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Increase your bittorrent download speeds

June 29, 2006

XP sp2 event id 4226With the latest "Windows critical updates" it is time to revisit the old Windows XP SP2 and Event ID 4226 issue.

With Windows SP2 Microsoft decided to cripple you network performance by limiting outgoing connections to 10 (from previous 60,000+).

You may have applied the popular LVLlord patch but make sure to check your TCPIP.SYS frequently as "Windows Critical Updates" have a tendency to restore/replace your TCPIP.SYS to the crippled one.

TorrentFreak has a good write up that touches many other speed optimising topics.



Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS and heart rate monitor watch review

June 27, 2006

forerunner 305The new Garmin Forerunner 305 is a GPS receiver and heart rate monitor in a single watch. It is a wonderful addition to any activity where you want keep track on distance, pace and heart rate such as running, cycling, triathlon or trekking.

Update August 2008
In a recent firmware update Garmin added the ability to add locations manually.

I find this very helpful when using the watch as simple navigation tool in a foreign city or country.

Say for example that you are travelling to Rome. Now you can enter a few favourite locations (hotel, restaurants, sights) on your Forerunner 305 and then walk or drive around Rome and being confident which direction you should go and how far it is left.

Not to mention always being able to find your way back home (hotel) no matter how lost or drunk you are.
End update

The unit features new design and new features compared to the older Forerunner 301. The Forerunner 305 is smaller, has better GPS reception, has a higher resolution display and better water proofness.

The watch shows time, pace, average pace, distance, heart rate, calories burned, location, course and much more. Choose to display the information on several default screen provided or create your custom screen to show the stats you want.

A few work out modes are built in like intervall training, heart rate zone, minimum pace, distance, time or against a friend's stats for the same course. Due to accuracy issues I find it bit frustrating to use the minimum pace or heart rate modes and instead just do my own work outs.

While the older unit had the mini-USB port on the watch it self covered with a rubber cap, the 305 has 4 copper pads used for charging and data transmission together with a miniature cradle. This makes the unit completly sealed.

Triathlon athletes will especially like the new water resistant design. While the unit may survive a longer swim under water the reception would suffer. The triathlon community is recommending to put the watch in a ziplock bag and keep it under the swimming cap.

In the box you will find the Forerunner 305 watch, a heart rate chest strap, an USB to mini-USB cable, an extension arm band, a tiny cradle and the standard manual, Windows USB drivers and workout software.

garmin-trainingcenterThe accompanying workout software (TrainingCenter) let's you summarize various kinds of logged data and to overlay runs with maps. The strength of the software is analysis of captured data.

I was however not pleased with the accompining software and instead prefer SportTracks.

sportstrackSportTracks is free (at the moment). It has a more intuitive interface, a more powerful integration with Google Maps and a one click integration with Google Earth.

You need to have Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 installed to use SportsTrack.

The Forerunner 305 can also be used while travelling. Be it to find your way back to the hotel after an ambitious sightseeing tour or to map a jungle excursion (open in Google Earth).

Forerunner 305 NavigationThe unit does not have any maps so full fledged navigation is out of the question but you can leave a digital "trail of bread crumbs" while you are trekking and always be able to find your way back.

By using the latest GPS SirfIII chip the watch is able to be smaller and consume less battery.

The older model 301 suffered from bad GPS reception while being worn as it had optimum reception while being placed with display up (not ideal while running).

With Forerunner 305, by placing the GPS antenna on the bottom of the watch optimal GPS reception is instead achieved when the watch is worn normally.

A good place to purchase the Forerunner 305 in the UK would be at Globalpositioningsystems.co.uk (£ 240 inc VAT).



BBQ Boy

June 25, 2006

bbq pig7 BBQs in 10 days; I am becoming quite the master of the fork and the sauce.

The mix of World Cup 2006, scorching hot weather and several visiting friends created a high pressure BBQ climate.

Make sure to have a decently sized BBQ to avoid disappointment among the hungry guests. A disposable BBQ will not do it. The Dual Deck Grill from Direct Design on the other hand is sized to deliver.

