Saturday, 17 December 2011

Obituaries: My Little Trashcam 2007-2011

I think i bought this Samsung trashcam about four years back when i started earning some regular scratch at Urban Village. It wasn't great, in fact the cheap Russian Jenoptik 5mp i bought the year before took a sharper picture. But it was small, the flash took a decent photo in dingy pubs and i could juggle it one handed with a pint of lager. But approx 1,700 photo's later tragedy happened, at an English Dogs gig it caught half a pint of cheap Cider square in the kisser. I wiped it clean but alas it's days were now numbered. First it's vision started failing (well the little shutters started sticking) then the gears started making an arthiritic grinding noise when extending the lens. Finally about a week back it tried, oh it tried dear reader but with a heart wrenching wheezy double beep it passed away in my hand in a half open rictus. Next week it's Christmas and hopefully i'll have a shiny new one but i'll never forget noisy fun times had with the little unassuming shutterbug..
Take some pictures of Angels (the good looking ones mind) and i'm sure we'll meet again.
Midge :'(

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ryan vs. The Flapper

 Well being a Flapper & Firkin regular and a Ryan's Gig Guide consumer i'm not gonna be stupid enough to take sides but this latest editorial did make me titter.


A shame that after some 15 years or so of listing the Flapper & Firkin's gigs for free (and never getting so much as a thank you!), Ryan's Gig Guide is no longer welcome there. I made the silly mistake of putting last months' copies of the guide in the wooden display unit which is (was) located on the wall on the way to the bar. Apparently it is (was!) reserved for The Fly. Shome mistake surely? Apart from the fact that I had to get the damn thing okayed by the then Area Manager, paid for the box to be made, delivered it and fixed it to the bleedin' wall, I can't think of a good reason why on earth I would have the temerity to believe that I could just drop the guides in there willy nilly! Well, after being told to take my guides away, I'm afraid I then felt it my duty to liberate the aforementioned display unit by ripping the fucker off the wall! I say rip, but a gentle pull was all it took - how on earth it lasted so long is beyond me! Only one other known example remains in the wild and I fear that it has also been removed from the now deceased JB's in Dudley. You should have seen the face on the Manageress! Gonna report me to the Police and everyfink for damaging her pub by leaving 2 screw holes in the wood. Yes dear, 1/2 inch screws do leave a shocking hole in a wall, unfortunately made all the more noticeable by the fact that the lazy bleeders who redecorated the place over the years couldn't be arsed to take it off the wall before repainting the place. I might go and leave some flowers there, or maybe erect a memorial plaque. I've seen quite a few gaffers come and go at The Flapper over the years, but this latest one really needs to get her head out of her arse, then she might be able to recognise when someone is trying to help get people into her venue. Ah well, there are plenty more important things to get into a flap about - geddit?"

Monday, 5 December 2011

Old Wharf Closes

   Being tucked away up the road from a sex shop opposite a coach station  The Old Wharf would be hard pushed to even make the final credits on 'Location Location Location' but  nevertheless there it stood defiant in it's back street boozer's finest livery . Music wise a truly independent pub which unlike some other City Centre venues didn't tie it's tour T to any particular style catering for Brum's Punk, Metal and Indie scene, regular home to Punks Alive as well as BSP Rock nights meant you knew you'd be sure to have ringing ears to keep your hangover company in the morning. The Digbeth cold nights rarely stopped at the front door but the backroom fireplace could hold it's own (providing someone did a 'pallet run'), the murals were cheery, the ceiling rickety and the beer was reasonable.

But alas austerity bites and it seems crowds are agiley struggling to tighten their belts without cutting themselves clean in half, so after five years Dave & Michelle have sadly taken the difficult decision to leave.  Finer hosts of the old school variety you couldn't wish to meet (though tbh i don't think i ever met Dave :S) now slowly being replaced with bland gastropubs, uniforms, name badges and those tills you operate with a plastic lollipop sticks. Both ably assisted by some fine (and patient) staff including Chris the sound dude who's one man noise wrangling skills averted many a potential disaster.

So another live music venue has gone leaving a gap (not least a geographical drinking gap between town and The Wagon and they're the worst type of gap) which is always a loss for Birmingham. I imagine it might just  re open at some point in the future but i doubt if it'll put gigs on again with the regularity or prestige of the previous years.

