Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

Freesat for free HD TV in the UK

If you haven't already heard about Freesat then you should look into it, I'm not referring to the free satellite service from Sky, but the new not-for-profit organisation set up by the BBC and ITV to help distribute digital TV to areas of the UK where Freeview signals are not strong enough.
If you also own a new high definition capable flat screen TV or are looking to buy one you should also investigate Freesat. Not only will it allow a greater percentage of British population to receive digital TV for free, it also carries free high definition content. Currently BBC HD and ITV HD channels, which are far superior to their standard definition channels.

Essentially you need a satellite dish and a new set-top box or Freesat capable TV to receive the broadcasts. The Freesat service uses the same satellite as Sky, so it is apparently possible to use a Sky dish and plug in a Freesat tuner instead of a Sky box.

According to a sales assistant in my local Richer Sounds every retailer stocking Freesat equipment has to be a registered Freesat installer and they charge a set fee of £80 to install the service for you. This install price is set by Freesat and should be the same for each registered installer.

Panasonic have announced the first TV with a Freesat tuner built-in which should be launched in time for the Olympic games, which should be broadcast in HD on the BBC HD channel.

Can Freesat and Sky Co-exist?

What I'm wondering is, can Sky and Freesat be picked up with the same dish simultaneously? If you have a quad LNB on the dish and a additional run of coaxial cable to the Freesat box?

If so, you could have high definition TV in more than one room and you wouldn't have to pay Sky's multi-room fee, you also get to keep Sky in one room so you can pick up those channels not available on Freesat, like Living TV etc.

I asked this question to the sales guys at the Panasonic stand in the Bluewater shopping centre who were demonstrating the new Freesat capable panels and although they'll admit that you can use a Sky dish to receive Freesat, they're not sure about the 2 services co-existing.

If they won't co-exist maybe they can be switched? After all how many people want a second dish stuck to their house?
Personally, I could make do without the garbage US TV shows Sky broadcasts, but it might upset my girlfriend if she's unable to watch her shows :-)

Internet World - eBusiness Legal Tips

It's been a couple of weeks since I attended Internet World at London's Earl Court and the follow-up emails have started to arrive in my inbox where I exchanged business cards with some of the exhibitors.
The show ran for three days, but I only managed to attend on the last day (1st May 2008).

During the exhibition, as well as general networking, I attended several presentations about marketing, social media, search and e-commerce.
One particular presentation by Nigel Miller of Fox Williams LLP was about legal tips for safe selling online.
This topic will bore many developers, entrepreneurs and start-ups because they don't understand or see the importance in legal issues and just want to get their idea/business or product live on the web.
Having seen the potential problems of ignoring legislation first hand, I was particularly interested in what Nigel had to say.

I'm one of those people who tends to read the odd terms and conditions page or End User License Agreement (EULA) and find that the language these documents are written in doesn't make for easy reading or understanding, so I was pleased that this presentation used simple plain English.

The presentation was not an exhaustive list of the all legal rules and regulations a website needs to comply with, but it highlighted the areas that are frequently misunderstood or ignored completely, it focused mainly on UK rules and regulations, such as:

  • Sector specific compliance
  • Web Accessibility compliance
  • Company information which must be on the website
  • Intellectual property and ownership
  • The Data Protection Act (complying with)
  • Terms and conditions and disclaimers
  • Pricing errors
  • Distance selling regulations and consumer rights

Nigel's full presentation entitled "Risky business; legal tips for safe selling online" can be downloaded as a PDF from Fox Williams' ebizlawTM website.

Nigel Miller is a partner at Fox Williams LLP.

How to get the BBC iPlayer on your Nintendo Wii

You can now get the BBC iPlayer on the Nintendo Wii games console!

Before you can start watching programmes broadcast on the BBC over the last 7 days you'll need to connect your Wii console to the Internet (see instructions below) and download the Opera web browser from the Wii Store (Which costs 500 Wii points or about 3.50 Pounds Sterling).

Before you can buy Wii points to purchase the Opera web browser you'll first need to register online at www.nintendo-europe.com and "link" your Wii console to the Nintendo account you just created online, Nintendo have a guide on how to link your Wii Shop Channel Account to your Club Nintendo Account.

Once you've linked your account to your Wii console you need to go to the Wii Shop accessed from the Wii Home Menu on the console and purchase (by using a credit or debit card to buy some Wii points) and download the "Internet Channel".

Once downloaded and installed you're ready to go!

From the Wii Home Menu select "Internet Channel" and navigate to www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer, you can then use your Wii remote to zoom, pan and scroll around the web and the iPlayer.

You can read more info about the BBC iPlayer on the Wii console at BBC Internet Blog.