Meat is possibly the most important part of a successful BBQ and if you are in London I would recommend visiting the South American Beef website.

Good quality beef, amazing variety of cuts and decent prices. They even deliver to your front door.

Try the famous Picanha Brasileira cut or the Ponta de Contra File Argentino.

If you like to get your meat closer from home, then Waitrose has some very juicy Dovecote Park 6 rump steaks.

Add some portobello mushrooms, onions and wash it down with a well, well chilled rose wine.

Rinse and repeat!

[Pig BBQ from Pappa's Grills]



FootieFox - Follow World Cup scores at work

June 22, 2006

footieFox.jpgWant to follow the 2006 Football World Cup in style? Then check out the FireFox extension called FootieFox.

The extension let's you select your favourite teams and discreetly display scores from games in the FireFox tray.

When a team scores a box slides across the bottom of your screen to make sure you don't miss it.

FootieFox is a great tool to be able to follow the World Cup and still being able to produce code (aka working).

They even provide a dynamic score board to display on your personal site or blog:



Father's day

June 19, 2006

fathers_day.jpgYesterday was the best Father's Day ever.

Laying in bed and reading an I love you daddy card brought tears to my eyes. Once again it made me realise that I am a father and all the joy and responsibilities that come with it.

As always I was showered with presents but none delivered the message as strongly as that I love you daddy card.

A picknick was arranged with a few couples from our antenatal class. Everyone was comparing battle stories from the labour room and the progress of their babies.

Baby acne, organic nappies, colic, sleeping patterns and all kinds of wondrous details were touched upon. I think everyone was relived to find out that they were not the only people in the world with their specific issues.

So you see, the big person on the cup on the left is me and the little fellow going Weeeeeeeeeeeee is my son.



Scrape IMDB MyMovies with PHP

June 08, 2006

pimp.pngI have been wanting to somehow mention the movies I have recently seen and what I thought of them on this blog but was not sure how to best do it.

For a while I was running my own custom code to add movie data and ratings and to display them but this was too cumbersome.

Recently I discovered that the movie rating system at IMDB.com keeps track of all the movies you have ever rated (IMDB.com is by the way an amazing resource for movie lovers and I hope that you have used it before).

Since IDMB is the oracle of movies a better approach seemed to be to continue reviewing and discussing movies on there and attempt to mash the data into my blog.

A few regular expressions later and a Pick IMDB MyMovies with PHP (PIMP) script was born.

The script scrapes a given IMDB MyMovies list and provides the results in a handy (two dimensional) array. It is up to the user to then write the display code to make it fit in with a web page (blog).

A basic file based cache has been implemented to save on the amount of hits on IMDB.

At the core of the script is the following regular expression:

/<a href=\"\/title\/([^\/]*)\/([^>]*)>([^<]*)<\/a> \(([0-9]*[\/I]*)\)( \(.\))?<\/td>([^<])<td align=\"center\" bgcolor=\"\#ffffff\">([0-9]{1,2})<\/td><td align=\"center\" bgcolor=\"\#ffffff\"> ([0-9]\.[0-9])?/i

Be aware that if the layout of the IMDB page changes, PIMP will fail. Of course I will be quick to update the regular expression since I am using PIMP my self.

There are some rumours that IMDB will introduce an open API that will allow developers to retrieve all kinds of movie information. Until that is done, crude HTML scraping techniques will have to do.

Feel free to suggest regular expression or code optimisations.

Download PIMP v1.2 and let me know what you think!

Usage:
------
0. Create an account with IMDB and mark a MyMovies list as public
1. To be able to use a cache file create a directory which is writable by the script process (may need chmod 666). For security reasons this directory should be OUTSIDE of the area accessible from the web.
2. Configure the script with your details (list id, cache directory and etc)
3. Upload the myImdbMovies.php file to your web server
4. Access the script directly or better yet use it as an include

Update 26/06/2006
Added a raw HTTP method if file_get_contents doesn't work for you (hosting provider restriction.

-1 cache time out will skip caching altogether and avoid possible cache file permission problems.

-1 for listItems will result in all items being returned