bookmark_borderNews Corp

As a former employee of Collins Dictionaries, which is part of HarperCollins, which is part of News Corp, which owns News International, I’m obviously paying close attention to the unravelling phone-hacking scandal.

Of course I don’t have any inside information – Collins was organisationally too far removed from News International – but it is interesting to see how ruthless Murdoch can be when his interests are threatened. Even if the situation of News of the World had become untenable, one would have thought it would have been better to sell it off rather than shutting it down on the spot.

What will happen now? Will Murdoch get rid of all of News International, as people are hinting today? Perhaps he’ll even chuck in HarperCollins for good measure? Can Murdoch and his kids retain their position within News Corp? It seems News Corp has lost $3.4 billion in market capitalisation today – the big shareholders won’t tolerate that for very long.

It seems more and more likely that all of News International is contaminated, but what about other British newspapers, and what about News Corp’s American titles?

It will be interesting to follow over the next few weeks. I’m just happy I’m not a News Corp employee any more, or I would be lying awake at night wondering whether my job would disappear overnight in the same way as News of the World.

bookmark_borderBye Sky!

Home: Satellite Dish
Originally uploaded by pigpogm

When we lived in Rose Street, we had just the normal terrestrial TV channels. However, when we moved to Newton Mearns three and a half years ago, we decided to get Sky to please the kids. We didn’t get Sky Movies or Sky Sports, but we still paid £23.50 a month on top of the TV license.

However, the penny finally dropped last month that we were paying £23.50 for just a few channels more than what is freely available through FreeSat, and that our old Sky satellite dish was perfect for FreeSat reception.

So last week we bought a Humax Foxsat HDR 500GB Freesat HD Satellite Receiver and Digital TV Recorder, and it works beautifully.

It gives us a few channels in HD (which we didn’t have before), a bigger harddisk for recording programmes, and a more modern menu system.

We’re just wishing we had ditched Sky years ago!

bookmark_borderThey were lucky Italy didn’t win

The European Broadcasting Union have just released the details of the voting split of the recent Eurovision contest.

On their website, it’s just numbers, so I’ve made a pretty graph to illustrate the difference between the juries’ opinions and how people voted in their living rooms:

It is clear that they were very lucky Azerbaijan won, given that it was the popular winner, too.

If Italy had won, there would have been an uproar today – after all, ten other songs were more popular in the televoting process, so the Italian song really wasn’t the people’s favourite (although I rather liked it).

I wonder whether they’ll continue releasing the voting splits, or whether they’ll stop as soon as the popular winner loses because of the juries.

bookmark_borderHelp!!! How hard can it be to get better sound from a standard TV?

Our TV
Originally uploaded by viralbus

Last month, we finally decided to get rid of the enormous 50″ telly that Phyllis had got in her divorce (and which had replaced my old 14″ one), on the grounds that it was far too big for our TV room, which meant that there was hardly any space left for furniture, which can be a problem when there are seven of us living here.

Given that neither Phyllis nor I are TV people (we tend to watch one hour a week, plus perhaps a film when the big kids are away), we didn’t want to waste money on this, so we bought a 32″ LCD TV by Technika at £300, and to splash out a bit and please the kids we also bought a £50 Blu-ray player.

We got almost £90 for the old TV on eBay, and everything is fine – the room now has space for six adults instead of four, and the picture is much better than before.

However, the built-in speakers aren’t great, and good Blu-ray movies really suffer a bit from this.

In an ideal world, I’d buy an AV receiver (with prices starting at £140) plus speakers, but it’s simply ludicrous to pay almost as much for the sound as for the TV itself, and there are many other things we’d rather spend that much money on (money tends just to disappear into thin air when you’ve got five kids!).

The TV has a coax audio out thingy, so I’ve been trying to find some speakers that could be attached to this, but although some of them look like they just might work (such as the Logitech Z506), none of them state unequivocally that will take coax audio signals from a TV and do the rest.

I’ve also become a bit worried after reading this: “Due to copyright laws, it is not possible to output video/sound from the TV on certain sources, i.e. HDMi, DVD etc. If you want to have surround sound while watching a DVD, you will need to purchase a ‘home cinema’ style DVD player with its own surround sound system.” Can this really be true? Our Blu-ray player also seems to have a coax output, but would systems such as the Logitech one accept two distinct coax inputs?

I’m really not an audio person, and I’m getting awfully confused.

All I want is to get slightly better sound (preferably surround sound, but just stereo would do me) from my TV, especially when watching films on the Blu-ray player, but also when playing games on the Xbox and watching stuff on Sky, and I don’t want to pay much more than £50.

Is this really impossible?

Also, why are Tesco selling £20 5.1 surround speakers if there is no way to connect them to a TV of the same brand?!?

bookmark_borderFrom 8 mm film to YouTube

My maternal grandfather, Otto Nielsen, was a keen photographer, and he also recorded the family on 8 mm film from 1973 till around 1978, when he had to stop due to illness.

As an example, here is a brief recording from my first birthday (which is quite appropriate, given that my youngest daughter will be one tomorrow):

However, going from the original film strip to YouTube has not been all that straightforward.

After his death, his 8 mm films were lying around in a drawer in my grandmother’s flat, mixed up with some films he must have bought at some point.

After quite a few years, my grandmother finally got round to viewing them all with a view to throwing away the ones he hadn’t made himself, and she took the remaining ones up to a shop where they converted them to VHS, added some easy-listening music and discarded the original films.

This week I then bought a kit to connect our VHS recorder to my Windows 7 computer, which creates an MPEG file.

I then loaded this file into iMovie on my Mac (which was a bit tricky, because iMovie won’t admit that it likes MPEG, so I had to create a MP_ROOT folder at the root level of my USB key and create a folder called “101PNV01” inside this folder and put my MPEG files inside this [thanks!]).

From then on, it was easy – iMovie is great for editing films and putting them onto YouTube.

My only remaining problem is what to do about a church service starring my mum which was broadcast back in 1982: I have it on VHS, too, but the video capture software on my PC claims it’s copy-protected and stops after five seconds. 🙁

bookmark_borderAnimerede robotter reciterer dansk poesi

For et års tid siden legede jeg lidt med et website, Xtranormal, der lader en lave små animerede videoer med syntetisk tale.

Jeg lavede to små film, hvor robotter reciterer to danske klassikere, Smeden og Bageren og Guldhornene.

Desværre var dansk talesyntese ikke tilgængelig, så jeg brugte tysk til den første og italiensk til den sidste.

Her er først Wessels Smeden og Bageren:

Og her er Oehlenschlägers Guldhornene: