BBC Podcasts as OPML

The BBC make all of their podcast programme information available as an XML file.

Literally five minutes of XSLT gives me this:

$ xsltproc bbc-podcasts.xslt > bbc-podcasts.opml

outputs to:

which you can then render to something like this:

Obvious improvements are grouping by radio station etc. but this will be very handy as-is for my N95 🙂

OpenTech 2008 announced

OpenTech 2008 has been announced!

an informal, low cost one-day conference on technology, society and low-carbon living (Saturday 5th July 2008 in Central London).

The last OpenTech was in 2005 just a few days after the attempted bomb attacks in London and was totally awesome. It saw Ewan’s iPod Shuffle Shuffle the forming of the ORG (I’d totally forgotten that this was where it happened until Suw reminded me at XTech last year), and loads of other stuff.

It was totally excellent, and I’d definitely recommend it to all UK-based geeks, especially since it only costs a fiver on the door. Frankly, I can’t imagine how they won’t have to be turning people away.

If you want to get a feel for what it was like last time, take a gander at my Flickr photos from OpenTech 2005 and all photos tagged opentech

Upgrade Nokia N95 to v20 firmware

After waiting for ages, I have just upgraded my 3-branded N95 (3 are a UK provider) to an unbranded v20 firmware. I think this means I’ve lost some of the X-Series stuff that 3 bundled, but I never used any of it, so I don’t really care.

I also came very very close to bricking the phone a number of times, which will teach me not to try it at 2am without planning in advance. However, this is roughly the process I took. It’s not perfect, I probably do Very Bad Things, but I’m 95% satisfied with the outcome.

N95 on v20 firmware

The instructions I followed were these (there are even some screenshots, unlike this wodge of text), but they don’t apply perfectly to the v12 -> v20 upgrade, although I am going to quote something, as it applies here:

Before I continue: a disclaimer: this is not supported by Nokia or by your service provider. The following procedure is undertaken entirely at your own risk and I take no responsibility if your phone ends up as a rather expensive doorstop.

Some rules (the last one won’t make any sense yet):

  • Once you upgrade, you can not go back to an earlier firmware.
  • Backups made when running the old firmware (e.g. v12) can not be restored onto the same phone with newer firmware (e.g. v20) regardless of whether they were made using “Backup to memory card” or the PC Suite Content Copier, and trying may toast your phone
  • If you care about any of your data you will make a backup using the PC Suite immediately after installing the new firmware and returning the product code to its previous value

The steps:

  • Make sure your phone is fully charged or plugged in to the mains
  • Make a list of software you’ve installed on your phone in case you fry it
  • Sync all your calendar and contact information to Outlook or equivalent (I’m on Vista and selected something like “Windows Contacts and Windows Calendar” from the select box)
  • Run a PC Suite Content Copier backup of your messages and bookmarks – contrary to the rules above, I believe these *can* be restored successfully from a v12 firmware backup to a running v20 firmware
  • Remove memory card (just to speed up the process during the firmware upgrade)
  • Download Nemesis Service Suite
  • Extract existing product code and write it down
    • Load NSS
    • Click the magnifying glass in the top-right
    • Click the “Phone Info” tab
    • On the far right, click the “Read” button and note down your Product Code
  • Update product code to an unbranded version
    • Check the “Enable” box next to Product code
    • Enter your new product code (I used 0536062 which is the code for Euro-1)
    • Click the “Write” button
    • Click the “Read” button to make sure your product code was set correctly
    • Close NSS
  • Run PC Suite Software Update (this is the bit which will update your firmware), your phone may restart several times during this process
  • You are now on v20 firmware
  • Run Nemesis Service Suite and set the product code to the value you wrote down earlier
  • Run PC Suite Content Copier restore to put your messages and bookmarks back
  • Sync your phone to Outlook or whatever to get your contacts and calendar back

The next time you put your memory card in it will attempt to initialise any applications you might have installed on it. They won’t all work. You will probably end up with some weirdly named installer files like 0000ards.sis – you should be able to delete them using the Application Manager.

The outcome:

Your N95 now runs v20 firmware. The benefits are a much, much faster camera, faster GPS, assisted-GPS, better memory management, auto-lock when you close the slider, good integrated search of all your content, better podcast integration with the music player, music player resumes a track from the position when you exited it last, and probably lots more that I haven’t noticed yet.

Also, I obviously messed something up because my SMS were previously stored on my memory card, but they’re now on the phone memory, with no apparent way of moving them back (s60v3 no longer has the C:SystemMail which you used to be able to just copy to E:System). Also I lost my podcast subscriptions (although not the mp3s), so it’s lucky I blogged about them recently.

The danger:

If you get a “Phone startup failed – contact the retailer” message after doing a restore of any part of your data, all is not lost, it just means that you restored some data which is not compatible with this firmware (you have, however, probably lost that data forever). Do this:

  1. Turn the phone OFF
  2. Press the Green call answer button, the * button, and the ‘3’ button together.
  3. Whilst holding them, then press the power button, and keep holding the other 3 buttons.
  4. Wait till the phone reboots.

many thanks to Google and “floatlite” for that tidbit.

This was the first time I’d done a firmware upgrade on a phone. It did not go smoothly, and I wouldn’t expect it to go smoothly next time either. My best advice is to make sure that any critical data is backup up separately on your PC in a plain-text format if possible (not just via PC Suite backup – this is a black hole from which you cannot retrieve data whenever you like).

Things I want to do in 2008

  • write a new open source application, however small
  • contribute in some way to mySociety
  • find out more about what rights I have to see how and when my data is used by Government departments
  • write to my (pro-ID cards) MP about ID cards and data protection
  • make sure that my donation to ORG is set up correctly

Also, some boring things like:

  • make sure I’m putting the full amount into my ISA every year
  • get a house without going bankrupt
  • learn to drive

What else should I be doing this year?

USB backups

The linksys family

Tim Bray has possibly made his last-ever optical media purchase.

USB keys are getting close in size and you can write ’em a whole lot faster, and they don’t occupy any more space, really.

A few weeks ago I bought an NSLU2. I have two 8GB USB keys in geographic rotation to perform always-on, silent, transparent backups for our critical data. I initially thought that I’d upgrade the firmware to Unslung, but it practice the native firmware has done the job so well that I haven’t had to do anything. I love this solution.

In the comments on Tim’s piece, “Thomas” comments:

Flash memory requires periodic access or the cells’ charge drops below the readability threshold. Optical media kept in cool dark storage should last much longer than flash.

This is a bit of a worry to me, as I was hoping to take all my photo CDs, stick them on a suitably large USB key, and lose it in a drawer somewhere. I wonder if this is the case for SSDs as well? If I don’t turn my Macbook Air on for 6 months, will I not have a hard drive any more?