Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Google Reader

For my RSS feeds I used Bloglines for quite a while but I switched over to Google Reader some time back now. I still like Bloglines neatness and compactness but I like the integration of Google Reader with other Google things I use. It also has some pretty good features in it's own right too, of course.

One particularly neat feature (for someone like me who runs a directory web-site featuring new sites regularly) is a really easy way to highlight more sites of interest than I would normally have time to do. Using Google Reader it's just plain simple to tag and share an item of note - I've integrated this into the Black Stump What's New page - you'll see it positioned just below this weeks new sites. Click on the Read More link for another page with (not surprisingly) more information about each post. You can go directly to each post also if you wish.

I hope this is of value to you - I know I'm a bit of a Google tragic (although I still use Yahoo Mail in preference to Google Mail for general use) - I just think they're pretty damn good at most of what they do!

Happy Surfing!

(note I've also put the link to the Google Reader sites in the side bar of this blog so you don't have to go via The Black Stump site if you don't want to - it's just there on the right)

...and, uh, oh yeah, there's an RSS feed available

Friday, January 12, 2007

Get Smart

Managed to get hold of the DVD Set of the entire series of Get Smart. I loved this show when I watched it in the sixties and seventies but it's been a while. This series was really big in Australia and most kids my school knew most of the dialog. (after all, the episodes got repeated to death in afternoon TV slot but got butchered to death). I'm really looking to forward to watching them in sequence and in entirety!

What puzzles me (would you believe it?) is they have only been released via the Time Life website and they'll only ship to USA addresses. What the....!! Lucky I have some friends in the good old USofA to send it down under! But, don't despair fellow Aussies - it appears that it will be available in Australia in February via Time Life Australia - pricing and box configuration unknown but supposedly the same content as released in the US.

This set is superb. Yeah, talk about the corny (but o-so-funny) dialog and the often repeated (but highly anticipated) lines and jokes. Don Adams and Barbara Feldon are even better than I remembered. And let's not forget The Chief. The DVD set has been re-mastered and looks sensational on wide screen TV. Sadly, Don Adams passed away in 2005, but "#99" lives on and gives a lot of the intro commentaries to the episodes on the DVD set.

Brilliant. Yup, I've concluded this is my favourite TV show of all time. I'm up to Episode 20 already, I have 118 to go...would you believe it ?

...and Loving it! (sorry about that, Chief!)

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Summer holidays are here, time to clean up the house and get rid of all the accumulated rubbish one (or, more precisely, one's family) collects over a year or two. Rummaging through lots of old home Videos (that's not the rubbish, by the way, to me anyway) I decided it was time to save all this stuff on new media before the VHS tapes disintegrate.

Surprisingly easy these days and, happily to report, all my VHS tapes going back to 1987 were still OK - I'm sure they left a bit of dust and residue behind but it all looked Ok when played back on DVD. The end result is a new library of home DVDs (and a backup copy) and the original VHS tapes which I've now packed away with the Master DVDs and stored in a constant temperature environment.

What did I need to do the job ? Not a computer, that's for sure! I experimented in the past with Video Capture boards and Studio software but it takes waaaay too long to render bulk amounts of tapes. At the start of this exercise I briefly flirted again with this stuff but still, no thanks.

Moved on to a combo VHS/DVD recorder - a Panasonic ES35V to be precise - as the name suggests it has both functions in the same box - incredibly, this machine could not do the job for me. I say incredibly because I'm thinking its probably one of main reasons anyone would buy this type of machine - but you can't edit the tapes as you copy them! What a load of hooey. Now, I'm not suggesting anything wrong with Panasonic here, folks. I've been using Panasonic VCRs from when they first came out (was it in 1979?) and they've always worked extremely reliably - anyway, the lack of the edit feature was a major downer but probably "mea culpa" for not researching this up front - don't assume...

Bit the bullet and bought a dedicated DVD recorder - this time a Panasonic DMR-EH55 attached to an existing SJ400 Panasonic VCR - could have used the ES35V but my wife already stole that for her use elsewhere in the house. The EH55 has 160GB which is ample storage space (bit more than 640K anyway).

After cabling machines together (easy) play video in VCR, hit record on DVD and edit away. I finished up loading all the tapes on the DVD recorder (they're all still on it), carved them up a bit further and hi-speed copied them onto 8x or 16x DVDs. You just need to get everything in the sequence you want and copy as close to (but under) 2 hours worth of viewing. 2 hours is the limit if you want roughly the same quality on a standard (non Dual layer) DVD.

Quality is good and because of the hi-speed transfer I was able to make a backup copy very quickly as well.

Just do it before it's too late. The Black Stump Guides page has few more good sites for tips on Digital editing. See also the DVD section.

Happy copying!