There's plenty of photo's to be found on Flickr which show the cross section it catered for unfortunately as with all photos of the good times they're just a faint shadow of the true ambience.

So lets hope the remaining Digbeth live venues can take up the slack and the punters keep them viable for the future.


Midge x
(photo courtesy of Iron Man Records)

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A Piece About Sat Navs With Some Artistic Licence.

"At the next roundabout...  go straight on"
"at the next roundabout...  go straight on"
"at the next roundabout..." (ooh, the suspense is palpable)
and so on and so forth.
 On our little jaunt around the coast (mainly the West and South bit) the Northern drawl of the lovely Lauren Laverne and comedy stylings of Josie Long and Andrew Collins were oft interrupted by the incessant (non?) directions of the Sat-Nav. During the times it managed to stay stuck to the windscreen (maybe it kept throwing itself off lemming like after sensing my hatred towards it) it bugged me, and it bugged me a lot. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, maybe it was my own fault for being useless at judging distances hence driving down dead ends and on one occasion down someones garden, maybe it was my shonky hearing requiring me to repeatedly ask "what did he say?", maybe it's my deep seated suspicion of being second guessed by a machine. But then it hit me, what actually bugs me is it's ability to interrupt the whole 'Zen' experience of driving.
 Now the odd thing is i always thought i didn't particually enjoy driving and actually made the DSS take it off my Jobseekers Agreement (that's for another blog post) so drunkenly agreeing to drive around 56 piers in 11 days in a bid to look big was probably a  foolish venture in the first place. But i did enjoy it, and when we decided to trust to Map 1.0 (hidden under the seat along with the ice scraper and fluffy dropped car sweets) i enjoyed it even more. Driving can be like a hypnotic poetry, you're at one with the white line down the middle of the road, the milestones, Sunday drivers and Little Chefs, you perform a sort of dance with the gear stick using the sound of the engine as your guiding muse (note: Renbault Clios have very odd Gear ratios). But then the 'Dashboard Nazi'* pipes up and suddenly you jump.. 'oh, i'm driving!' says the concious bit of your brain and bang, you're back in the real world. (NB: hypnotic doesn't mean i was dozing off despite spending most of the trip sleep deprived and hungover).
 I'm not totally dissing the little robotic cartographer as in many a town it did it did efficiently point us at the Sea, though on the times when it was warming up and i took an executive decision it ALWAYS piped up with "at the next opportunity...turn around" (always with the pause!) i just thought it was being a petulant little fucker. They have their uses and i guess they're here to stay but surely we're losing something, even if it's the opportunity to engage with the passengers (or scream at the missus for holding the map of Dieppe upside down when navigating Greater Manchester). So for the forseeable future i think i'll stick with my oversized £1.99 AA  map of Britain (other maps are available) and a travelling companion who can stay awake to read the lines and lines and lines.

Midge (straight on for 100 yards.... then turn left)

(*Jon's apt description for them, i was told there were two more in the car, should have fired them all up and let battle commence)

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Fiddle & Boneshaker (i have a dream)

I spent many a Saturday night at Fiddle & Bone gigs, unfortunately the last few with one eye on the band and the other on the traffic light system the local council noise abatement Nazis had installed after complaints from the new flats built opposite* (cf.Spotted Dog/Rainbow).

 Since it closed down it's sadly sat there for about ten years slowly decaying like a brewery themed Marie Ceste. Wheezing past it on my cycle the other day i had an 'inspired' thought, wouldn't it be frickin' ace Bike stop!. My ideas usually come fully formed in Black and White with helpful labels and arrows so i quickly knocked this up...

If you're not familiar with the former F&B it's about 10 minutes from the city centre on Sheepcote St, off Broad Street and adjacent/accessible to the Canal towpaths, with two floors it has a large courtyard /car park featuring some deep 'railway arches' and the downstairs front doors fully fold back so the selling points would be...

  • An upstairs Cafe (Bar?) F.E.B etc
  • Upstairs Quietspace/Lounge for working(?)
  • Wi Fi (free of course)
  • Downstairs Shop/Workshop area (see Birmingham Bike Foundry model)
  • Commuter Space Bike lockers, changing room, shower, etc
  • Maybe charging points for those stupid electric cars
  • Summer events run from the courtyard
  • and so on

I'm not sure who owns it now, what their intentions are, or what structural state it's interior is in (it's all timber inside) but it would be a crying shame to see a venue like this return to the beer soaked sawdust from whence it came.

