I decided to try out YouTube – which some people have said is the upcoming “Flickr for videos” site on the Internet. I’ve uploaded all the Route79 amateur music video productions to YouTube. There are about 25 in total – filling up three pages on the YouTube user interface.

The interesting thing about YouTube is that it makes a very brave attempt (and actually does it quite well) at exploiting the ubiquity of Macromedia Flash to share you videos with the world. So – basically, you upload your video in whatever format you like – mine were a mixture of MPEG2, DIVX and Windows Media – at whatever encoding rate you like – and YouTube will resample your video and make it available for streaming to it’s Flash player – at a video and audio rate (and therefore quality) that is just about passable in playback.

I think it works quite well – but only if you have a fast Internet connection. If your connection speed is too low (or something between your browser and YouTube is congested) – then the video playback will stall and stutter along – in which case you will have to wait until it’s all streamed and then play it again from the player’s cache. The user interface is not too bad – the whole site could be a little more finessed (like Flickr) but I think that’s just a matter of time. Best of all though – the videos you upload (or indeed the videos you discover) can be linked to from blogs – just like this:

Or they can be embedded in your blog – right in your own page – just like this: (This is the 30 second dash from the tube to my office – recorded in 2001 when my office was in Hammersmith in West London):

30 seconds from the tube to the office
(Turn up volume)

It will be interesting to track the development of YouTube – they appear to be backed by a venture-cap outfit with a good rep for spotting the next big thing. But, I think there are some interesting challenges – not least the ones in the area of copyright. You see, unlike flickr – where copyright was one-dimensional if you like – i.e. concerning only still pictures – with YouTube there are two new media formats thrown in – video and audio (and also a specific combination of video and audio) that might have copyright associated with it. Much that I hate the whole subject of copyright – if you look around some of the (admittedly banal) stuff that people upload to YouTube – there’s a fair bit that seems to be straight video-footage of TV screens – or music videos (like my own) that contain some other right-holders content – e.g. the audio dub to the home-made video – or in the case of the Two Chinese Boys video – which is the most “favourited” video on YouTube – it’s two guys miming along to a popular song called “My Way” (By the way – there is a kid in the background who seems to be totally oblivious to the two wacky guys behind him). Has copyright been infringed in any of these cases? Or can it all simply be classed as derived “art”?

Still – YouTube is worth tracking to see how it develops and adapts over time.

Stuffed Chillies

If you are into cooking North Indian (especially Punjabi) food regularly then you will almost always have the two most basic of essential of fresh (or decaying as the case may be) ingredients in your cupboard – and that is potatoes and onions. So – if your cupboards and fridge has run bare of anything else, it is these things that you will resort to in order to cook up a dinner of sorts.

And if you have some green chillie peppers (bell peppers will do also – but the longer, thinner chillie-peppers are better) – then why not make stuffed chillies?

Stuffed chillie peppers: very tasty. Very easy to make.

Click here to learn how to make this really tasty thing – which can either be an accompaniment to a main meal – or a snack on it’s own.

Pac Man

Inspired by a pizza at a dinner party, and originally designed to appeal to girls, it’s been played over 10 billion times and generated over $100m in revenues, and been voted the greatest game of all time in the UK.

Based on such a simple concept but with profoundly complex gameplay – so simple that its code footprint is small enough to render the game perfectly in Shockwave Fash and Java applets for mobile phones. This very simplicity makes this game (like so many retro favourites) so playable on mobile: perfect for those intermittent bits of dead-time when travelling the tubes, trains and buses. Made even more playable given the fact that this game only requires you to use the directional keypad.

Celebrating it’s 25th birthday this year, and destined to be around for another 25 I’m sure – this game is, of course, Pac Man.

Since I am a die-hard fan of Pac Man, and not least because I am currently holding the number 2 spot in the UK high-score leaderboard for the official mobile phone version of the game (I bet you never thought I was that way inclined did you?) , I was invited along by Namco to the finals of the European Pac Man tournament held at Namco Station in Central London yesterday.

It was an extremely interesting spectacle of an event – and attracted a lot of attention from the media who were present in some force – including the BBC who covered the event here (video). The UK champion took second place to the champ from Netherlands, who (lucky bloke) took away an original version of the arcade machine.

Pac Man – the original arcade classic still going strong
(Machine used at the finals of the European Pac Man tournament in London)

I got to play on this machine too – and you just can’t even begin to appreciate how much of adrenaline rush you get when immersed in the game. And the sounds; the sounds, what can I say – there’s nothing else that can evoke such memories of a misspent youth playing this game in city centre arcades and students union bars.

Interesting snippet: the game was originally called “Puck Man” by its Japanese inventor – but the name was changed by an American distribution-company executive who figured that that original name could be very straightforwardly “vandalised” by players in games rooms to say something a little, erm – uncouth.

Alien light pollution

A bright glow of upward-shining light has been visible in the night-time view of the Western horizon from my bedroom window. It only appeared in the last few days – the difference is quite noticable. I am completely puzzled as to what’s causing it – but by my reckoning – it’s probably situated in the Harrow town centre area – which is about 5 kilometres away. There’s no major football stadium around there – and it can’t be the shopping mall as that is a few clicks to the right and doesn’t light up anything like that.

If my imagination were to get carried away with itself I would say that aliens have landed in North West London:

Severe case of light pollution in the Harrow area of North West London
(As seen from my bedroom window through the twigs of the big tree in the foreground.)

Not protesting or anything, but I do feel that it’s a real shame that this has ocurred, as it just adds even more light to the overly-light-polluted skies of London. No wonder only the brightest handful of stars are visible in the night sky around here.

Do not use mobile close by

You can’t travel anywhere on the UK public transport systems without being exposed to warning signs or PA announcements about “unattended bags” etc. You become immune to them after a while. One of my friends was travelling in the North of England a while back and something curious about a particular “unattended bags” warning sign in a railway station near Bolton caught his eye.

He took a picture of it on his camera-phone (just like you do) – but the quality of the image is unfortunately not very good (just like they always are). You can see it below. I have reproduced the words in the warning text – highlighting the red letters in capitals.

and may be destroyed. If you see any unattended bags DO NOT touch it but inform any
member of station staff or the Police – DO NOT use a mobile phone close by.

Happy Diwali

Best wishes to all those celebrating Diwali right now.

Happy Diwali – and all the best for the year ahead.

Diya courtesy of Anita (thanks for the gift Anita!)

At Diwali time – it is traditional to fill several of these earthenware/clay lamps with oil/ghee -and to use a cotton wick which is then set alight – and placed in various parts of the home e.g. window sills and dark corners in order to bring light, hope and optimism to the everyday surroundings.

But for convenience and reusability I found that these hand-made diyas were perfectly sized to accommodate “tea-lights” (small paraffin candles) purchased from IKEA – providing a great use for an otherwise useless but compelling purchase made from that store years ago – and they actually look kind of pretty too (even if they do begin to make your house smell of a petroleum refinery after a while.)

Wishing everybody celebrating Diwali a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead.