Change of Scenery

Moving to ...

From next week I'll be working for a new company, but for the same company in a way. BBH have just invested in Dare Digital and I'm moving over their to be "Technology Manager". A fresh start with new people.

published 2002.10.09 updated 2017.06.26

Site Update

Some more features grave the site navigation, and some slight code tweeks too...

published 2002.09.04 updated 2017.06.26

Royal Armouries

Web Site Construction Project

I've been contracted to work on the new website for the Royal Armouries [ for the existing site]. While Arms and Armour don't really fit with a lot of my personal beliefs, I've taken on board the project because it should present an interesting challenge in representing their collection on-line : it's not just brochure-ware, or a walk through of the museum. Rather the intention is to create a way of navigating the collections which takes advantage of the nature of the web [in it's current guise]

We hope the new site will be up early 2003.

published 2002.08.29 updated 2017.06.26

Warp Records

Some of the time

I'm currently working 1 day a week at Warp Records optimising and maintaining their website [which I built before I left Kleber].

published 2002.04.28 updated 2017.06.26

CDRecord ProDVD

Jörg Schilling writes...

A followup to my article regarding DVD writing under Linux.

I received this email yesterday:

I just found this page from you:

and I am not happy with it!

The text does not reflect reallity, see:

Also please keep in mind that the patch you mention is not actively maintained.
While cdrecord is constantly improving, people like the author of the mentioned
patch usually di a quick shot. The patch appeared about a week after the first
cdrecord-ProDVD version that did work with activation keys and thus could allow
tests has been published. AS I did not disable the -V SCSI Debug option, and
the patch is only ~ 150 lines, it is obvious that this patch is created by
rreverse engineeering cdrecord.

Also note that this patch has problems with the fact that the drive writes CDs
and DVDs


This was my response. I'm waiting to hear back from him.

Hi Jörg,

Knowledge is free, I merely wrote what I found out, to help other people. I'm sorry if it offended you.

As it happens, I contacted you about cdrecord ProDVD at the time and you told me, rather bluntly, that all the information about it was on your website. I looked at EVERY page, and it wasn't there. I also looked at your ftp server, and couldn't find it there. What is said to send you money, it doesn't say where to, or how [I'm not sending $100 cash in the post] and it doesn't promise to provide any guarantees as to what I would get for my money.

It seems that you have updated your site since then.
********** NEW: On March 9th, we are celebrating 4 years of cdrecord-ProDVD

Of course, that will be the 9th of march in which year? 2002 I assume, as it wasn't there when I looked in January.

As you will see from my page quoted below it was written on 19/01/2002 [19th of January 2002]. I am, like you I'm sure, very busy. I said when I found out about availability of you software I would update my site, and I haven't found out until now, because the solution I had has worked find for my purposes.

As I see from your text referenced about you have produced a key which will time out on the 17th of June [this year?]. Then we have to request a new key. Will we have to keep on doing this? For how long?

I have a lot of things to do and don't want to be forced into upgrade paths or time limited software. I do appreciate the time you have put into creating the software. I'm happy to pay a reasonable price for a license to reflect this. I'm happy to change the text on my site as well. If you can provide me with a clear license and guide to how to pay you, and what we can expect for our money. Otherwise it seems that your information is no clearer than Micro$ofts I'm afraid to say.

This seemed to be the point of view of several people who have contacted me thanking me for my text, and who haven't been able to work out where to go on your site or how to proceed using it. I'm sorry to say it, but it's very hard to tell what information is what on your site.

Perhaps, to this end, I can suggest something to our mutual benefit: How about you email me a copy of the cd-record website, and I clean it up and make it more useable for people, in return for a license for cdRecord-proDVD. This way my skills [web designer, usability, web programmer] complement your skills [software development] and we can make cdRecord easier to access, license, and use, by making the information about it better managed. I'd imagine that this would be a very cost effective solution for you, as my time is aorund £30/hour [1], and I'd imagine sorting out the CD-Record site would take me a couple of days. I probably wouldn't be able to do it for a couple of weeks.

Otherwise, simply tell me what it is you would like me to change about my site and I will change it. I know the patch is unsupported, and I am providing no guarantees. I feel that at the moment it reflects a balanced point of view on where the ground lay at the time of writing. I think Cdrecord is a great piece of software and you deserve whatever support you can for developing it.

