I’ve tried to avoid buying a Sonos Multi-Room Music System ever since I first read about them back in 2005 but in March I finally succumbed and I haven’t regretted it for a second.

I have our music library on a LaCie NAS, which has a Twonky DLNA server onboard, but either it isn’t very good or the devices I attached never really got on with it. Those devices included the PlayStation 3, a Philips Streamium and a Pure network radio. Even when they did work, choosing what to play was never completely satisfactory – either a single track, a single album or a “genre”.

ZonePlayer 90

On a recent visit to Alf & Anne’s we saw Alf’s latest HiFi extravagance – a whole bunch of Sonos kit. Within 5 minutes we had queued up a selection of tunes ready to play from his library on the CR100 controller. I connected my netbook to his WiFi, downloaded the Sonos Windows Controller, and could add more music through that. Wen liked it too!

Some web research and advice from Alf showed that I needed a ZP90 to connect to the AV receiver in the living room and the network (there was already an Ethernet hub behind the TV); and an S5 with a cheap (as now obsolete) CR100 controller for the kitchen/dining room (sitting in the hatch where the, frankly shoddy, Pure Digital Evoke flow then was).

ZonePlayer S5

That was Sunday. I ordered the kit on Monday from Simply Sonos and it arrived on Tuesday. Sadly, the S5 was a little too big to perch in the hatch, so when the kitchen renovation was finished we moved it to the top of the ‘fridge and I had to order another (black) S5 for the dining room. That was just three weeks later.

It works superbly. It plays all the CDs we had ripped to MP3 directly from the Samba share on the LaCie. It does this so successfully that we have removed the CD player and speakers from the living room so that all the music now comes from the ZP90 via the AV system  – which also has the record deck connected to it. (Oh yes, there’s still room for vinyl, and the line-in on the ZP90 means that LPs and 45s can be streamed around the house as well.) I’m also in the process of ripping the remaining CDs so that they can all be stored somewhere else.

We’ve listened to much more music since we got the Sonos – sometimes even in preference to randomly turning on the TV. There are thousands of internet radio stations: the alarm function plays Radio 1 in the mornings (slightly later on Fridays) and we listened to Robyn on WUSC. There is Last FM if you want to hear music similar to bands you like and for Scrobbling (you can see the last 10 tracks we played under Listen at the right). A subscription to Spotify would get you almost unlimited streaming music. I also bought my first digital-only album, although I’m not committed to that.

ZonePlayer S5

I even used the Sonos as an excuse to get an iPad 2. The Sonos controller app looks really good on the iPad, and is easier to use than the PC application.

Sonos have recently launched the Play:3, a (slightly) cheaper 3 speaker player, and I’m fairly sure it will soon replace the stereo in the bedroom which has a dodgy CD player, a single alarm and a clock which loses a minute a day.

To quote Ferris: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”


My new favourite word, as it describes a phenomenon which happens to me all the time: the coincidence of learning something new (usually a word) and then almost immediately noticing it turning up in the book you were already reading, a radio programme you listen to every day, etc.

It was coined by Aldiboronti, a member of the discussion group:

It is a play on serendipity, as Serendip is an old name for Sri Lanka. For this concept, Aldi chose another Indian Ocean island as the namesake.

I don’t know how widely accepted it is, but I hope to promulgate it by using it as often as possible.

Willingham Life

Further embedding myself in Cameron’s BS, I am now on the editorial team of the Willingham Life website, nominally in charge of the photographic content.

I noted that a Facebook page might generate some traffic. The silence that followed seemed to indicate that I had volunteered (again), so here’s the first fruits of that labour:

(As if linking to it here will generate traffic! Ha, the ego-maniacal nature of talking to yourself in an empty, echoing box.)

Quote from Jane Benson

Jane Benson was Douglas Adams’ wife.

There was an interview on Today this morning about the writing of sequels – Frank Cottrell Boyce is about to make a follow-up to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Arts editor Will Gompertz was speculating on what the authors might think and quoted Jane Belson after she sold the rights to HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Asked what Douglas Adams would think, she replied:

I don’t know – he isn’t here.

