As the clock ticked down to Friday I have to admit to getting quite excited about the Olympics. I’m a massive sport fan so love the Olympics but there was so much buzz building over the last couple of weeks that the Opening Ceremony was essential viewing.

Could Danny Boyle pull it off? Could Britain pull it off?

Course they could.

From a shaky start the whole show was a success. Visually impressive with some fun along the way and rooted with an immense soundtrack it was an opening made in Britain for Britain. It left almost everyone bursting with pride. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee tweeted, “this is for everyone”. And it was. No matter who you were there was a hook in that ceremony. Some tried to politicise the ceremony and class it as left leaning. Utter nonsense and looking back, all Olympics and sporting events of this size have a political edge. Some critics also said that much of the show would be lost to international audiences but previous opening ceremonies would have been lost on me if it wasn’t for the commentator reading from his or her crib sheet. Danny Boyle and his team crafted a show that galvanised a nation and set the tone for the next two weeks of competition.

A few of my favourite moments below. Ok, lots of my fav moments lifted from the BBC broadcast. Far better photo’s from the ceremony can be found at The Big Picture.

Sir Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In amongst the chaos he stood out.
Forged rings looked incredible
I loved the light reflected in the welders mask
Great arial shot of the rings and the stadium
That’s not really the Queen is it?
It is the Queen!
She can act
Classic Bond
Celebrating the NHS was a masterstroke – nice to see it trend on Twitter too
Bean – unexpected but fun
Jasmine Breinburg – star of the show?
Digital revolution celebrated with Sir Tim Berners-Lee
This is for everyone
Emeli Sande – what a voice
Sir Chris Hoy leads out the Great Britain team
The BBC cuts to the Queen who looks bored (or looks on with pride according to the BBC)
By day the Olympic stadium looks ordinary but at night it comes alive
Sir Steve Redgrave brings in the torch with a guard of honour from the builders of the stadium. Great touch.
The cauldron – great camera shot from underneath
Olympic flame
There’s always fireworks but ours were real
The rings from space

Even during the endless athletes parade while we waited for Chris Roy and the GB team the music was such a breath of fresh air. Switching to David Bowies “We Could Be Heroes” when GB came out gave me goosebumps. If you loved it as much as me then the Isles of Wonder Soundtrack is a no brainer. Thankfully Hey Jude isn’t included!

Sharing the experience on Twitter was great. Initial worries and anticipation turned into tears and joy…until Hey Jude! It also meant that the killjoys out there were ruthlessly outed. Step forward Aidan Burley, Conservative MP for Cannock Chase.

What an arse. Seemingly he was misunderstood and today he’s said it was because there was too much rap music. Looking at the soundtrack there’s hardly any. The guy has form though, last year being demoted due to some nazi quotes. But one idiot can’t spoil it.

To close of with a couple of high points. Danny Boyle’s forward in the official program (and soundtrack) is inspiring.

Danny Boyle’s program forward

A final highlight was Boris the day before the opening. I don’t often agree with him but from time to time he is (comedy) gold. Enjoy.

Free Dr Who Episode

A quick post to let Dr Who fans, and those that like freebies, that there is a free episode of Dr Who available in iTunes. From the new issue of The Radio Times (which I still get although I hate the font’s they’ve now moved to using – horrible!) if you visit:

you can download ‘Last of the Timelords’ for free. No need to buy Radio Times or fill in any codes etc. Click on the link and download the episode in iTunes. Easy. It’s not too bad an episode either.

BBC’s HD Test Card

Calibrating your HD TV is never straightforward. Lot’s more settings than a standard SD set and if you use an amp for your surround sound you will potentially get lip-sync issues too. You can pick up a calibration disk – Digital Video Essentials on Blu Ray for example which will step you through calibrating your TV. You can also use any THX DVD’s as they will include a THX Calibration tool that helps you tweak your setting (Wall-E also has a nice calibration tool as well). Another way of calibrating is to use the newly added BBC HD Test Card which broadcasts a number of times per day on the BBC HD channel.

Andy Quested has posted up a great tutorial on the BBC Internet blog that takes you through how to use test card to not only calibrate your screen settings but also adjust audio settings to fix any sync issues. It looks like the trickiest part of the process is recording the 2 tests. Directly from Andy’s blog post – the HD test card is just over 1 hour into the promo and the AV sync signal is 50 minutes later. To record both signals, check the time the last programme finishes and add 1 hour. So if the last programme ends at 01:30 set your PVR to record from 02:25 to 02:45 for the test card and 03:15 to 03:35 for the AV sync signal. The promo referred to is the rolling HD promo that is broadcast on BBC HD when there is no actual programming being broadcast. It would be far easier if these two tests were broadcast as individual programmes with actual time slots – would make recording far easier. However that’s a small niggle as these two tests are a nice addition from the BBC. I know I’ll be using them to set-up a new TV over Christmas.

BBC Radio on the iPhone

Following on from a tweet on Friday from @gav_richardson I found that you can install an app on the iPhone and stream some of the BBC radio stations. The app you need to grab is FStream. It doesn’t have the best interface but it does work well. Full setup instructions can be found here.

A full list of the BBC radio stations I’ve got to work are:

Unfortunately Five Live doesn’t work which is allegedly due to broadcasting rights of sporting events outside the UK. Another solution is to try the Flycast app which again is free and search for BBC which should return radio station’s 1-4 which you can then select and listen to. At least there is a solution until iPlayer supports radio stations on the iPhone.

Monkey Magic

The Olympics are only a few days away. I love the Olympics – so many different sports, so many heroes and increasingly more villains. The TV coverage by the BBC is usually excellent and this will be the first to be broadcast in HD. I’m already impressed with the marketing and titles that the beeb are to use:

They were produced by Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn and are so different from the norm. That’s a good different by the way as there are lot’s of moan’s from traditionalists about the titles. Good to see the normally staid BBC doing something different. Let’s hope the GB team can be as successful. More importantly, let’s hope China do a good job of hosting the games.

Already there is doubts being cast on the full internet access that journalists were promised. Will they all stick to sport reporting or try and use this opportunity to report on what China really is like?

BBC HD Now Official

BBC HD Channel is now official and will launch…today! After trialling for over 18 months it looks to be hastily launched and not that much different from the test channel it’s been running as. It will show more content though, around 9 hours a day starting from 15:00. Programmes like Jools Holland and Planet Earth look stunning in HD – it will be good to see Kill Bill and Sin City at Christmas in HD too.

With Channel 4 rumoured to be launching their HD channel on Dec 10th and ITV in March 08 it looks like HD is finally getting more content. If only Sky would drop their £10 a month HD charge. A lot of people want the HD box and are willing to pay the one off charge but not the monthly fee. The image quality from the HD channels is excellent on Sky, even to the point that I’ll not watch an SD movie as it’s that inferior but I can understand the cost putting people off. Next year may see a TV upgrade!

Tom Fordyce

I’ve been loving the live text commentary on BBC sports recently and yesterday/today’s Henman match was a highpoint. Here are some of the better funnies:

  • Still feels strange to look up and see Centre Court without a roof – it’s like meeting an old pal for a drink, only to find he’s gone completely bald since you last saw him.
  • Relief for Moya as Henman’s groundstrokes are drawn to the net like papparazi to an intoxicated Jade Goody.
  • You’ve got to love the English summer – as reliable as a 1973 Skoda.
  • Moya, as outwardly emotional as a frozen haddock
  • This being tennis, the players then go for a sit-down.
  • Lucy Henman is in the same seat as yesterday, wearring a beige cardigan with sand-coloured wool scarf. She’s waving a large Union flag with the words “Go Tiger!” emblazoned on it. As if.
  • Three seats along, Mr Henman Snr is showing all the emotion of a marble bust.
  • Who’s going to blink first? Certainly not Mr Henman Snr, whose face hasn’t twitched in 14 years.
  • Henman Snr looks like the sort of chap whose definition of emotional contact with his son would be a handshake twice a year – once on his birthday, and once on Christmas Day.

Top work and thanks to Tom Fordyce as it makes for a far more entertaining game if you can’t watch it live, like when your at work…although I read this all tonight. Honest.

Life on Mars

Well, it ended tonight and has probably guaranteed it’s status as a classic by leaving strands open to interpretation. There may be spoilers ahead if you didn’t see tonights episode so you’ve been warned.

My take on it all is that he never woke from the coma. He had a choice to make and was still in the coma imagining he had made the choice and woke in 2006. Those scenes were all too clean. Morgons quotes about being the worlds best surgeon were very odd. No one mentioned the coma or what he had been through – it was all surreal. Sam jumping off the building was him rejecting 2006 and going back to 1973. But he never woke. So he’s still in a coma but happier with the imaginary 1973 life. The girl switching the TV off – was that Sam’s life support being switched off?

