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I was having a great conversation with Ben Cummins yesterday. He made a comment which got me thinking - "I can't wait to see what your Utrophia page will look like".

I should explain. Utrophia is an arts collective. People who make traditional music, images and sculpture. But who also push the boundaries and discover new artforms - such as the very successful Mobile Clubbing and Pillow Fight Club, or equally inspiringly The Marching Band.

I've been involved with Utrophia for quite some time now, and I'm somewhat assimilated into the organisation. But I'm well behind in things artistic. I've only just started learning music, and my drawing skills are naught. I would love to express myself in the wonderful ways I see others do. But I haven't yet found my niche.

So I can't wait to see what my Utrophia page will look like either.

So many gigs, so little time. At the moment, my diary is as follows:

My faithful old 2 Megapixel Finepix bit the dust at the end of last year. It was a sad passing - I captured many a happy memory with it. So in comes a Casio EX-S500. Not as good a camera optically, but much more compact. I hope get into the habit of taking it with me a bit more often.
I also picked up a TomTom One. A very fine piece of kit. I hope it never goes wrong though - the ineptitude of TomTom customer services is legendary. Fortunately it does all I want right now, so fingers crossed...

After spending a lot of time looking at the Jammer keyboard from Thumtronics, I developed a curiosity for alternative musical keyboard arrangements. As someone slowly learning his way around a piano keyboard, any alternative is worth searching out.

One day, the Jammer keyboard popped up on MusicThing. Although it looks very strange, it has the remarkable property that the keys are consistently and evenly spaced, with consistent and even musical relationships too. So playing in Eb is just as easy as playing in C.

It turns out that the Jammer design has roots in an 1882 patent lodged by Paul van Janko. The concept is both simple and obvious - the hallmarks of a truly great invention. I already want to learn to play on one.

And thats where the new project comes in. I can't play on one - there is only one Janko keyboard currently in production - it costs 500000 Yen. Well out of my price range. The Jammer is predicted to be considerably cheaper, but its not in production yet. When Thumtronics were designing the Jammer, they prototyped the design using QWERTY keyboards. They have almost the right key arrangement pattern. This is where my new project comes in. A Janko QWERTY->MIDI converter. PS/2 port on one end, MIDI output on the other. I'm hoping to use the teeny-tiny PIC10F206 microcontroller (about 3x2mm!). The parts have arrived now, and the software is well on its way. Although the lack of ROM, RAM, interrupts and serial port on those microcontrollers is making things rather difficult. Ah well, it won't be the first software implemented serial port I've designed - although running the software implemented PS/2 port simultaneously is proving challenging.

On long jet flights, sleep lots. I've tried all sorts of strategies. And its the only one that works. Be well rested when you get on the flight. Eat to get drowsy. Sleep and rest the entire flight. Don't watch the rubbish movies. Don't chat, don't do work. Rest lots when you arrive. Life would have been much simpler had I known that at the start of 2005.

There are relatively few obstacles to working in other countries, if your skills are in demand. Australia and USA have popped up as possibilities this year.

Through public performance, I've made several thousand people smile, laugh, and generally lifted moods. And I've encouraged more people to do what I do. Theres no better pick-me-up than that.

There is only one cure for feeling down. Thats to pick yourself up. It may take a lot of support to do that. Thats what friends, flatmates, family are for. But the change has to come from within. Those that don't grasp that particular nettle will end in a pit of dispair for the rest of their lives. I've seen that happen - its nasty. Its amazing how looking at a situation with a different attitude can make the whole world appear a better place.

When you get to lifes crossroads, theres a boring path and a scary but interesting one. Always take the latter. Never say 'no' just because its 'not the kind of thing you do'. Life will always be more interesting, and you'll always have something to talk about at parties!

I can skank at 150bpm :-)

On the face of it, I start 2006 much as I started 2005. Employed at the same place, single with no-one in particular on the 'scene'. But things has changed. I get great strength from the things I do. I'm stronger, more authoritative. I do things with much more conviction. And I'm liberated, not held back by being single.

Level up. Muscle +5. Mysticality +10. Moxie +20.

Too much Kingdom of Loathing...

I have no idea whats going to happen in 2006. But I do know that the vast majority of it will be good stuff. Happy new year.

Christmas went pretty well. I've noticed over the years that all the presents I get for other people are, in my opinion, cool presents. So I've got all this cool stuff, and what do I do? Give it away. Well this year was a little different. If I found stuff particularly cool, I bought one extra for me. So not only did I get loads of cool stuff, but I got to play with it before Christmas!

Science museum cool stuff:
Flashing multicolour LED glowsticks. Look great, and fantastic for keeping the young'uns occupied/distracted.
Plastic windup walking robots. Cool!
Fish-eye kaleidoscope. Like a traditional kaleidoscope, but with a fisheye lens at the end instead of glitter and plastic. Make strange patterns from your relatives faces.

Ikea cool stuff:
Ikea nest of cardboard boxes. 12 boxes, each one ever smaller. I wasn't the only one to spot those. But I did make a present which caused much hilarity on christmas day.

