If this post is a little off topic for you, please bear with me, there will be another post about theology, mission and work with young people along in a bit…
If, like me, you sometimes need to get hold of recent news footage (in my case for Visual Intercessions – images of recent events are very useful), or just simply to archive the latest Dr Who episode (I believe I have everything from Dr Who on that backup hard disk of mine) or maybe watch Question Time later when you don’t have an internet connection, then get_iplayer is the business. It is a multiplatform series of tools to grab a given iPlayer file and save it to .mp4 or .mp3 files (if it is radio). You can get it from here. In the modern age, this is the equivalent of keeping video tapes: it’s for personal use only and anyway, my license fee has paid for this – I’m a part owner of it.
The toolkit is very techy, which doesn’t worry me, but it intimidates a lot of people, who just want a nice frontend in Windows.
So I started messing around with AutoIt - a very nice Visual Basic-like scripting language and constructed this:
All you have to do is cut and paste the URL from iPlayer into the box, tick it if what you are wanting is a radio programme rather than the default telly and click the button. It does open up the program in a little box, but it just makes the downloading a bit smoother.
You can download the frontend as a ready-compiled little program from here. I also include the source code in there if you want to see how it is done: it’s not complex, it takes the content of what you paste in and writes it to a batch file and executes it (thus saves you the time of getting the ‘spell’ right). Download it, put it in a folder in your documents folder, right click on it and “pin to taskbar” or “pin to start” and then run it. It’s simple!
AVG Antivirus False Positive!
Our Office computer has AVG Antivirus on it and it has just thrown up a virus alert on my beautifully craft (and virus free) program. I know it is virus free, and I wrote it on a machine running Avast and tested it on a machine running McAfee. Thankfully, I am not the only one to encounter this problem: AVG has a problem with false positives with AutoIT. Please see this thread here: http://help.lockergnome.com/security/AVG-problem-AutoIt-scripts-stop-AVG-false-positives–ftopict11559.html
It does not have a virus in it.
Although I have a reputation as an early adopter, and a willingness to use any technology to support the liturgy and witness of the Church, I have been careful in my use of electronics as a paper substitute for the priest. I have over time preached from a Kindle device and nowadays almost exclusively say my Daily Office from a Smartphone (extremely useful for Home Communions!) but this season, I exclusively celebrated the liturgy using my Android Tablet. Here is how it all fits together…
Daily Office: Universalis Email
The excellent Universalis website (http://www.universalis.com/) provides web, desktop and email versions of the Readings for Mass and the Texts of the Divine Office each day. You can have this for free, but for a small subscription, you can get the whole package sent as one convenient email. No more losing ribbons, no more forgetting that obscure Saints day or getting the antiphon wrong because you have forgotten what day of the week it is. Perfect for prayer on the move, you can have the text whereever you have your smartphone. This is what I use for Home Communions now, and it is very convenient.
Kindle (for the benefit for those still using one)
I don’t use my Kindle as much as I used to, which is an indicator of how fast the technology has moved on. Two years ago, I took my Kindle to the Holy Land and thanks to its Whispernet, used it to email home, update FB and Twitter all for free – no expensive data charges!
The brilliant Fr Edward Green worked out the ideal word document for displaying a homily on a Kindle. Here it is: kindleblank
If you were to save that docx document as a dotx template and put it in your Microsoft Word Teemplates folder, then you can have a new template which you can then email to your Kindle and preach from it. Create your texts in Microsoft Word as if it were paper, but using this special size and there you are!
This is the where I am at the moment. The power and flexibility of a tablet is amazing: they have come on so far recently. My tablet is the Google Nexus 7: a powerful 7 inch tablet. I highly recommend this one to you all, and at under £200 it is a real bargain. I prefer the 7 inch size because it will fit in my cassock or my hoodie pocket.
I create all my liturgy as I have always done, on a PC on Microsoft Word (service sheets and posters tend to be done in Microsoft Publisher, but for my use at the altar, it remains in Word).
I save all of my key documents in the cloud using Dropbox . This is a free service and if you sign up for you free 2Gb of storage using this link, I get a little bit of extra space for a referral (please!). The advantage of saving documents in the cloud is that they are available across all your devices (in my case, a couple of laptops, my tablet and a smartphone). Update the document and the update is automatically replicated across all your devices very quickly. I also use this to share key documents securely between the staff team: you can create folders which named accounts have access to and so rotas, liturgy and other such essential admin can be properly shared: no more “oh, I didn’t get that version” because as a document is edited, all versions are updated. This is therefore a seemless way to transfer documents to your device.