To connect your Nintendo Wii console to the Internet with Wi-Fi follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Wii home menu
  2. Select "Wii options" on the bottom left
  3. Click on "Wii settings" on the right
  4. Click the right arrow
  5. Select Internet
  6. Click "Connection Settings"
  7. Select "Connection 1"
  8. Choose "Wireless Connection"
  9. Select "Search for Access Point"
  10. Click "Ok"
  11. You should be presented with a list of local wireless routers, select your wireless router from the list
  12. If your wireless router is secure, you'll be prompted to enter your Wi-Fi password
  13. Click to save your connection settings
  14. Click "Ok"
  15. The Wii will now test your connection and then prompt you to perform a system update, click "Yes"
  16. Return to the Wii menu when prompted

TradeDoubler Affiliate Trademark Keyword Bidding Reminder

Following on from Google's change of stance, allowing UK and Irish AdWords users to bid on trademarked keywords of other companies, TradeDoubler the affiliate marketing platform has sent its affiliates an email.
The email reminds TradeDoubler's affiliates that even though Google now allows its AdWord users to bid on trademarked keywords, it does not mean that any previous keyword bidding restrictions TradeDoubler's merchants had previously with their affiliates are now a free for all.

They warn that any affiliate activity that goes against a TradeDoubler merchant's terms and conditions will mean action will be taken such as removal from the programme or network and forfeit of commissions.

Use Browser Toolbar instead of Address Bar to Avoid Phishing Sites

I've just read a post over at Search Engine Journal about statistics from Hitwise UK suggesting British users are increasingly using browser toolbars to search for domains they know already like tesco.com rather than typing them directly into their browser address bar.

I use this technique a lot because I frequently misspell a domain name or get the wrong domain extension for a website. When this happens more-often-than-not you get a holding page, cyber-squatter site, or worst still a site that attempts to mimic the intended destination in order to "phish" log-in details.
When you use a search toolbar to navigate to a domain the top search result is most likely going to to be the real domain.

Time to start testing your websites in Safari on Windows?

Apple recently added their Safari web browser to the Apple Software Update and pre-checked the box by default. This effectively means that a lot of Windows users will now, possibly without knowing it, have installed Safari.
I'm not going to discuss the ethics of this practice here, instead read John's Blog - CEO of Mozilla.

But what it means for the humble web designer or developer is that we should really be installing Safari on our Windows machines and adding it to the list of browsers we test our sites against as the number of users is bound to increase as a consequence.

Apple pushed Safari web browser through their Apple Updates service

Competition in the browser business is good and over the last few years Firefox has begun to gain ground on Microsoft's Internet Explorer domination. It has also forced the browsers to become more standards compliant, thereby helping web developers and designers design cross-browser, cross-platform web pages.

According to Apple, Safari is a standards compliant browser built on the open source WebKit project, so hopefully if your pages have been built to W3C standards they will require minimal checking, but it is always wise to test. Apple have a range of web developer resources for the Safari browser, including the Safari CSS support, Safari developer FAQ, and a general web development best practices guide.

Product Review: Train Signal's IIS Web Servers CBT Video Training

As an ASP.NET web developer, I think it's important to understand and know how to configure Microsoft's web server, Internet Information Services (IIS). Depending on the organisation you work for you may or may not get the opportunity to tinker with IIS, but this shouldn't stop you from learning the basics.

You could go out and buy a book on configuring IIS and then install IIS on your computer to practise what you've read, but thanks to the guys at Trainsignal.com who have kindly sent me some of their training videos, I've discovered a much easier way of learning.

Train Signal CD-ROM

Train Signal provides video training courses for Microsoft, Cisco and CompTIA certifications, including CCNA, A+, Network+.
I'll also be reviewing the Cisco CCNA training videos here soon.

Train Signal's IIS Web Server video training covers both IIS 5 and IIS6, and features topics including installing IIS, creating test websites, hosting more than one website using host headers, adding security, setting up an FTP server, and web server optimisation.

Train Signal CD-ROM menu

The course is taught by Scott Skinger, President and founder of Train Signal. Scott has many years of experience in the IT field, holds various IT certifications and is a competent instructor. The videos are easy to follow and Scott's narration is second to none.

Train Signal lab book sample

The series of videos are backed up with a written guide in the form of the lab book, which comes as a printable PDF on the CD ROM, this goes through the same steps featured in the videos and includes network diagrams like the one above to help you set-up your own lab.

Train Signal video player

If you want to get up to speed on a particular Microsoft product, obtain an IT certification or you don't like reading IT text books then I definitely recommend you give these training videos a try.

Course Contents in full:

Introduction
Lab Setup
Setting up the lab
Computer 1
Computer 2
Computer 3
Lab
Scenario
Installing IIS on Windows 2000 Server
Creating an HTML file
Hosting Ben & Brady's site
Configure DNS so Internet users can find your website
Testing the website from the client
Lab
Scenario
Creating a test website using an HTML file
Creating an additional website on the web server
Creating host headers
Configuring DNS for the second website
Test and view website from client
Assigning site operators
Adding security to a website
Test and view the website from a client
Lab
Scenario
Downloading and installing service packs and hot fixes
Setting NTFS permissions
Disabling Netbios over TCP/IP
Download and run The IIS lockdown tool from Microsoft
Enable and view logging

Wingdings and Webdings Character Reference

Here's a useful reference to Wingdings and Webdings character sets. I find these characters are sometimes useful in design, especially using a tool such as Adobe Fireworks.

Use them as starting points for creating icons. The trick is to use the "Convert to paths" option in the "Text" menu of Fireworks, this converts the font character to a vector image which you can tweak to you're hearts content.

Use this chart as a quick reference to get the image you're after.

Webding and Wingdings caharacters

Blogger.com has changed their feed syndication

It seems that Blogger has changed the type of syndication feed they use during the last month (Jan – Feb 2008), I discovered this when my Atom feed XSLT transformation broke when I published my last post.
I originally wrote XSLT to transform the previous feed type for my homepage blog updates, which assumed the following heirachy with the Atom 0.3 namespace:

<feed>...<entry>...</entry></feed>

Whereas the latest feed has changed to use both Atom and openSearch namespaces and the following structure:

<rss>...<channel>...<item>...</item></channel></rss>

The root node seems to suggest it is the RSS 2.0 standard, using the Atom namespace, which is peculiar, notice the openSearch namespace too...

<rss xmlns:atom='http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom' xmlns:openSearch='http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearchrss/1.0/' version='2.0'>

Here's my updated XSLT to convert the new Blogger.com format.



<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0"
xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom"
xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform"
xmlns:openSearch="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearchrss/1.0/">

<xsl:output method="xml" indent="yes" omit-xml-declaration="yes"/>
<xsl:template match="channel">
<div id="FeedSnippets">
<xsl:apply-templates select="item" />
</div>
</xsl:template>


<xsl:template match="item" name="item">
<xsl:if test="position()<6">
<h4>
<xsl:value-of select="title"/>
</h4>
<p>
<xsl:choose>
<xsl:when test="string-length(substring-before(atom:summary,'. ')) > 0">
<xsl:value-of select="substring-before(atom:summary,'. ')" />...<br />
</xsl:when>
<xsl:when test="string-length(substring-before(atom:summary,'.')) > 0">
<xsl:value-of select="substring-before(atom:summary,'.')" />...<br />
</xsl:when>
<xsl:otherwise>
<xsl:value-of select="substring(atom:summary,0,200)" />...<br />
</xsl:otherwise>
</xsl:choose>
<strong>Read full post: </strong>
<a href="{link}">
<xsl:value-of select="title"/>
</a>
</p>
<hr />
</xsl:if>
</xsl:template>
</xsl:stylesheet>

Product Review: uCertify PrepKit Exam Simulator

I was kindly sent a uCertify PrepKit for review back in December last year for the Microsoft C# .NET 2.0 Web-based Client Development exam (70-528). I'm looking to take the Microsoft MCTS .NET Framework 2.0 Web Applications certification this year, and needed an exam simulator and part of my study.

uCertify start-up logo

I've been so busy lately its been difficult to find the time to sit down and put the exam simulator through its paces. Anyhow I've spent a good few hours testing my .NET knowledge with this PrepKit to allow me to confidently evaluate it.

The PrepKit features a bunch of questions that closely follow the style of questions featured in the Microsoft exam, obviously the PrepKit does not contain real exam questions, but uCertify claim they are "realistic", and they are supposed to get you used to the kind of questions you should expect to see when you come to take the real exam.

uCertify PrepKit main menu

The tests in the PrepKit contain between 15 and 40 questions each and you’re given 120 minutes to complete each one, but I found that choosing a shorter time and reducing the amount of questions I needed to answer allowed me to spend more time using the PrepKit, because I don’t often have 2 hours of uninterrupted revision time.

There are two different modes to choose from before starting a test. Learn mode and Test mode, Learn mode allows you to get feedback on the current answer immediately whereas in Test mode you can only review the answers at the end of the practice test.

uCertify PrepKit test question page

When you complete a test you can review the questions and go back and look at any questions you may have answered incorrectly. You can also choose to re-take just the questions you got wrong. When you re-take the test the multiple choice answers change order to keep you on your toes!
During a test you can pause the timer to take a call, make a coffee etc, tag, print, review and bookmark questions.

uCertify PrepKit test history page

Every test you take with the PrepKit gets recorded in the Test History section, from here you can go back and review all the practice tests you've taken, review all the questions you got wrong, re-do the whole tests or re-do only the questions you got wrong.

Custom tests can also be created to turn your weaknesses, based on your test history or certain topics into your strengths.

Besides the practice tests the PrepKit contains study notes, quizzes and tips and flash cards to help assist you in understanding the topic.