Biryotto – you heard it here first.

August 16th, 2013

So, when the Biryotto graces the menu of the finest restaurants, you heard it here first.

What’s a Biryottto?  It’s a fusion (and portmanteau) of Biryani and Risotto.  Indian spices in the base, then add arborio rice and slowly add stock for a risotto like creamy finish.

This isn’t so much a recipe as a guideline.  Feel free to play with quantities.  You could also do a veggie version with butternut squash (cut into chunks and roast with cumin then add instead of the chicken and mushrooms), or use lamb or whatever you like.  

1 onion

2 cloves garlic
1″ cube of ginger
2 chicken breasts (or 4 boned thighs if you prefer)
150g arborio rice
5 or 6 decent mushrooms 
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp medium curry power
a good squirt of tomato puree
chilli powder to taste – or a finely chopped chilli 
500ml chicken stock – if done from a cube it’ll be all the salt you need
a good grind of black pepper.
at least a tablespoon of chopped coriander
2 tsp oil, or a good spray of fry lite to keep the fat down.
100g of frozen peas
Chop the onion, garlic and ginger as finely as you can.  Add oil or fry-lite to the pan, and when it’s hot add them and turn the heat down and stir occasionally until the onion goes translucent.  
Add the chicken, turn up the heat, and stir-fry until the chicken starts to colour.  Add a splash of water if necessary to keep it from sticking and burning.   Add the black pepper.
Add the spices, the rice, and mushrooms, and the tomato puree and stir until all evenly coloured.  
Start to add the stock and let it simmer and reduce like a normal risotto.  Keep adding stock and simmering until the rice is tender.  As the rice is close to being cooked, stir in the frozen peas.
Once the rice is ready, stir in the coriander.
Serve as is to be healthy, or with a pitta bread, roti or naan bread if you’re really hungry.

Google Glass: I think I’ve found the killer app

May 12th, 2013

I’ve been watching the fuss around Google Glass with a bit of an air of detachment. In a world where you feel like a geek for wearing a bluetooth headset for your phone, wearable computing has got a way to go.

But the application for Google Glass I’d love is a super version of Evernote Hello – tracking the people you know.

Combine facial recognition with background information – when my boss walks into view it reminds me I need to get him to approve my holiday request. When I meet someone new (they stay in shot for more than 30 seconds) it automatically adds their photo to the “people I met today” where I can add name, contact details etc. If I haven’t seem them for a while it pops up their name and where we met and any other notes. Also tracking context “This is Fred Smith from Fubar computing. Last met at Fubar user conference in Barcelona.”

Pebbles, Google Glass, and all that

May 10th, 2013

At work this week a colleague had a pebble watch. t’s really, really neat. 

Apart from one small thing:  it’s … one tenth of what it could be.

And all the fuss around Google glass  - again, it’s not even starting to get there.

If I’m going to wear a bit of technology, it needs some useful features.

Facial recognition: if I walk up to someone I haven’t seen for a while it should tell me who they are, when I last met them, and anything else relevant.

Navigation: if you’re heading for the pub you arranged to meet the guys at, you need to turn right here.

Money: when I look at a menu, remind me I’ve already overspent on dining out this month and to go for a cheaper option.

Seriously, guys, you can do better with this technology than recording everyone bullshitting their mates in the pub and putting it on YouTube.  

How much technology to play a song?

January 23rd, 2013

So, I’m sat here with my laptop, and I decided it would be nice to listen to some music for a few minutes.  I grab a bluetooth speaker, fire up iTurnes, and play some playlists from the library on my desktop.  Took all of 10 seconds, 8 of which was ferreting in my bag for the speaker.

But let’s think about this.  The computer upstairs is pulling a data stream off its local hard drive, sending it down a wire to the wireless access point, which sends it over the air to my laptop, which then sends it via a different radio format to the speaker sat next to me.  I’m not just amazed that I have superb quality audio being played to me right now, with that lot of technology in the way, I’m amazed that it’s not only possible, but affordable.e

Aperture Confusion

January 23rd, 2013

I realised disk space on the Mac was filling up rather faster than expected, and after some investigation I found a couple of culprits.  First of all, iTunes was set to copy files into the iTunes Media folder when found, so storing a second copy of all my media files.