Amazon cool stuff:
Several DVDs and books. I ordered rather late, so I used only the 3rd party sellers offering 24 hour dispatch. Some worked excellently. Some let themselves down badly on delivery time. Ah well - it all arrived in time for wrapping, and thats what counts.

Continuing on a 7 Seconds of Love theme, seems like I got spotted at Bath! Also got an email from Joel Vietch asking to use some of the photos I gathered at Camden.

After many day of calendar watching, the date of the 7 Seconds of Love gig arrived. Paul was a fellow fan, so he came down to London, and we set off together.

I always think that life is what you make it. A silly band is enhanced by a silly audience. With the help of Inkscape, some craft card, double sided sticky tape and string, I had myself a wonderous soupy hat.

I went down to the Dublin Castle, had a fantastic time. Saw four great bands, met Trevor from Trevor and Simon (swing-your-pants-tastic unexpected bonus!), and ska'ed my wotsits off!

In fact, I had such a good time that I decided it would make sense to go to their next gig.

In Bath.

3 hours drive away.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The idea persisted all day - and before I knew it, I was driving to Bath.

And it was fantastic. Met some great people, another great set. And as I was the only one stupidsmart enough to wear my soupy hat, I was in the strange position of having many complete strangers come up to me and ask if they could take my picture.

Okay - I've caught the MMORPG bug. Sorta.

I was looking around for whats new in interesting games, and The Kingdom of Loathing came up. It looks horribly thrown together, but it quickly becomes clear that its a really well balanced game, with lots to do. It also has a rather wonderful feature - you can't play it all day. The writing is excellent - the humour shines throughout. You only need see the character types to appreciate that.

Free. All free. And you only get 40 'moves' a day, so it won't suck up your entire life.

Tomorrow is going to be my last Mobile Clubbing of the year. I started in April, and that activity has given me much benefit personally and socially, whilst cheering up a lot of bemused bystanders along the way.

So tomorrow I'm making a special effort. I'm just checking out my clothing for tomorrow right now.

Discrete black shirt? Check
Discrete black trousers? Check
Christmassy tie? Check.
Safety pins? Check.
Two metres of battery operated christmas lights? Check
Two more metres of battery operated christmas lights? Check.
Yet another two more metres of battery operated christmas lights? Check.
And yet another two more metres of battery operated christmas lights? Check.
What- not another two more metres of battery operated christmas lights? Yup!
Whole pile of rechargable batteries to run them? Oh yes...

Thanks Ikea for stocking up my wardrobe. Its going to be a fun night!

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I've also got some pepakura iPods to give away - they were a hit last time!

Now I've got my server up and running, there are a few issues left for it to solve.

One problem I have is with a web application. Its sat on someone elses server. I have access rights to access this application, and it allows me to send out emails to mailing lists, which people can subscribe to.

Now thats cool, but there are problems.

No method of deleting email addresses.
When sending the same message to multiple lists, it doesn't check for duplicate email addresses.
The guy who wrote the web app is too busy to assist in fixing this

So a few days ago I hit on a possible workaround. What if I can use my access rights to develop a web app which reaps the entire live mailing list from the existing app, removes unsubscribed users and dupes, and emails by itself. Full functionality, without touching the original app.

Well, after a lot of wrestling with php, and a funky (but alas buggy) little class called snoopy, I've got my app logging, downloading and partially parsing a web page containing a full set of email addresses!

Now parsing all that HTML is proving itself challenging to say the least. I'm having huge issues trying to get regular expressions to parse the content efficiently. But the problem has had its back broken now. I know it is possible.

And I've learnt all about php (and a fair bit about SQL and HTTP) in the process. Not bad for a sparky!

I must say - its damn satisfying to be able to connect to a special webpage from any internet browser on the globe, and run my own code on a server somewhere. It may be old hat, but its new tech to me.

The web server is working a treat. Its running phpBB faultlessly, and its going to be running PhpWiki today. The team using the server has a whole heap of documentation to write, and I reckon a wiki will get the job done in no time. Next up is getting my head around how these two apps work. I have bigger plans for this server, and I'm going to have to get some php coding done to do it.

If anyone has an always-on computer doing file serving, web serving etc, I can highly recommend getting yourself a Buffalo Linkstation like this and using that instead. This thing is currently my file server, iTunes music server, print server and web server, and its doing sterling service at all of the above.

I own a Buffalo Linkstation. Its always on - my print server and file server. So when a request came up to host a private web forum, it seemed the logical place to host it.

Last night I actually started setting it up.

I got as far as installing MySQL, Apache, PHP and phpBB. MySQL alone took 6 hours to compile!! I probably should have cross compiled it on a PC to speed things up, but compiling on the target always makes things more likely to work.

At 2am this morning, I put "hello" into my www directory, and kicked up a web browser. Success! Apache is working.

Hopefully this week I should get an answer to my big question:
Is the Linkstation enough of a machine to run all this stuff?

It will also be good to get some experience of these packages. I've never used any of them before.

EDIT: Yup, it all works great. A few hiccups along the way, but its going great now.

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