My old Draytek 2800G router is on the way out, – it struggles to make it more than a couple of hours without resetting itself, even after reflashing the firmware. As a result, I’ve ordered one of Billion‘s new 7800N series devices to replace it. I did look at the current Draytek device (the Vigor 2820n) but it didn’t quite meet my needs, which were:

  1. 802.11n wireless
  2. Gigabit switch
  3. Built-in ADSL modem

The Draytek 2820n for some reason has only a single gigabit Ethernet port, which – seeing as I’m fairly often transferring pretty large files around – isn’t entirely helpful. The fact that the 2820n is pretty near twice the price of the Billion 7800n also was a point against it. Yes, I know the Draytek has a number of other features, such as VPNs that the Billion omits, but in my experience unless you’re working with lots of other sites using Draytek kit, it can be a pain to get things talking to each other.

In an ideal world, the new router would also support the 802.11n 5GHz standard, but as with anything technological you’ll end up waiting forever for the perfect product!

The 7800N actually arrived at work today, but since I’ve been recovering from ferry induced sleep-loss, I’ll be collecting it tomorrow. It’s actually only just been launched in the UK, so there seem to be very few reports on using it with UK ADSL connections, so I’ll put some notes up here in a few days.

Last night was great, – was at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, London for an evening concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Semyon Bychkov). It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and although the first item in the programme (the UK première of Detlev Glanert’s “Shoreless River”) may not have been to everyone’s taste, personally I found it pretty interesting. It’s apparently a taste of the kind of music to expect from his next opera.

Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was brilliantly performed by Denis Matsuev, although I think pretty much the whole audience was a little surprised that he didn’t have an encore (possibly the length of the concert ruled that out anyway).

The second half performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 “The Year 1905” was really the main event of the evening and sitting where we were -directly behind the first violins- mean that even if the sound wasn’t entirely balanced, we did feel very involved with the music. During the finale, the score calls for bells to be rung, and usually that means tubular bells, however last night the BBC Symphony Orchestra used actual, full-size bells, which looked as if they’d previously been in some church tower! They sounded very impressive, even if at the end it required the efforts of three percussionists in order to dampen them!

Pretty much the only downside to the day was the ferry home. We’d already discovered that there was no midnight sailing, so took our time getting down the A3 for the 1am boat. Upon arrival it turned out that the 1am was actually going to be the 1.45am, due to unspecified ‘operational reasons’. I think it was pretty much 3am by the time we made it to Brighstone.

Well, the new Christ the King College has been open for the past two days, and I’ve just about survived!

Monday was the last chance to get things done with no staff around (save for a few admin personnel who were very understanding when things temporarily fell over). Tuesday and Wednesday were spent in a whirlwind of last minute tweaks and fixes, along with my having to give a 45 minute presentation to the entire staff on the new network. When it reached 10pm on Tuesday I gave up on the idea of planning the talk, and somehow I managed to fit the whole thing into exactly the time-slot provided (even allowing a few minutes for questions!).

It’s been almost like old times, as I’ve spent pretty much the whole of the week at the College – leaving Luke to run around like a lunatic visiting all the other schools with the usual ‘new term problems’. With a bit of luck things will return to normality (whatever that may be) next week.

The official opening of the College is later in September and is likely to involve some interesting ceremonies (or so I’ve heard).

I pity the folk at the Bestival this weekend as the roads themselves were wet enough this evening, – I dread to think what state the fields at Robin Hill are in!

Not in the bad way either – the IWSO concert was completely sold-out on Saturday, and went really well. Especially important from my perspective was the complete absence of any collapsing percussion instruments! Even the tubular bells, the stand for which had lain at the back of a cupboard for many years, stood up to the hammering (please excuse the bad pun).

It was a long concert, the finish made later for the percussion section due to the sheer amount of kit we had to dismantle and stow in various cupboards, cars and vans; but I think we all enjoyed it.

Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra Advert

It’s the last Symphony Orchestra concert of the current season next Saturday (12th July), – and it’s going to be a good one.

I don’t think the rest of the orchestra realise just how much space the percussion section is going to take up, – here’s just the largest of the instruments we’ll be playing:

  • Pedal Timpani (not sure if there’ll be 3 or 4, but they’re pretty large anyway)
  • Xylophone
  • Vibraphone
  • Marimba
  • Bass Drum
  • Tubular Bells
  • Drum Kit

In addition to those, there’ll be a wide assortment of other drums (Congas, Bongos etc.), Cymbals and miscellaneous auxiliary instruments (including a bird whistle!).

After having waited for ages, I finally bought the bits to make a proper media centre PC. I went for an Antec Fusion case, an AMD 4450e CPU, 4GB DDR800 RAM, a 750GB WD Green Power hard drive, a Scythe Mini-Ninja cooler and the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard.

The hardware assembly was actually the easy part (aside from a slight omission in the manual regarding the front panel connectors). I’d decided to go with Mythbuntu (based on the recently released Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron) and the initial install actually went pretty smoothly – some people had experienced issues with the AHCI mode for the SATA ports, but once I was on BIOS revision F4 everything seemed to be ok.

My main gripe is that Mythbuntu (currently) doesn’t make it easy enough to do what I actually want – I love tinkering with Linux as much as the next geek, but I want my media centre to just work, – I’m sure the display issues would probably be sorted if I bought an Nvidia card, and that the myriad other small niggles are solvable, but that’s not the point.

At this time I’m backing up my media, and am about to install a trial of Windows Vista – but if I do go with that, I’m going to run a Ubuntu server in a virtual machine.

Path up to the LongstoneFinally, – we’ve had some proper Spring weather, so it was a chance to go to Mottistone and look at the Bluebells. (And also to see if my N95’s GPS linked camera would play nicely – which it did!).

Also discovered that Gorse bushes appear to smell of Coconut!

PorgyI’ve updated The Wight One to be Widget capable, – surprisingly easy thing to do. The main reason for doing it was so that I could make use of the ReadySetFlickr plugin in order to display images from my Flickr account. Once I’m happy that the theme’s working (and when I’ve finally added the CSS for comments) I’ll package it up nicely and make it available for download.

After having tweaked the layout and CSS a little more, Porgy (on the right) no longer breaks things.

If anyone’s after a meal in the West Wight, I can recommend the re-vamped Three Bishops in Brighstone – I’m just off there now. (1)

The IWSO concert at the weekend went pretty well in the end, – despite the fact that we were unable to perform Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 that we’d prepared (we’re still trying to work out exactly what happened with that one). Chiao-Ying Chang, the pianist instead performed a Liszt piano sonata, which was very well played, even if it wasn’t my favourite piece in the world.

I’m actually slightly relieved that we didn’t do the Concerto, since I wasn’t feeling too well anyway, and the triangle part’s a bit of a pain (I know it sounds daft, but it’s true). I’m blaming Luke for the latest round of illness at work, since he started it…

Work continues on the new theme for this site, but with the IW Cantata Choir concert on Saturday, and rehearsals of one sort or another most evenings this week it’ll be a while before anything much happens.