So that's my idea, now to start grubbing down the back of the sofa for some funding.

(view from Sheepcote Street)

*  the reason it closed is a bit more complex than noise but the complaints issue really stuck in my craw >:|

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Crushed By The Wheels Of Iain Duncan Smith.

The following views are mine alone (but definitely had some company)

"The Triangle of Success"

So if you’ve known me for any length of time you’’ll know my eclectic bunch of skills have seen me go through various periods of unemployment. If you’ve known me on Twitter for at least the last two weeks you may have also have seen me bitching about the new Jobseekers Plus ‘Fast Track to Employment’ course i’m on. Just imagine League of Gentleman’s ‘Job Club’ skit with more attractive staff and without the ever present fug of cigarette smoke and you’re in the right signing booth. Eos (née Fourstar, owned by Staffline) really pulling out all the training manual 101 cliche’s all the way.

  I don’t have a problem with the idea behind these schemes, what i do have a problem with is the content, or in this case the lack thereof. We weren’t school leavers or new to the Job market so why we were given pointless hand out* after pointless flip chart presentation of stuff most sane minded would refer to as ’the bleedin’ obvious’?. Why? because it was pretty clear the staff (through no fault of their own) were floundering for things to fill out the two weeks they were contracted to deliver the course for.

  The location?, oh the location dear readers was on the edge of an industrial estate right under Birmingham Airport’s flightpath. Nowhere to go in the breaks except hang around the barb wired fenced car park/recreation area dejectedly smoking fags in huddled groups watching the work experience security escorting newcomers around the site. Squint, imagine a few bench presses and you’d be transported to some American Prison yard hoping the tedium would be broken by either someone going postal or a steward getting shanked. Many demographics present, but one constant muttering of the waste of time they’d been submitted to to make the Government's ‘back to work’ policy look feasible. The whole encounter cuts deep into your self esteem which ironically is that which they’re supposed to be giving you back.

  And pity the poor bastards (which may soon be me) on the unpaid Mandatory Four week ‘Work Related Activity’, note the word ‘Activity’ and not ‘Experience’, surely a basic admission packing screws for a month was just playing at having a job for a short while. The fact that many people were signing up to any random one of the slots available just to ‘get it out the way’ speaks volumes.

  Was it all bad? well to be fair the trainers were always helpful,upbeat and pleasant despite some being on shaky short term contracts themselves. The CV stuff was actually useful for people without them and a refresher for people with. Signing people up to use e-mail services and teaching them basic I.T skills is never a bad thing. Some encouragement to register with  Jobsites** was useful as was the availability of the many resources. The 'mock presentation' with feedback reminded me i sometimes talk to bleedin quick and the bit on employment law was an eye opener. However all of this could have been covered in one week or less.

So Eos, to do, URGENT...
  • Efficient delivery of content.
  • Engaging worthwhile content (elsewise it's pointless).
  • Worthwhile training, worthwhile certificates at end, not using people as cheap labour.
  • Cheerier environment.
  • On FTTE, 3 hours Job searching every consecutive day for 2 weeks is fucking pointless and you know it! split it up.

Fast Track 101

Just in case you find yourself lumped on one of these courses here's some tips...
  • Don't Panic!, the two weeks do go quickly.
  • Unless you have a cast iron excuse don't miss days, they'll just sanction you and make you retake it all.
  • The 'mock interviews' are absolutely nothing to get worked up about (remember there's no actual job at stake).
  • Use and abuse the facilities, that's what they're there for.
  • (at Garretts Green) The canteen is very cheap, don't wander up to that burger wagon on the corner.
  • Never forget that you're a lot more than just a 'Potential employee'.
I'm guessing (nay praying) that because this FTTE course is relatively new and more people are being 'encouraged' onto them there'll be some tweaking in the coming Months and hopefully someone can rewrite this post in a more glowing light.

Anyway onwards and upwards
Midge :)

* (My favourite being Twenty minutes assertaining whether we were Visual, Audio, or Kinaesthetic learners (the VAK test), the punchline being that there is little to no scientific support for this type of psychobabble, may as well as judged us by our star signs. Even if it were valid, five minutes later it was all forgotten about while we moved on to making a list of famous people !!!??.)

**(Update 13/05/13) I very quickly realised that most of these jobsites draw their vacancies from the same pool so it's easy to accidentally apply for the same job two or three times if you're not careful. Not great if you have 'attention to detail' written in your CV. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Clip On LED Reading Light Tear Down.