That was fairly easily sorted, but the bigger problem was that when I’d originally imported all of my pictures into iPhoto, and then shared the iPhoto Library with Aperture, iPhoto had sneakily done that by coping all those images – so Aperture was, mostly, working Managed, not Referenced.  

The workflow to sort this out was, after some trial and error, as follows:

  • Select group of Projects in Aperture (they are grouped by year)
  • File->Relocate Originals to put them in an Aperture sub-directory of the original folder.
  • find Aperture -exec touch {} \; to update the timestamp on the newly created files, because Gemini couldn’t work out which files to keep
  • Run Gemini on the folder, tell it to keep the newest files, and go.

Oh, and full marks to Gemini as a neat, cheap, file de-duplication program.  £2.99 from the App Store, and it’s gained my 200Gb of disk space and counting.  I also used Disk Inventory X to gain some insight into where space was being used to start with.  Both of which I found from tips at

I still have some cleanup to do on the original directories, but that’s not taking up much space in comparison with 90Gb of images – which, stored three times (in the file system, in the library, and in the backup Vault) was something of a disk space hog. 

Going Paperless: Top 10 Paperless Posts of 2012 | Jamie Todd Rubin

December 31st, 2012

I’ve made a few entries on the subject of Paperless – or as I prefer to call it, Paprefree – organisation, and Jamie Todd Rubin has an excellent and informative blog on this subject.   His Top 10 Paperless Posts of 2012 offer a useful insight into how to reduce the amount of paper in your life – and more importantly the amount of time spent filing it and finding the stuff again later.

Aperture – moving photos between computer

December 23rd, 2012

There’s a great video up at ApertureExpert on how to do this in detail, but this is the quick and dirty version.

For the “on the road” library, work in Managed mode, where the photos are stored in the library.  It keeps everything in once place, but for the main computer with 30,000 photos and growing, I need to work Referenced so that I can keep Aperture file sizes manageable.

Import from Laptop to Desktop

So, after importing and editing on the Macbook (working managed):   File->Export->Project as New Library.  

Then, on the base machine, File->Relocate Original… 

Export from Desktop to Laptop

Select what you want, then File->Export->Items as new Library

Select Copy Originals into exported Library – use the originals, and copy previews into exported library.  You can just export the previews if you don’t want to edit the images, just add keywords etc.

When you bring them back, use the merge option to merge back to existing project folders.

Shout out

December 22nd, 2012

Just a shout out to Facebook friend Mollie Pop and her healthy, natural dog food and treats

Here’s one way Apple is no better than Microsoft

December 16th, 2012


It’s been saying “about 5 seconds” for the last 2 hours.

Really, is 64 bit arithmetic that hard on a 64 bit OS?

Paperless, and Apple Mac

December 11th, 2012

I hinted at a bit of a technology change in my last post.  Several months on, I’ve replaced my PC technology with Apple, and I have to say I’m very pleased with the switch.  It’s been a bit more of an investment than I’d planned, largely because of finding some paid equivalents of free PC software that I’ve wanted to get, but for a lot of people, particularly those who aren’t power users, this could be done on a bit of a shoe string.

Copying the data over from the PC was painless enough – I just dropped the PC drive into a USB drive caddy and copied everything over.  About the only thing I know i lost was the iTunes Meta-data (track ratings, playlists, etc), and that was largely a conscious decision that with everything else that needed converting and moving I’d rather start from scratch.

Getting the new mac fully loaded with software was helped along with the MacHeist Bundle 4.  While I’m not going to use everything in that bundle, I’ve more than got my money’s worth.

So, what does my Mac software bundle look like?

Aperture  for photo management.  iPhoto just didn’t cut it with almost 30,000 photos to manage.  I should probably do a longer post just on this, but I now stand a chance of finding pictures I’ve taken in the past, and seeing them again. 

