Monthly Archives

September 2009

Re-Re-Tune (when the crowd say Bo Selecta?)

Hopefully it won’t have escaped your attention, but Freeview watchers will need to retune your freeview box/TV tomorrow afternoon/evening (Wednesday 30th).

The BBC have put together an excellent overview of what’s happening:-

What’s happening and when?

On Wednesday morning, 30 September, the Freeview service is being updated. Some TV and radio channels will move position. If people don’t retune their equipment they will no longer receive them. The move involves around 25 million Freeview TV sets, set-top boxes and digital recorders, including TopUp TV and BT Vision boxes. It doesn’t affect satellite or cable systems such as Sky or Freesat or cable.

Why is the change needed?

To make channel Five available in half a million more homes and to prepare for high-definition broadcasts.

What happens if I don’t retune?

On the affected channels, you’ll see a message telling you the channel has moved and asking you to retune. Anyone who needs help can find it at or via a telephone helpline – 08456 01 11 22.

Which channels are mainly affected?

Five is moving, and so are ITV3 and ITV4. There will also be a new TV channel called Quest.

Some BBC radio stations will be affected in areas that have already gone through digital switchover. Listeners in the Border TV region, the West country and some parts of Wales will lose these stations unless they retune.

Will some channels disappear altogether?

Around 460,000 homes – which get their TV signals through relay transmitters – will no longer receive ITV3 or ITV4. That means they will lose some European football matches and classic TV dramas such as Cracker and Poirot.

The Community Channel will no longer be available on Freeview in areas that have gone through switchover.

Can all Freeview equipment be retuned?

Around 22,000 older set-top boxes may no longer work.

If you’re not sure how to retune your Freeview, there is an excellent website which has instructions for many devices – its something to make a note of as you should be doing a retune every couple of months to make sure you get the latest channel changes, especially in the run up to Digital Switchover.  And tuning digital equipment is much easier than the days of analogue – its usually a case of selecting an option from the on-screen menu and letting it run through.  Plus, a reminder to Cable and Satellite viewers (including Freesat), you don’t need to retune those set-top boxes.

Ask a Stupid Question….

Get a stupid Answer.   Or maybe not today (September 28th) as today is ‘Ask a Stupid Question Day’.  According to wikipedia "the roots of this special day go back to the 1980s. At the time, there was a movement by teachers to try to get kids to ask more questions in the classroom. The kids would then ask stupid questions to make the teachers happy."

I think this is a brilliant idea designed to get people thinking about crazy problems and perhaps finding a solution, and it should be encouraged. In fact, according to various newspapers, schools are starting to embrace the day and get pupils to think outside the box, perhaps escaping from the conscripted nature of the National Curriculum. 

The telegraph has an excellent list of questions reproduced here.

Q: What’s the opposite of a camel?
A: The opposite of a camel is a soap dish: it has dimples instead of humps and lives in a mostly moist area.

Q: How long would it take to roast a fully grown Indian elephant?
A: An Indian elephant, average weight 5000kg, would take 2916 hours and 40 minutes to roast to perfection (based on 35 minutes a kilogram). You would need an extremely large serving dish.

Q: In Mars Bars, how much taller is Jeremy Clarkson than Tom Cruise?
A: A Mars bar is four inches long. Jeremy Clarkson measures 19.25 Mars Bars (six feet five), while Tom Cruise is 16.75 Mars bars high (five feet seven). That’s a 2.5 Mars bar difference.

Q: How long would it take a snail to slide around the world?
A: 34,519 days at 0.7 miles a day or 0.03 miles per hour, the average speed for a garden snail.

Q: What’s the funniest word in the world?
A: The funniest word in the English language is fartlek (an athletic training regime); other funny words include furphy, pratfall, parp and firkin.

Q: What is the best type of biscuit to make a mattress from?
A: The best type of biscuits to make a mattress from would be fig rolls or strawberry Newtons. They would be soft, but still provide some back support.

Q: I want to write a film script which makes me millions: what should it be about?
A: Based on the top-grossing films, your script should be about a young wizard and a robot looking for a ring on a pirate ship which sinks. Good luck.