I have Dropbox installed on my tablet, so can easily access ALL my Word documents (and Excel Spreadsheets etc) as and when I need them. Anywhere.
I simply select the document I want, and Android asks me with what I wish to view the document in. There are lots of apps on the Market, and some of them may be bundled with your tablet. However, I have found that the best reader is not necessarily the best editor. I have used my tablet to write quite a lot (on the train usually) and to blog and for that OfficeSuite Pro is by far the best, but an app designed to write has the annoying habit of going into edit mode if you accidentally touch the screen. For writing and editing documents, I wholeheartedly recommend it. See here (currently only £6.20). As you will realise, if you edit a file from Dropbox on your Tablet, it becomes available everywhere – perfect!
However to view the document, ie to just read from it, I recommend the wholly free version of OfficeSuite: the OfficeSuite Viewer (download here)
This also will view PDF files for you so is even more useful. There is no problem having both on your system, because it will ask you how you want to use it. I always select “Just Once” so I can choose whether I am viewing or editing a document.
Once you have the document open in the Office Viewer, you can look at it two ways: as it looks on the page or as a web page. At the top, select the Menu (three dots to the right of Word Count) and select View
The Page View is exactly as the Word Document is. If you pinch-zoom the document to make it more readable, it will not wrap around. This keeps the format.
The Web View is even more useful for this purpose, because it fills the whole screen and wraps according to the size. I can therefore pinch-zoom the page to a convenient size for reading (and to fit a decent amount on screen so I am not scrolling in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer) and it wraps!
The Reader will cope with a lot of Word formatting, including TextBoxes, which can be quite useful. In my wedding liturgy, the bride and groom’s response “I WILL” is in big letters in a box upside down. This means that I just have to tilt the tablet towards the couple to prompt them for their response.
With Marriage, Baptism and Funerals, I create a bespoke document with all the names and prompts in place of N and M so avoiding little bits of paper getting in the way – so elegant.
If you don’t have an MC, then you can hold your tablet yourself, place it on a legillium or on the altar. Missal Stands are perfect for a Tablet, but I have also used a cushion on the altar (as some Churches do) and have also simply put the Tablet on the altar by the Corporal. At Midnight Mass the MC held my Tablet for me whilst I proclaimed the Gospel. I must admit, I was a little worried I might clonk the tablet with the thurible, but it was fine (and I am so skilled with the thurible anyway!) We both reflected afterwards how the signing and kissing of the Gospel was affected by a touch-sensitive device, but it was fine.
My Tablet has a Wake-Sleep Cover, which turns the screen off when you close it. This does mean you have to hold it carefully but practice sorts this out. I don’t set a password so if my device does accidentally sleep, then it wakes instantly into action. I did try it without a cover, and it was okay, but I was a little anxious about dropping it (and dropping it into the font).
In summary, I can’t see me ever going back. You don’t need a torch during the Easter Vigil or Nine Lessons and Carols because it is backlit. It wastes no paper, it can be totally personalised to the service and changes can be incorporated really quickly.
I have been working from this template (with appropriate seasonal variations) for most Sundays, cutting and pasting in the collects, introductions etc Download: Sunday Mass Template for Tablet
I have always said that Blesséd was the last truly radical and subversive alt.worship group simply because we use PCs instead of Macs. I am not (as you will tell if you read this blog or follow my tweets at @frsimon) an Apple Fanboy, although I have had an iPhone (ugh!) and a Mac Mini and a Macbook, so I know how beautiful and utterly useless they are: noddy machines with expensive pricetags. If you can afford one of these things, then quite a lot of this is directly transferrable. You can still use Dropbox, (or indeed any cloud software – there is Google Drive and Microsoft Skydrive and I am sure Apple has an equivalent). I am also sure that the iPad will have a viewer that will expertly read a Word or Pages document. Take these principles and apply them as appropriate for your system.
I’m delighted with how my setup works, and I hope it works for you.