Kind regards


[1] Oooh, typo : that should say £60/hour *grin*

published 2002.04.18 updated 2014.11.03

Flash Bugs...

A note to macromedia's forum.

I've saved this here because I've known messages like this to 'dissapear' from official company forums. It's not hugely damning, but I was venting a bit.


I've been building a project which should work as a standalong projector on the Mac OS and Windows to load in XML data from an intranet web server and display it. This works find on Widnows, and in theory works find on the Macintosh in that it works in the .swf file. It even works when I load the .swf file into the Flash Player. But it fails when I make the project a stand alone projector.

I've found this technote [L=
[/L] which informs me of a bug reported last april which means that loadVariables does not work from projectors on the macintosh.

Does this bug affect the xmlData.load() function as well, or is there something wrong with my code?
If it is a bug, why haven't macromedia endevoured to fix it yet?
Is it Macromedias intention to fix this bug before the next major release of Flash?
If not why do macromedia sell a product with such a major bug and yet no mention of it in the documentation for the product?

I fell dismayed and ripped off that I pay for a product which is meant to work as a cross platform authoring environment, and then find that one platform is left in a stagnant position for so long. It seems that a lot of software companies are happy to espouse the new features of software yet unable to maintain the same comitment to solving problems once the product is on the shelf and sold to the end user.

And pray, what news of Flash 6? I've heard production companies in London saying they are allready working with Flash 6, though not a peep on Macromedia's site....

I look forward to your response.

published 2002.01.23 updated 2014.11.03

Linux / Pioneer DVD-R/RW A03

Getting files on the disk as either ISO9660 or ext2 format for system backup.

Writing DVD's under Linux doesn't seem to be something that has much consistent documentation. At the moment their don't seem to be any tools which support writing DVD's to play in a domestic player, but that's not why I have a DVD-R/RW in my Linux box. I'm using it as a backup device, as CDR/RW is just to small.

DVD-R/RW vs Tape
Why not use DDS/AIT/DLT etc? I've had bad experiences with DDS tapes [they never have restored on me, and they feel slow and cumbersome to use]. AIT/DLT are expensive, and I've not used them much under Linux. DVD ROM drives are now very cheap and easy to install and work under Linux, thus you should find it quite easy to read your disk elsewhere once you've backed up data to it.

The Pioneer A03 DVD/RW drive [IDE interface] cost me just under �450, which is a bit cheaper than a DAT drive [and doesn't need a SCSI card]. It doesn't store as much data obviously, as a DVD-R or DVD-RW disk only holds 4.7GB, but that was plenty for my needs... and if the data set goes up in size then I can split it across disks.

Basic How To
The Linux CD Writing HowTo discusses all of the basic principles for writing to CD Rom, and i've been using the tools and principles to write to my Plexwriter 24/10/40A before.

First up I tried using the same basic principles to write a CD to the Pioneer drive [yep, it also writes CD-R and CD-RW] and everything when perfectly. Next step was to try and write a larger ISO image to the DVD portion. This wasn't as straightforward as it seems, as cdrecord 1.10 didn't want to burn anything that large to a disk, despite the referals to DVD's in the documentation.

DVD Writing Software
Perplexed I went and had a dig around Joerg Schilling's site for his cdrecord/cdtools. A quick look brought me up cdrecord-ProDVD which are binaries to be downloaded. I brought down the appropriate versions and they seem to work fine, but you can only cut up to 1 Gigabyte to a disk, or emulate a larger write. Why is this? It seems that Joerg would like us to buy the software, which seems reasonable. But he doesn't really explain how to get the money to him... and when I emailed him he just said 'send me $100' ... when I manage to find out what I get for the $100 and so on I'll update the site. In the meantime there is another solution. He did tell me that you also need to patch the kernel on your system for extended ISO9660 support. This is included in kernel 2.4.13 and later.

Note from J�rg Schilling Please read

After much searching I found Nicolae Mihalache had created a free patch for cdrecord to make it cut DVD's. I actually downloaded his distribution version of cdtools 1.11a08 with the patches applied, compiled them first time [I'm running a pretty standard install of RedHat Linux 7.2, with a customised compile of Kernel 2.4.17]. I did a make install and let them install in their own place, to keep them seperate from the original cdrecord/cdtools set I was using and which works very well, and I don't want to start interfering with... yet.

