Posted on December 31, 2011.

This holiday season is the first time I've had some time off since last Easter - one way and another, I just never got around to taking time off. This seemed like a reasonable idea at the time, but towards the end of this year it revealed itself to be a terrible mistake. Still, I made it through with most of my sanity in check, so that's an achievement, at least.

Dreamcast

My annual summer project is to try and get my Dreamcast online. Without a summer break this year, it never happened. I've devoted a small amount of time to it over the Christmas holiday, and - as always - not made much progress. My inching-forward this year was only to confirm that my modem requires a Line-Voltage inducer or equivalent for the DC-PC server to work.

What I did discover during my yearly trawl of haunts-past was that the Dreamcast can now read SD cards and someone is making enormous strides in getting rid of the GDROM drive entirely. Both of these projects interest me, as transporting the thick jewel Dreamcast cases is a huge pain if you don't want them getting damaged. Sadly, many of mine already are, and I want to prevent further heartbreak. I'll be watching these projects with interest, and they could compel me to get a VGA cable and move my Dreamcast to Cambridge in the near future...

Last FM

I decided I needed (yet another) project to tinker with, and so started improving a proof of concept HTML5 last.fm player that got posted at the Last.fm forums. I forked it after the original author put it on GitHub and made it scrobble and login, which were the two big things that the proof-of-concept didn't do. I got a gift of a month's premium use of Last.fm from the original creator, pleasingly. I've agreed to collaborate on further improvements, but I can see time slipping away from me in the near future as the screws really tighten during the third year of my Ph.D....

Another project that was really just an extension of an existing project was a Tumblr to automatically post CAD comics with the CAD Rule applied. It was only an hour or two of coding, and now that I've made it a cronjob it should just post away whenever a new CAD is posted. I fully expect to have to debug it a couple of times now that it is 'in the field', of course.

Books.fm

Christmas spawned a Kindle, which I have been enjoying using since I opened it under the tree. I was struck almost immediately by the idea that there should be a last.fm-esqe service for books. Naturally, I am not even close to the first to realise that this should be a service, but it is interesting to note that there still doesn't seem to be such a product. Even something simple like integration with Goodreads seems like it's a long way away. This boggles the mind.

Amazon is collecting (we presume) all this useful data (i.e. their Whispersync logs), which no-one else has collected before. The fact that they are not doing anything with it seems neglectful at best and offensive at worst. They even already have the 'other people bought' algorithm. How hard can it be?

Nizlopi

Nizlopi reunited for a four song set for charity. Naturally, upon receiving the email from the old fan mailing list, I had bought a ticket within minutes. I resolved when Nizlopi was still together to never turn down a chance to see them, and it looked like it was going to be a thoroughly enjoyable evening with a large variety of performers on show.

When the day got there rather early, and was greeted by three other people who had started the queue - all to see Nizlopi. Coincidentally, two were from Cambridge - a ten-year-old and his mother. The former was a huge Nizlopi fan, but had never seen them live and was, understandably, excited. I'd been to the Union Chapel before, so I knew what to expect from the venue, but the lineup blew me away. I encountered three or four new artists that I will be keeping an eye out for (one of which was Jamie Lawson, who memorably offered no banter before delivering Wasn't Expecting That in a heartfelt manner.

Nizlopi were everything I had remembered, and more. It is a real shame that they're probably not getting back together, but they hung around after the show so that people could talk to them; some had come from as far as Boston and Montreal to see them! The ten-year-old Cambridge-based friend I had made could barely talk to begin with, and his mother showed Nizlopi his book of Nizlopi songs, where he had written out the lyrics to the songs he liked. JP and Luke both signed it, and spoke to him about music; when he mentioned that he was learning the guitar, Luke handed him his and asked him to play them something. He fumbled around for a bit, lost on the frets in all his excitement, before playing 'Girls'. I honestly think it made his year.

Hardware

I've had some reasonable successes with fixing things in the last few months - of note, I permanently (I hope) repaired a free flatscreen monitor I acquired for free using only a couple of capacitors. Secondly, I repaired an Xbox 360 that was suffering from the dreaded RROD - but sadly this was only a temporary fix, and it has since started freezing. This is a problem that seems to require significant work to fix. Somewhat frustrating after spending money on VGA cables and so forth, but part of the risk associated with such project, admittedly.

We have also made some further progress on the ever-ongoing Dalek, which looks better and better every time we go to see it. My work on it goes in fits and starts, mostly as we keep changing bits around (oh yes, we'll use the Velleman K8055. Oh, no, an Arduino might be better), which is entirely our own fault - but it's always frustrating to sideline code that will probably never be used.

Roll on 2012...