SqueezeBox on a budget

The SqueezeBox series of devices from Logitech has got to be one of the best media streamer ranges out there. Not long after I moved into my flat I bought a SqueezeBox Boom and it is awesome. Fantastic audio quality with an almost impossible amount of bass from a small single-unit stereo now sat next to my bed.

The downside to the SqueezeBox devices is that the quality comes at a price, one which is impossible to justify at the moment. However, it happened that the following year O2 were having a fire sale of their Joggler device. I snapped one up for the bargain amount of £50 with the intention of using it as a home automation controller.

Well, the automation dream also comes at an even less justifiable cost and so the Joggler has been sitting idle in a drawer waiting for a project to bring it back to life. Thanks to the UKHA mailing list it now has a purpose. My Joggler has been reborn as a budget SqueezePlayer having followed some really easy steps.

With it connected to my surround amp, I can now stream music from my existing SqueezeBox Server and even control it remotely with a web browser. One less bit of idle kit, one new feature, and at £100 less than it would otherwise cost.

The Joggler is a popular device for customising, and there are Ubuntu builds available for it (rather than the onboard O2 OS). If you want to play with one, they are no longer available for sale from O2, so you will need to look on eBay or similar.

KillerLight v2 is here!

Yep, after far too much procrastination, the successor to my first WordPress theme is here.

It has taken a week of evenings to convert it from a layered Photoshop design into HTML and CSS. The previous version of KillerLight was based on the code of the K2 theme, and ended up being heavily customised. This time around, version 2 is based upon Thematic and very little in the way of HTML changes has been made – just a few more wrapping divs here and there. This should lead to a very robust theme.

Gone is the animated header background, at least in this version. It caused far too many complaints and confusion, although I still think the idea is sound provided the animation is subtle.

I’m going to submit the theme to WordPress.org’s themes directory soon, and once approved (fingers crossed) it should be easy for people to find and install into their WordPress v3 site.

More information can be found on the Idea Cog website, where information about the theme is being hosted.

EDIT: Until the theme is available on wordpress.org, you can find a download link on this post.

‘Tis the season for gingerbread

Last year in the run up to Christmas, I found the best gingerbread I had ever tasted, being sold by bakery chain Cooks. I liked it so much that I bought a batch for everyone at work to enjoy. Unfortunately there wasn’t any of the same this year, so I decided to give it a go myself.

The key to trying to match those sold by Cooks was going to be the mix of spices – their dough didn’t contain just ginger – and baked consistency, as they were nice and soft. Continue reading “‘Tis the season for gingerbread”

Foresight: Screencasts

I’ve been busy over the last few days doing some more work on documenting Foresight. I’ve chosen to do this in the form of screencasts, which I think allow for an accelerated learning experience when dealing with new software. The videos I’ve produced so far are below.


The Interface

Project Planning


Hopefuly at some point I’ll find the time to update the Idea Cog website with these videos.

Idea Cog business cards

I decided the weekend before last that I can’t continue trying to promote Foresight without having some business cards to give to potential customers. Given that I’m trying to get the software known on a budget of effectively zero, word-of-mouth and hand-to-hand promotion is forming a key part of my initial strategy.

Designing stuff is always fun, but designing a business card is also difficult. It’s something that will give a lasting impression within seconds of it being presented, must contain lots of information in an attractive manner, and most importantly of all it must be correct! Unlike digital media that I work with on a daily basis, in print the ink has a tendancy to be permenantly etched into the paper stock.

I decided to keep my cards quite simple, but also made them serve a dual purpose. Not only do my cards have the name of the business and my contact details, but they also remind the recipient of what my flagship product is and what it’s about.

I also decided to only include online contact details – email address and website URL. These are certainly sufficient for most people’s needs. I didn’t include a phone number because for one I don’t currently have a dedicated business line (I’m working on that at the moment), but also I have a day job that I plan on keeping for the forseeable future and so wouldn’t be around to answer it anyway.

I ordered the cards from moo.com, having found them through Top CashBack (see my earlier post for details). They have a brilliantly designed site, with a well-built submission process. They also have order tracking so I was always able to check on my order.

The cards arrived today, 3 days ahead of the estimated delivery date. I’m really pleased with them, and the card they are printed on gives a real feeling of quality – all important when trying to promote one’s wares. They aren’t cheap though, at £10 + P&P for 50 cards. Those cards will very quickly disappear with my initial upcoming ‘friends & family’ marketing/awareness campaign.

Look after the pennies…

“In the current economic climate” it is important to watch your finances closely. Until recently I’ve been very skeptical of link aggregation sites and affiliate schemes but after a recommendation, and feeling the pinch, I signed up to Top CashBack to see if it was for real.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, cashback sites like this act as affiliates – directly or indirectly through affiliate networks – for online retailers and service providers. When you use the site to browse to these online merchants, any purchases you make are tagged as having come from the cashback site. The companies then pay a percentage or fixed amount to the referring site. Instead of pocketing the money for themselves, they give it back to you.

So far I’ve raised a few pence shy of £150 over a period of maybe a year. The things I’ve purchased are things I would have bought anyway, so I’ve only gained – just have to remember to go to the cashback site first. The larger cashbacks tend to be with insurance and utilities, so when it comes time for me to renew I’ll be looking out for the best combination of cashback and price. I’m hoping I’ll pass £200 before the end of the year.

It takes time for the money to become payable to you, but you can track the progress of your transactions and raise queries manually if something doesn’t track. The time to payment depends entirely on the retailer you’re purchasing from.

This site in particular is a good place to find offers and discount codes, and there is a very active forum community (although I don’t use that feature much).

It’s entirely free to use – no fees at all, and at the moment you get 101% of the cashback you earn (normally 100%). You can also invite friends and family, and receive a fixed bonus for each person who signs up. You can help me out by signing up through my referral URL of http://www.topcashback.co.uk/ref/killswtch and in turn I will have helped you by pointing you to this valuable resource 🙂