Also check out DVDRTools Talked about here

Using this version of cdrecord, I've been able to cut DVD's with ISO + RockRidge file extensions on them, or an ext2 partition created using a loopback device. The later is a prefered method for me as I use rsync to bring the data into the ext2 partition, and then just burn when ready.

The steps to success : ISO 9660 DVD Recording
To make an ISO image for DVD [for data backup, not general usage mind... if you want general usage check out the CD-Writing how to about ISO limitations]:

mkisofs \
-o iso.img \ # output file
-iso-level 3 \ # force unstrict ISO compatability
-R \ # use rockridge extension
directory/ # source directory

To mount the ISO image for testing [will require loopback devices to be installed into your kernel or to be availabel as a module]

mount \
-t iso9660 \ # disk format
-o ro,loop=/dev/loop0 \ # mount read only, use loopback device
iso.img \ # file to mount
/mnt/iso #�mount point

To burn the ISO image to a DVD-R disk

cdrecord \
-v \ # verbose output, help see what's going on
speed=2 \ # cut at double speed
dev=0,1,0 \ # device [see CD Writing HowTo]
-dao \ # DVD's must be written in Disk At Once mode
-data dao.img # file to write to disk

Once the DVD is written you can mount it as you usally would [though, I've found I had to eject then re-insert the disk]

mount \
-t iso9660 \ # disk format, this isn't necessary.
/dev/scd1 \ # device name,
/mnt/scd1 # mount point

ext2 DVD Recording
ext2 is a format which is used for Linux hard disks. Using it to cut a DVD means that you can store exactly the same information as used on the original system. For me this is useful as I hold a mirror of my webserver on my development server. This mirror is synchronized every night using rsync [as people upload data to my web server on a regular basis]. To keep this all intact I copy it into a file which is mounted as a loopback device, in a similar way to how I mounted the iso9660 image above.

It's worth reading this before you do a burn.

Firstly I created an empty file to be the filesystem

dd \
if=/dev/zero \ # read input for file from /dev/zero
of="ext2_file" \ #�output file
bs=1024k \ # file has block size of 1024k [1 Megabyte]
count=4096 # file has 4096 blocks [4 Gigabytes]

Then I make an ext2 filesystem on it

mke2fs \
-b 1024 \ # block size
-F \ # Force [I shouldn't have to use this, but I do]
ext2_file # input file

Then I mount the ext2 filesystem

mount \
-t ext2 \ # device format type
-o rw,loop=/dev/loop0 \ # mount read/write using loopback device
ext2_file \ # device/file name
/mnt/ext2 # mount point

I then write to /mnt/ext2/ like it is a normal disk. Once it is set up as I need it with all the appropriate data I execute the command

cdrecord \
-v \ # verbose output, help see what's going on
speed=2 \ # cut at double speed
dev=0,1,0 \ # device
-dao \ # DVD's must be written in Disk At Once mode
-data ext2_file # file to write to disk

And away she goes!

Anyway, I've just written all this as I reckon someone else out there may be trying to do this, and one of these bits might just help you sort it out a bit quicker than I did. It's not hugely complex, provided you are happy playing around. A good idea is to try everything then run the cdrecord command with the -dummy option in before the -data option, which will do a test burn.

Update 2008/10/11: DB Writes
I am writing in regards to the instructions, given on the following
pages, for burning an ext2 DVD in linux,

First, I'd like to thank you for the information; it would have taken
me eons to figure this out by myself!

Second, FYI, I had to use a larger block size. The following is how it
worked for me:

dd if=/dev/zero of=ext2_dvd bs=4096 count=1024k
mke2fs -b 4096 ext2_dvd
mount -t ext2 -o rw,loop=/dev/loop0 ext2_dvd /mnt/ext2 #as root
# cp evthg I want into /mnt/ext2, and then use k3b to burn ext2_dvd
# as if it was an iso.

Using 1024 or 2048 as the block size caused any subsequent mounts of
the burnt dvd disc to fail: syslog would echo
EXT2-fs: blocksize too small for device.
and I could not find any block-size option for 'mount'.

published 2002.01.19 updated 2014.11.03
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