Google Chrome as my primary browser.  Safari is OK, but I’m used to Chrome and it plays the same everywhere.  I really should make the effort to switch to Safari, just for the integration across devices, but sometimes the comfort zone is just too comfortable. 

iTunes for music and video playback.  There are lots of other programs out there, but for integration with the other iThings, it wins hands down. 

iMovie for video editing.  I’d like to get something a bit more sophisticated, but I do so little video work it’s extravagant to buy a more expensive piece of software for now.

Handbrake for transcoding DVDs to video files to watch on the iPad

Microsoft Office – fortunately I work for a company who is eligible for Microsoft’s Home Use Program so I was able to get Office 2011 for a tiny fraction of the usual price.   I’m still tempted to drop the Apple alternatives – Keynote, Pages, Numbers on as well for comparison. 

GIMP and Acorn for photo editing.  I installed Acorn and haven’t registered it, largely because, well, I’m familiar with GIMP and I’ve not used Acorn enough to decide if it’s better or not.  It probably is, but I need to get over the initial learning curve first.   What I really want is something that will do PhotoShop-esque intelligent object selection, but I’m not prepared to pay PhotoShop money to get it. 

Scrivener.  The word processor for writers.  For putting together longer documents, and researching projects, this is an excellent way of working – far nicer than trying to do it in word.  Again, why Scrivener is different from both Evernote and Word, is probably something that deserves it’s own post.

Evernote  “Your external brain” they call it, and it’s certainly mine. Synced to all my devices, and used in conjunction with the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, this is the core of keeping paper off my desk.  Given the amount of non-paper cluttering the desk up, I do wonder why I bothered!

MarsEdit  Blogging client.  For writing blog posts offline, and managing them online.  I have several different blogs – this one, a separate one for amateur radio, and a third for a 4×4 Club, plus other websites I’m converting to use WordPress as  their CMS.

TextWrangler - because I can’t justify paying the money for BBEdit right now, though I probably will upgrade when I get into a serious programming frenzy at some point. 

DropBox to synchronise work in progress between the two macs, and also make stuff available to the iPad when offline.  For the amount of stuff I count as work in progress.

Backblaze for off-site backup of the primary Mac.  The laptop is backed up to a portable hard drive when at home, but I don’t worry about it too much.  I’m rarely on the road for any length of time. 

Freemind I’ve not found anything better looking as a paid app, though I love iThoughtsHD on the iPad.   This is my “thinking” program. 

Parallels to run Windows and Linux in a virtual machine.  There are a few applications I run under here, most of which are only installed on either the home Mac Mini or the Laptop – I don”t need them on both. 

Running under Parallels

TaxCalc – I get the upgrade every year for the pain it takes out of doing a Tax return.  

Quickbooks - looks like there’s a Mac version, but it’s not my money to upgrade with. 

Legacy - family tree software.  There’s probably a Mac alternative.  The learning curve is tough enough I’ll probably stick this one out. 

Ham Radio Deluxe and Minos for my Amateur Radio logbook.   HRD is going pay ware some time, so I’m probably going to switch to HamLoggerDX instead.   But right now, I don’t want to learn another logging program .

Various G4HFQ programs for radio handset programming, plus Kenwood’s program for the TMD72E.  I confess I haven’t tried these actually connected to a radio, but I remain impressed with Parallels ability to assign USB devices either to the host OS or guests on connection or permanently. 

Nanocom’s desktop software

And, for the hardware:

2011 Mac Mini with i7 Processor, 256Gb SSD, 750Gb Hard Drive, 16Gb RAM, two 22″ wide screen monitors, Apple USB keyboard and magic mouse.  I also have a trackpad which I find easier for some tasks, especially scrolling through documents while working on something else. 

MacBook Air, 13″ screen i7 processor,  8GB RAM, 256Gb SSD. 

Backup devices: QNAP NAS with 2x2TB RAID 1 array for backup of the Mini.  500Gb hard drive connected to the Mini to backup the Air.  None of these leave home under normal circumstances; I’ll use dropbox or a local disk for on-the-fly backup copies if needed.