Nuclear Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist for Western governments concerned over the safety of their nuclear reactors after the media outcry:

  1. Are you expecting the largest earthquake in recorded history?
  2. Do you expect any 10 metre high tsunamis?
  3. Err..
  4. That’s it.

Oh yes – stop basing your policies on the ill-informed jabberings of journalists.

Harry Law 1930 – 2011

Harry built things.
All four of his sons also learned how to build things, watching and helping him. For some of us this was more theoretical than practical – I do know how to mix cement, and about sharp sand and aggregate, I’ve just never felt the need.
He also mended things. He had a curiosity which meant he found out how things worked, and so how to repair them. With four of us, all taking on his love of driving, it’s hard to count the number of cars which were nursed through MOTs on Mum & Dad’s driveway.
You may know how that curiosity cost him the tip of his finger. As a very young boy he watched a farm hand remove a stone from a straw chopping machine by poking inside it with a finger. When it was unattended later he tried the same trick himself but omitted the crucial step of stopping the machine first. That short finger was useful when he smoked his pipe because he could use it for tamping down the tobacco.
He considered studying Architecture but gave it up to help his Dad on the farm. He didn’t mind, because it meant he could work outside, which he preferred. His drawing was limited to plans and sketches, but it was a skill inherited by Phil & Ian professionally, and passed on to me and Colin as a hobby.
He met Ann, the landlord’s daughter in a pub he visited, and when he asked her to marry him, Mum said it was either her or farming. He chose wisely. He had several jobs before settling at Halsteads and staying there until he retired.
He worked a lot when we were young, doing jobs in the evenings as well as working during the day, but I particularly remember him looking after us on Monday nights when Mum was at night school learning enamelling or cordon bleu cookery. He let me and Phil stay up to watch The High Chaparral.
He didn’t cook much but he did make breakfast. Porridge for all of us in the pressure cooker – just the biggest pan there was. He used a large cast iron frying pan to cook a mean fried breakfast and on Pancake Day in a joint effort with Mum on a production line of frying, sugaring and lemon juicing which could never keep up with four hungry boys.
John Bishop recently said his dad invented the people carrier, but my Dad did that. He put four seats and windows in the back of the transit van. I’ve always enjoyed being driven, especially at night – with Dad driving, and Mum keeping him awake, the back of the van on a Sunday night coming back from Blackpool was always a safe and comfortable place to sleep. Although Ian disagrees – he says he never slept, instead watching the road with one eye and Dad in the mirror with the other.
Harry liked beer and wine. On one visit to Phil & Sue in Germany he took back a crate of empty weissbier bottles from the previous trip, worth just 6 Euros. Phil asked why he had bothered for such small change, but Dad said if he made room in the car to take the empties, there would be room to bring back full bottles.
I cannot ever remember him being angry. During a Saturday morning Sekiden pistol fight, when Mum was working at Preston’s, a favourite tiered glass vase was broken. Instead of shouting at us, Dad cut off the broken tier and ground the edge to produce a shorter tiered even lovelier vase. Which Mum spotted as soon as she got home.
He had a tremendous sense of humour, despite the adversities he suffered from GBS, which robbed him of the last years of retirement he deserved. The photograph album which you can look at later shows how often he laughed, and that he was very photogenic. He could also really carry off wearing a hat.
He was strong – he arm wrestled all of us and won. On a visit to Cambridge, a missed signpost turned a walk in Wandlebury Country Park into a marathon trek and I remember him carrying Robyn for what seemed miles until we got back to the car.
That strength, and visits every day from Ann, helped him survive six weeks in intensive care and a year in hospital. His sense of humour made friends of everyone who met him.
He rarely complained about the change of lifestyle brought on him by GBS. Instead, after years of us trying to get them connected, he finally discovered the computer and developed a new life online. Here was something I could teach him, but he was a great learner and soon had everything organised – bank accounts, bills, photographs, even Facebook. I would see “thumbOK” appear online during the day and we would chat occasionally.
Some things he actually did better. One stereotype he fitted exactly was that of the man who shopped for his wife on Christmas Eve. Many a Christmas Holiday started with us, rushing into town dashing from shop to shop looking for something to go with the tin of Roses. But now, armed only with his typing thumb and Ann’s M&S Credit Card, and instructions to Mum to sign for but not open parcels, everything was organised. He even printed out labels – all we had to do was the wrapping.
After we all left home, a visit from Mum & Dad usually involved a job to be done (too many to list but including house extensions, car ports, internal walls, sheds, ..). This wasn’t entirely selfish as Dad liked to have something to do whilst Mum shopped. Later, we could repay him a little because he always had a list of jobs for us to do when we visited him. He had always thought it through and presented the solution not the problem, along with which tool to use and where to find it in the shed.
Harry built things. I’m proud to say that best of all, together with Ann, he built a family.

Angry and Sick

I’m not angry at the LibDems (well, not all of them). They’ve been played by the conservatives, and played very effectively. Nobody appears to be blaming the Tories for privatising our universities even though they’ve done it. I am angry at the millionaires who had a free university education now stealing that from my grandchildren. The millionaires and their friends who are giving each other tax cuts, taking ridiculous pensions, awarding dividends and bonuses to their wives who live in tax havens, pretending that Cadbury’s is a Swiss company to save £200 million pounds a year, etc, etc.

I’m angry at the inequity and hypocrisy of it.

They can do it because the free market in financial services, which they created, screwed us all and whilst they are wringing their hands about how the country can’t sustain the debt they insist that it is perfectly fine for all future students to start life with even greater debts. “Because they pay nothing up front,” says the man who never had to save for anything, as if that makes it OK.

They can do it because the stupid press, instead of reporting the destruction of our future, leads with a story about an aged adulterer on a night out in the town who gets a little paint spilled on his armoured car.

I am old enough to have had a free university education. It benefits me, but it also benefits the country – if I earn more I pay more tax, spend more money, create more jobs. What next in this “learn to earn” mentality? What about those people with A levels? Shouldn’t they pay? What about those people who can read and write? What about those sick people, scrounging off us healthy people?

When I first heard what these bastards were doing to university funding, that the coalition government was going to force it through parliament with 5 hours of debate, I actually physically felt it – a sickening fall in my stomach as this country turned into a nastier place.

Windows Embedded CE 6 and AFXWIN.H error C2039

This has just wasted a day of my time, and apparently nobody else on the internet has had the exact same problem, so I document it here for the good of humanity. 😉

I am migrating an application from Windows CE 5 to Windows Embedded CE 6. Just a little thing with a couple of dialogue boxes to exercise the hardware. At the client’s request, it used MFC. MFC and ATL 4.0 are no longer supported directly but most of the functionality is in the new ATL 8.0.

I included afxwin.h in my program, and added the Visual Studio 2005 directory to the include path:
(There is some primitive parsing going on here which means that the include path can’t have spaces. That should really be:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\VC\ce\atlmfc\include\)

I attempt to compile my code and get this obscure error:
C:\PROGRA~1\MICROS~3\VC\ce\atlmfc\include\atltime.inl(140) : error C2039: '_time64' : is not a member of '`global namespace''

atlmfc.h is some nested include from afxwin.h and I am obviously not going to be editing that to make this work. What have I missed? I tried various orders of header inclusion, a few random definitions from suggestions on the ‘net, but nothing worked. Somebody suggested including atlosapice.h, but that threw up even more errors and left the C2039 as well. Searching how to fix that led me to a Google Group and a comment that changing the order of include directories removed some undefined errors.

Specifically, Paul Heil mentioned that he put some directories after .\ce\include and .\ce\atlmfc\include.

Bing! .\ce\include! I’m not using that at all!

I added it to the top of my include list and VC is now quite happy with “_time64”. I’m not sure what header files it was getting instead of those in “.\ce\include”, but they were certainly not the right ones.

Facebook Prediction

I received an email from Facebook this morning:

Hello, Derek Law,
Your Facebook account was accessed using 'Trillian' (Tomorrow at 00:02).
Was this you? If so, you can disregard the rest of this email.
If this wasn't you, please follow the link below to protect your account:
<link removed>
To learn how login notifications like this one can help you to
protect your account information, visit the Help Centre.
Please note: Facebook will never request your login information through email.
The Facebook Team

I wonder what else they know that I am going to do?