Q: In an average lifetime, how much gas will a human expel?
A: The average adult has 14 occurrences of flatulence per day. Total expulsion is about 538ml, making approximately 14,727 litres of gas expelled in a life time.

Q: How long is a piece of string?
A: A piece of string is twice as long as half its length. It is usually shorter than the amount you need to wrap a parcel, but always long enough to tangle.

Q: When will I die?
A: You will die in a freak parachuting accident aged 98. Your memorial service, attended by more than 1,000 of your closest friends, will be at Wembley.

Brilliant!  Have you got any daft questions, or have you been asked any recently?  Why not leave them in the comments below.

Creating a Monopoly…

This may have passed you by, but Monopoly have launched a new free online game called Monopoly City Streets.   This game uses Google Maps and Open Street Map to allow you to buy “real” life streets and build properties on them (all be it virtually). 

You start off with 3 million monopoly dollars,  buy up streets then can build a variety of properties on those streets.  The bigger the property, the more expensive it is to build, but the more rent you get back from it.  Additionally, you get random chance cards, some good (such as allowing you to to build protective ‘stadiums’ or ‘parks’) and bad (such as getting fined for not getting planning permission). You can also interfere with other peoples games, such as building a hazard (which cancels any rent on that road) or demolishing one of their buildings.  If you fancy it, you can make offers on other peoples streets and properties.

Its a great game which suffered from oversubscription to start with causing the servers to overload, but this has now been sorted after a reset and is ticking along nicely.  Its great fun playing an MMORPG based around Monopoly and Id recommend anyone to try it.

Its accessible at but it may not be accessible from your work computer – try it at home!

Open Sauce (and how to get there)…

OK, so I’ve blogged about it before, but I wanted to talk about an Open Source development called OpenStreetMap. This is an Open software development using user generated mapping information to generate GIS data. 

So why the need for this, when TomTom, Google Earth et al all do an excellent job of providing mapping information.  Well, the simple reason is that companies own the copyright to their mapping data and information, meaning that if you want to use it, you have to pay a (some times hefty) licence for the privilege.  Alternatively, you COULD rip the information off one of these providers, but the chances are you’ll get caught.  Even a respected company like the AA has fallen into this trap, copying Ordinance Survey maps and reselling them as their own work.  You would think that a map is a map and its impossible to tell what’s been copied, but mapping companies are clever – they add subtle details into maps which won’t affect their day to day use, but act as markers to highlight plagiarists. For example, they’ll add a small fake road at the end of a street, where only terrace houses exist.  Or, they’ll add a kink in a road that doesn’t exist – it doesn’t affect the general use, but unless you go there and map the information yourself, you’d never know it wasn’t really like that.

So OpenStreetMap is designed to be the wikipedia of maps – people go out into their community, collect mapping data (using GPS logs, photo’s and notes) and then converting this into a digital map available to the community under a creative commons licence.  The process of generating a map is

1) Go out and get the data – Use a GPS to log your position, make notes of street names,  any points of interest along the way (such as pubs, post boxes and the like) and perhaps even photo’s of the area.

2) Map the data – Import your GPS track logs,  convert this into mapping data such as streets, street names, speed limits and the like.

3) Publish your work – Send the data to the OpenStreetMap server for use in the map.

If you visit and have a look around, you’ll notice that many Urban area’s of the UK are reasonably well mapped.  This is the case of my local area, apart from the side streets in my neighbourhood.  I’ve already added a couple of streets to see how reasonably easy it is, and now I’ve got the bug to start gathering and updating more data.  One useful feature of the service being opened is that you can make changes where you spot a mistake on the map – so for example, if you spot a speed limit has changed, whilst it might take TomTom 18months+ to update the map,  you can make the change there and then, and then that will be available to all.  Id highly recommend anyone with a GIS, mapping, geographical or community interest to get involved and expand the quality of the data – why not have a mapping party and get loads of people involved – all you need is a GPS logging device (many phones are now capable of this), somewhere to record notes, and a bit of patience actually map your area.