarding 100gb drives. What happens when that fills up though? Where will it end?

To me, the perfect answer would be to download files via your PC and save them on your computer. And then either stream them over your network to your 360, OR burn them to disc, and put the disc in the 360. This will allow you to create a catalogue without using hard drive space.

However, Microsoft have only just announced the Video Marketplace, and as far as im concerned, there aren't many details about just yet! Let's see how it pans out!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ain't it always the way...

Sooo, as mentioned earlier, i spent a fair bit of time today "updating" the look of this blog, as
well as testing my new-found css skills.  True, most of the work was already there, but i've
built on that with what i know.  I wanted to re-design the site with my knowledge, what i've
learnt so far, and no searching for help on google.  I was happy with what i had created.

I then realised that Blogspot had a "blogger beta".   Not one to miss the boat or anything, i immediatly looked into it.  And there are a few features that would come in handy, HOWEVER, in order to take advantage of the new layout features, i'd need to rebuild the site as there's no way to import the current design.   So i may be working on that over the next few weeks.

I Must admit, i am really enjoying web design at the moment.  I first got into it 8 or 9 years ago.  I was a big fan of UK Garage music, but had trouble finding any decent websites purely because they didn't exist.  So, whilst browsing through the magazines at a local news-agent, i found a magazine with an article called "build your first website".   Armed with some demo software (Claris home page to be exact), and the magazine feature, i got started.

At this point in time, it was the summer break between terms at college, i was having great fun designing, and was learning & redesigning my website on a weekly basis.  Finally it got to a stage that i was happy with and it started gaining hits.  

About a year (and several redesigns) later, my UK Garage website was quite popular.  I was getting a couple of thousand hits a month and i was happy with how things were going.  On top of that, i had formed a partnership with a friend of mine to run an artist promotion agency.

With this, i also started receiving requests to redesign other peoples websites.  It seemed as if i was always behind my computer tapping away at the keyboard in Dreamweaver, knocking out graphics in Fireworks, or perousing the web for inspiration!  And i loved it!

Anyway, after a couple of years (2002), i met my wonderful girlfriend and my time spent on websites dwindled.  At around the same time, the use of CSS & XHTML started to become popular.  More & more websites were popping up with accessability in mind, proper functionality.  All of a sudden, webdesign was more than some hefty table layouts & some round corners.  As i mentioned though, it was at this time that i stopped designing.

Over the past 2 months (ever since reading an article on, i've become hooked on webdesign again.  I've lost count of the amount of hours that i've spent tapping away on this keyboard recently working on table-less layouts, closing tags (grrr) and scouring the web for tutorials. 

And the one tool that's REALLY helped me do this is my Kingston U3 Datatraveller pendrive.  Due to it's U3 capability, i can carry around my notepad application (EditPad Lite) & my FTP program (FileZilla) wherever i go, and i can design from any internet-enabled PC with a USB drive!  I couldn't recommend these things enough!

So, after spending 2 months working on CSS & XHTML, learning, and reading, and reading some more, i can definatly say i am REALLY enjoying myself.  So much so, im already working on 2 other websites.  I've completly removed all tables, and im excited about launching them!  I guess i better get back to it!  Wooo!

Check my new threads!

Well i'm back! Do i really know what's going on here? Let me explain. Almost 2 years ago now (im sure!), i started this blog. A Simple blog to simply note down details about my car. The problems it had, the cost it incurred, and the progess.

Anywho, i got annoyed with Blogspot's designs, so moved briefly to a friends server. That promptly went down. So i came back to Blogspot for a month or so before shifting the blog over to Even though it was using Wordpress (i like wordpress), it appeared to be very slow. Too slow for me (im impatient!). So i came back to blogspot for another short stint before dissapearing again to (so i could use wordpress). However, they have strict design constraints. In order for me to change design elements, i had to pay. That's a no no for me.

Anyway, over the last 2 months or so, ive been learning CSS & XHTML. 2 Languages i've wanted to learn for years. And today, i thought i'd test myself. Here's the new design for my blogspot account, and to be honest, i REALLY like it! Coupled with blogspot's ease of use, i think i'll be staying here for a while! :)

On top of that, whilst over at, i re-arranged the blog. It's no longer based on just my Pug. It covers a few of my interests. Yes, my 106 is in there. On top of that, i'll be including some articles on gadgets, tech items, games for the 360 (and the up-coming 'console wars'). Music will also feature amongst other tid-bits like reviews, and finally web-design bits.

In the meantime, i must get back to work. I will merge all my posts back here at some point soon!

Enjoy :)