The BBC had wiped the TOTP tape from 1973, but the cameraman of the Fish-eye Lens John Henshall kept a copy, and so this gem of a genuinely live performance has resurfaced. I have never heard this version before, even from audio, and believe me, I have everything Bowie. The distinctive riff from Love Me Do creeping in at the end makes it so distinctive. I have been a Bowie Freak since Scary Monsters, used to collect and swap the tapes before the Internet made all of that fandom redundant and what Dave Masters and I havn’t obsessed about Mr DB isn’t worth knowing. I just wish for purity’s sake, Mark Radcliffe wasn’t rabbiting over the opening riff…
Every so often, something new crops up and makes the freaks like me very happy indeed. This is turning into a very good Christmas indeed!
For the past few years I have kept in my shed a guilty secret. Other men go into their sheds to play with railway trains, or to build model aircraft or even whole boats, my fantasy world revolves around the making of good coffee.
eBay provided me with this wonderful vintage full size toy, which was sold by a Whole Food Shop in Canterbury and after a day trip with a parishioner, we brought it back in triumph. Serviced by a professional whose wedding I conducted, I used to go into my shed and turn on this beast of a machine and knock out a few quality espressos. No bean-to-cup, no crema-making Portafilter, just me and my barrista skills at filling, tamping and pulling. Occasionally, I get others to sample with me, and on a number of occasions during Parish events, I have been able to go into full swing, making Lattes and Cappuccinos for the ladies and gentlemen of the parish as they sat in our back garden for a parish Strawberry Tea or Barbecue. It would appear to be from the 1960′s, but if anyone else can identify the history of such a beast, then could they please let me know. I have included above the plate on the front. It must be old, it was still made in Italy… when was the last time that happened?
However, it can’t come with me. There simply isn’t space for it; or to be more accurate, there isn’t space for it with water and power, so effectively there is no room at the new vicarage and the new parish will have to forgo the pleasure of my coffee-making skills. Therefore, with some sadness, I have to put it on eBay to pass onto another coffee lover who wants the challenge of making real coffee with a real machine with a real (if unknown) history. The link to the auction is here. It ends on Friday 4th November 2011 at 3.20pm GMT
I wonder if my new Churchwardens read this blog, and whether they are already planning the installation fresh coffee after Mass at each of the four Churches in our team. Here’s a hint. I certainly hope so. There’s no excuse for rubbish coffee (or Tea – mine’s an Earl Grey with milk, if you’re making) in Church: it is an abomination against both God and Society.
Fr David over at the Vernacular Curate did a Metallica meme, where you answer these questions using song titles by one artist; and so I couldn’t let it pass without pausing (and not for long either) and thinking up some passable submissions for the one true artist, the only true musical obsession that I still have after all these years. Yes, as my friends all know (to their boredom) and casual readers of this blog are about to find out – I have to out myself (once again) as a Bowie Freak.
I have been since Scary Monsters (1980). Dave Masters and I used to use to valuable brain power memorising track listings and timings and collecting obscure concert tapes (which was hard in the 1980s, you can just download the stuff now, we used to copy and share it by with fellow Bowie Freaks across the world via post). We even travelled to Berlin for pete’s sake before 1989 just to see the Wall just because Bowie recorded the three best albums ever there… I have travelled across the country and into Europe for this man. Just don’t ask Lou (my long suffering wife) about my obsession, even after all these years.
So, although there are many other options I could have chosen, this was my first-off-the-bat contribution to this meme:
Pick your Artist - David Bowie
Describe yourself – Cracked Actor (Aladdin Sane, 1973)
How do you feel – Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed (Space Oddity, 1969)
If you could go anywhere, where would you go - StationtoStation (Station to Station, 1976)
Your favourite form of transportation – African Night Flight (Lodger, 1979) or Always Crashing in the Same Car (Low, 1977)
Your best friend is – Andy Worhol (Hunky Dory, 1971)
You and your best friends are – Absolute Beginners (Absolute Beginners OST 1986)
If your life was a TV show, what would it be called – TVC15 (Station to Station, 1976)
What is life to you – Fantastic Voyage (Lodger, 1979)
Your current relationship - I Can’t Explain (Pinups, 1973)
Your fear – I’m afraid of Americans (Earthling, 1997)
What is the best advice you have to give – Let’s Dance (Let’s Dance, 1983)
I would like to die… I know it’s gonna happen some day (Black Tie, White Noise, 1993)
Time of day – In the heat of the Morning (World of David Bowie, 1970)
My motto – God only knows (Tonight, 1984)
Not only does this video demonstrate excellent espresso technique, but it also demonstrates some majorly clever style and editing features.