So, how many times have you used one of these little L.E.D reading lights, been fascinated as to what's inside but have been just too lily livered to take it apart?.

Well i've done all the hard work for you and here it is in all it's naked glory...

(click to enlarge)

(note: no reading lights were hurt in this project and the top picture is actually the 'after' one)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

That 'Hidden' iPhone Location File for Windows Users

So, you might recently have read of the Pete Warden/Alasdiar Allen hoo-ha about that 'hidden' tracking file on your computer which has a record of everywhere your iPhone's been?. Personally i think the issue is more about disclosure than security but i still wanted to see said file, great, but the write up on their page is for Mac nerds.So here's a quick 'work around' for Windows users, you'll need...
  • Firefox (FF 4 friendly)
  • The SQL Lite Plug In 
  • GPSBabel (optional,used  to create KML file)
  • A Google account to view Map
Firstly navigate to the iPhones backup folder which on Windows Vista is usually here...

 C:\Users\*user*\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup

Now in this folder there may be several folders with long numbered names (i only had one), if you check the details you should navigate into the newest one. Then open info.plist with a text editor, it's reasonably readable and you should find an entry near the top which gives the Device Name for your iPhone. (this is just to confirm it's the folder for your device, to look at anyone elses data would just be plain rude).

 Now in the original Mac write up there's a way to determine which of the many obscurely numbered files in that folder is the (location) consolidated.db file, with Windows this doesn't appear to be forthcoming so some trial and error is in order. First i listed the files by size, biggest first (click on size on top line), Then open up Firefox and the SQL Lite plug in (it should be in options menu).

 Now attempt to open the files one by one using 'Connect Database' (the little folder icon), make sure you have 'File Names' drop down menu set to 'all files' in explorer bar to see them.You'll probably get a Error message for the first few....

*Update*  i've been led to believe the relevant file begins with the numbers 4096... (hat tip Owen)

but keep going (i think mine was the fourth file down the list ) and hopefully...

The good stuff  is under 'CellLocation' (in the Browse & Search' Tab)

 (I blacked my stuff out but stalkers can still find me on FourSquare).This can be exported to an XML file, the 'to do' now being to convert it to an KML file and view the numbers as a map (i'm not bleedin' Keanu Reeves you know!!)


*Update*  re' viewing on Google Maps: There's probably easier/better ways to do this but if you go the 'Execute SQL' Tab in SQL Lite and enter...

SELECT Latitude,longitude FROM CellLocation

followed by 'Run SQL' you'll get a Table of just the Latitude/Longitude readings, which can then be saved as an .csv file (manually add a row with lat/lon column headings in a spreadsheet (eg. Google Docs))

 Using the ('free') GPSBabel program you can then then convert this into a KML 'Google Earth Keyhole Markup Language' file (it's a relatively intuitive program)...

*Errata*  Use 'Universal csv with field structure in  first line'  instead of the plain 'Comma seperated values' shown in picture below

Then it's just a quick wonder over to Google maps, create new map and import the KML file to view the locations.

*UPDATE*  If your familiar with Google Fusion tables you can import the KML file into that to view as a map as well (hatip Ian)

Now be prepared to be very disappointed, the locations appear to be very vague and certainly don't have the Big Brotherish accuracy which everyones banging on about.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Mrmr Open Sound Control Client to Arduino

This quick project was mainly a proof of concept for someone else but here's a fuzzy video and some info.

Using the Mrmr iPhone app to create an Open Sound Control client which talks to Processing, which then talks to the Arduino, which then lights some (mismatched) LEDs.
(Sending a Byte of data to control Port B.)

Mrmr app can be found here​

Code can be found here with Osc_EX prefix (there's some notes in the comments)​u/​Midge

Circuit is just four LEDs connected to Pins 8 to 11 with 1K resistors.

This blog post is just offered as a quick reference (and somewhere to dump the video). I can't really enter into any technical discussions, there's plenty of info out there but here's a couple of tips...

  • Always check the Mrmr client is talking to the Same Port that Processing is listening to.
  • Make sure you change the addrPatterns in the 'If' statements.
  • Check your Firewall, they can sometimes block OSC signals.
  • Mrmr console was transfered by connecting iPhone to PC using XAMPP as a server (put file into htdocs folder)