Well thats what I think but there’s a couple of alternative theories that are as plausible. 2006 is fictional and in Sam’s head. 1973 is where he’s from although the first series saw him finding his young self and parents? But then he knows all about iPods etc.

Or he did wake from the coma and he killed himself or put himself back in a coma by jumping off the roof. I doubt this one as the current day scenes seemed really false. I’m sure other people will have more alternatives.

John Simm said in an interview that he wished the last episode finished 4 minutes earlier when Sam jumps of the roof – how confused would we be if that had happened. A classic show – I’m really pleased they ended it after two series though as it went out on a high. I wonder how the Ashes to Ashes series thats allegedly starring Philip Glenister will follow this?

*Update* – The lead writer has spilled the beans on the Manchester Evening News blog. He did wake from the coma, he did commit suicide and the test card girl switching off the tv was an in-joke from the writer telling the viewers to go and do soemthing else instead of watching TV. Class.

Why Blog?

I caught the tail end of BBC Breakfast this morning and they were discussing blogs. What are they, why do people do it, how it’s a fad with the average blog lasting four weeks and then the ultimate comparison – it reminds the presenter of CB radio a few years ago. While I thought the piece was biased towards the technically ignorant (non geeks) it did get me thinking – why do I do it?

It’s certainly not because I think I’m a journalist – far from it, although the fact that many sites think blogs are replacing news agency’s has got the traditional news sites in a bit of a tizzy. BBC themselves are running a survey on blogs and journalism that is showing just under a quarter believe that blogging is journalism. BBC nail their colours to the mast stating the findings of another survey cut through ‘blog hype’. The hype is really from mainstream media so it’s good to see them dismiss their own reports. While I’ve drifted onto this, an example of two cracking sites that have highlighted issues on the middle east crisis that I would have missed if it hadn’t been for blogs. Firstly, Kottke posted an image from the Independent that summed up world opinion in an instant (reposted below).

Independent - 21/07/06

Secondly, this site has been keeping a Google Earth kmz file up to date with positions of all the atrocities in the current crisis alongside media cuttings of what happened.

Middle East Crisis via Google Earth

Anyway – back on topic. I don’t blog to get readers either (just as well). I am interested in people who do visit and where they came from (thank you Mint) but I’m not motivated by how many 100’s visit, employing search engine optimisation techniques or indeed getting loads of good page rankings and then adopting some Google ad’s – just not me.

The first reason I started was down to having a ‘can I do a blog’ niggle. It lasted a while before I eventually got up and running. I eased into geek ramblings and non personal postings as it was easier and to this day the blog is still very impersonal. I also had a feeling of giving something back. I’ve learned so much from reading other blogs whether it be personal experiences, tech opinions or just ramblings that make my day a little easier to get through and from time to time I might offer something that someone might gain from.

The second reason was to have some sort of journal that I could look back on. It’s not turned out the way I wanted but I do have around three years worth of postings, links and comments that I do occasionally look back on. Ideally it would have been more personal and also had some work related ramblings but that isn’t worth the hassle it could potentially cause.

There have been downsides. A feeling of ‘I have to post’ has got me a few times as well as ‘time to shut this down’. I’ve also received a few nasty comments especially during this years World Cup…the English really do have a problem with people not supporting them especially Joe who’s worthy contribution was ‘Die you Scottish Prick’. Nice. I do edit crap like that out of my blog as I just don’t want to read that again in a few years time.

All those are outweighed by the genuine people who do frequent, the occasional really nice comments and mails that are left, the invites to closed beta’s (Diigo being the latest and also one of the more impressive apps I’ve used recently. Turbo charged bookmarking and social commenting and if you want an invite I do have some at my disposal – full write up soon.) and the ability to keep in touch with real world friends through postings, pictures and comments. Nice. It’s also fun…usually. So it’s two fingers to those who sneer at blogs in general – this is one that won’t be disappearing.

Neither will blogging disappear. A blog allows a person to become their own media mogul, linking to anyone in the world (if they choose to) and allowing anyone worldwide to read their posts. Who would have thought years ago that from your own home you could post real time news, have people easily find the content, have discussions raging that are in your control, easily link to your own photo’s of the story, allow people to listen to your own podcast and broadcast video even if it is only through a webcam. Empowerment is a wonderful gift. In the right hands it can have a massive impact. In the wrong it can be dreadful. Instead visit 9rules to see some of the better blogs available for your consumption and see what empowerment really can deliver.