- The titles are sumptuous, looking like it is shot through a glass pane, so the title becomes a part of the shop setup
- The Black & White looks cool except for the actual espresso coming from the machine and in the cup which is brown. Also the logo on the cup. It’s the same as in the girl in the red coat in Schindler’s List and draws the eye. Beautiful.
For the book I found I had to declare my 10 Desert Island Discs, really quickly. This is a really quick off the top of my head list, so no long introspection. Here goes:
- State of Independence – Donna Summer
- Atmosphere – Joy Division
- Age of Consent – New Order
- Life’s What You Make It – Talk Talk
- Heroes – David Bowie
- Melange – Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
- Sweet Thing – Van Morrison
- Lemon Song – Led Zeppelin
- Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – The Jam
- Reel around the Fountain – the Smiths
I think it’s better to just do this without agonising: after all, which Bowie, U2 or not?. Even an hour after making this list, I am wondering why Magazine’s Rhythm of your Cruelty didn’t make it. Oh, so hard. Oh, so revealing. I bet you can do the same: don’t think about it, or think about what’s cool – after all, why on earth would Donna Summer’s State of Independence make it, over even the original Jon and Vangelis version – no Clash, no Gil Scott-Heron, what on earth is going on here?
Feel free to tell me where I went wrong. I won’t mind, because I am actually quite happy with this list. It sums me up, I believe.
Why? I think there might be a single reason for each one. At least one reason…
- Sheer exhuberance. A major happy time in my life.
- The video. The mood. The long black coat I wore as I got off with some young lady.
- Nursing. Clubs in central London, probably the Mud Club. Dancing.
- Travelling around the country with Dave aged 18 or so in our beat-up Datsun.
- Bowie. Single best Bowie track ever. Berlin. Killing that Datsun. Bowie live at Wembley.
- So intricate. So beautiful. So resolved.
- The most beautiful song ever written, so full of compressed emotion.
- The rudest line in music I can ever think of… Squeeze me baby…
- That bass line. Best lyrics ever: They smelt of pubs, and Wormwood Scrubs, and far too many Right-Wing Meetings
- Fifteen Minutes with you… My life summed up at the time: all teenage angst, half-understood novels and unrequited emotion. Morrisey spoke my language at that time.
This is not a rehash of the manufacturers specs, but a couple of weeks of real-life use of this sub notebook.
Although I use an HP laptop for most of my work, and especially for presentations and displays, a 17″ Notebook is a bit bulky for ferrying around everywhere, and doesn’t comfortably fit in my bag, so I starting hunting for a small sub notebook which I could use for writing, especially in libraries (for that book due in by December won’t write itself, you know), web browsing at cafes (as I manage my diary and email via Google) and having to hand.
This 10″ screen laptop appears to fit the bill. It is 1.3kg in weight, fits snugly in my bag and still leaves room for other things, and whilst not being the most powerful machine in the house, it is certainly adequate: it comes with XP, it runs Office 2007 fine and does a reasonable job of playing BBC iPlayer when connected to the wireless network (at 56Mb/sec) (although full screen wasn’t so hot). The keyboard is fine, and the trackpad and buttons don’t feel clunky. My machine has 1Gb RAM in it and its VIA C7m processor seems up to the job. We won’t be cutting video on it or playing games, but it is good.
It has 3 x USB ports, an SD/MMC slot, VGA and sound in/out. I recorded last week’s sermon directly onto the machine using SoundForge and it was great! This was an unplanned bonus. I also used it to stream audio from my network to the parish BBQ yesterday, which with external speakers was nice.
No software/backup disks supplied but on boot it invites you to “Press F12 for Recovery” so it might just have everything on a special partition: naturally, I havn’t tested that bit yet. The Hard Disk is 80Gb which is pretty impressive, I think, for a machine of this size.
Battery life is great: average 2 hours. Hibernate and Recovery are reasonable (although never as good as Dell’s, but much better than HP) and so you can just close the lid and go.
No DVD drive, but as I always have to hand one or two 16Gb memory sticks, this provides my large scale data access. If I need a drive, I can always attach an external, connect to a shared one over the network or transfer the data to a stick, I suppose.
So, there ae a lot of subnotebooks/netbooks out there at the moment. Few are coming in as cheap as this, especially with Windows. I think this one is a bargain.