Archive for November, 2005

Rheola in the snow

Picture of someone riding the final jump at Rheola. Picture blatantly stolen from Blimey, that was cold.

Saturday 26th November 2005: Myself, Anton, Flash, G-Dog, Rob and Stubacca drove up to Rheola, in the Vale of Neath, South Wales, for a bit of Dragon Downhill uplift day action.

After about ten minutes stood on the back of a truck, chugging it’s way up a snow-covered fire road, you get to ride down the track – and it’s epic. The first third is awesome – the closest thing I’ve found to the alpine courses. Fast, wet, rocky and very very good fun. We finished that section by blatting out onto snow-covered fire road, before diving into a completely bonkers chute-of-doom. From there on down it was tight, deeply rutted singletrack to the bottom – with the occasional “North Shore” interruption.

It started off being quite rideable, but by the time we got a couple of runs in the track was getting really proper mental. Bikes and riders were completely unrecognisable by the bottom – coated from helmet to tyres in a thick layer of the local mud. I’m told that I looked like the “Wild man of Borneo” by the end of the day. That didn’t stop it being bloody great fun though.

I had a series of absolutely comical crashes – none of which hurt (at the time), which was nice. There was the headfirst dive down the chute, the getting high-sided by the bike wedging itself in a rut, falling off and sliding backwards into a ditch (in front of the photographer girlie), not to mention the one where I rode off, failed to grab the handlebars properly and ran straight into a tree. Wonderful.

I also ended up on a pretty exclusive uplift truck at one point. This lot will mean nothing to those of you who don’t follow the sport, but I was stood alongside Brendan Fairclough (they Royal Racing rider who was second in the World Champs), Rowan Sorrell (of Mojo fame), Steve Jones (Dirt Magazine) and a load of others who I recognised but couldn’t name. Oh and me, who in comparison can’t ride for toffee. This lot could probably ride a shopping trolley down that track faster than I could on my bike. Proper bonkers quick.

Big thanks to Anton for the lift up there, Alex Burwood (I think?) for letting me have his place on the uplift, G-Dog for taking my bike up there and back, Jason Carpenter and the Dragon Downhill crew for organising it and Maccy-D’s for feeding me at the end of it all. I might have left your bathroom a teensy little bit muddy – sorry about that.


Looks like there’s a new media player riding on into town. So what? There’s millions of perfectly good ones around. Well, Songbird has a few tricks up it’s sleeve.

  • It’s creators have previously worked on Winamp 5 and Yahoo’s Y! Music Engine.
  • It’s user interface appears to be that of iTunes – but on steroids. I’m not sure how good this is – iTunes has a very clean interface, whereas this one looks a bit cluttered and dark.
  • It’s based on the same core technologies as Firefox and Thunderbird (XUL and CSS), meaning that if you don’t really like the front end, you can probably come up with a new skin for it.
  • The same software runs on Windows, MacOS and Linux, which is always nice.
  • It’s got that mysterious ‘Devices’ menu, which leads me to think they’ll have some support for portable hardware. Which ones exactly remains to be seen.

My main hope is that they support just about every audio and video codec known to man. For me, iTunes’ major flaw is it’s inability to natively handle much in the way of non-Apple audio and video formats. Don’t want much, do I? Anyway, it’s one to watch…

Sony Network Walkman

I want a music player with a gert big hard drive in it again. I’ve seen the adverts for the new Sony Walkman and really really want one. Or at least I did.

You see, I wandered over to Amazon to see how much they are. Not a lot more than an iPod Nano and 16gb bigger! It looks ace!

Then I started reading the user reviews. Everybody seems to think the player itself is fantastic – which is no surprise. Sony have traditionally been the daddies when it comes to portable music hardware.

Unfortunately, it would seem that software is not their strong point. Phrases like “the Connect software does its best to wreck your PC and prevents you loading any more than a handful of albums” kept popping up. I googled around for some more reviews and the same thing comes up over and over again. One review summed it up:

“It’s the broken software that lets this product down, not the player – it’s such a shame that Sony haven’t been able to get it right. They’ve put so much effort into getting a great MP3 player out for Christmas – and they’ve forgotten to finish the software.”

Bah humbug.

Blimey, I’d forgotten about that

I was self-googling earlier, just to see to myriad places in which I appear these days. It’s amazing what you can dig up doing that.

Years ago, back when I used to work in the CBT industry, I spent a lot of time copying and pasting graphics things in and out of Photoshop. You know, things like For this diagram, turn on layers 1,3,6,17 and 20, then when use user clicks the button, turn on layers 2, 5, 6, 14 and 21. Eventually I tired of this and put together a series of Photoshop actions to make these things easier. Turn on the layers you need, click the button and you’ve got a finished graphic to put into your multimedia thingy – that sort of thing.

The thing is, I had entirely forgotten that I’d even made this thing, let alone that I’d uploaded somewhere. So as you can imagine, it was quite a surprise when I found that it’s still floating around in the Adobe Studio Exchange. What’s more, 3365 people have downloaded it over the years. Bonkers. I’ve no idea if it even works with a modern version of Photoshop.

OK, so it’s not that amazing.

A slightly chilly commute

It’s really bloody cold out there! By the time I got home my gloves were icing up and my face was beginning to go numb. It’s only a couple of miles!

What’s more I had to ride most of it on the pavement thanks to thick fog rendering me nearly invisible. I tried riding in the road but one or two cars passed me so close that they clearly weren’t aware of my existence. HELLOOO! THERE’S A BIG FLASHING RED LIGHT AND LOADS OF REFLECTIVE BITS ALL OVER ME! Fools. The thing is, when the fog’s like that, you can’t really see oncoming pedestrians or gert big kerbs, which makes things interesting. Still, I got back alive and without killing or even slightly maiming anybody. In these conditions that’s a result.

Right, the remainder of my apple crumble awaits me. Must dash…

All these things rock:

  • My Orange 222. Stable, planted, fast, FUN! Oh, and removing the brake-arm didn’t appear to make any difference to the ride. One afternoon’s riding without it isn’t exactly an extensive test, I know…
  • Topshelf Components. I ordered a custom built new wheel, and found it waiting on the doorstep the following day. Fantastic service. The Aireal stuff they sell is pretty damn good aswell.
  • G-Dog’s new trails. Funtastic aceness – except for that drop. It’s just plain silly.
  • Falling off your bike and not hurting yourself.
  • Fog. It made Cheltenham disappear entirely, which looked cool from the top of the hill.
  • The current albums by Maximo Park, Hard-Fi and Bloc Party, not to mention some older ones by Everlast, Haven and The Black Keys.
  • Apple crumble and custard. In fact, I think I deserve another portion…


Loads of congratumalations to Mike and Sandra on the birth of Isla Rose Davis!

They’re a funny old bunch, Sony.

On the one hand they’re a bunch of idiots, whose copy-protected music CDs can leave your computer open to virus attack. OK, I’m sensationalising, but that surely is a sign of a company that just doesn’t get it. It’s like they believe that if they don’t install something really nasty on the CD, the consumer is just bound to pirate it. Meanwhile, illegal copies of the CDs appear through the usual channels within hours of release – as per usual. This sort of thing just doesn’t work Sony – it’s only ever going to generate you bad P.R.

On the other hand, they produce some absolutely fantastic hardware and commission some wonderful adverts [thanks Eeen] in which to showcase it.

Go figure.

Update: It gets worse for Sony

Brilliant: It would appear that Sony’s copyright protection software is itself in breach of copyright [thanks Andy]. They’re really thought this one though, haven’t they?