Cambridge University BEC Vantage: Passed

Great news this morning. My English teacher phoned me about the results of my Cambridge University BEC Vantage exam, which I took beginning of December last year. I passed with level “B”. Big smile on my face. :-)

Reading and Speaking were in the Exceptional range. Writing in the good and Listening in the average range. Listening could have been better, since there were more than one test exam during preparation without any errors. From all the about 20 participants apparently on two finished with level “B”, me being one of them.

I guess, you can tell, that I’m somewhat proud of this result.

Mellomania Deluxe: no more

Mellomania Deluxe (on Sunshine Live), one of my favorite radio shows since I got into this trance music thing, got kicked off the air. Yesterday evening the last radio show went on air.

Hopefully the Mellomania guys (Pedro Del Mar and DJ Shah) will find a new radio gig soon even if it’s on the Internet only. While all the radio shows I’m regularily listening to (A State of Trance, Technoclub, Vonyc Sessions and in parts Eins Live Rocker) play more or less the same direction of music, each has it’s own distinctive flavor. Therefore I will definitely miss Mellomania.

Orkan “Kyrill”

Sturmschaden

Ich schätze, andere Hausbesitzer sind deutlich schlechter weg gekommen beim Durchzug des Orkantiefs Kyrill am letzten Donnerstag. Ich bin heute endlich dazu gekommen, die “Beweise” für die Versicherung zu sammeln. Außer diesen verschobenen Dachpfannen, einer leicht verbogenen Abdeckung am Sonnenkollektor und einem von der Terrasse gewehten Meerschweinchen-Häuschen sind wir von weiteren Schäden verschont geblieben.

PVR Recorder-Script

I’m running a Hauppauge PVR150 along an older Primio analog TV-card. I wasn’t really happy with the scripts, which were mentioned on the IVTV-Wiki. In particular I didn’t like how the recording period needed to be entered. So I wipped up this little script. For actual timed copy of the video stream ffmpeg is used in copy mode.

device=/dev/video0
#peak_bitrate=5500000   # for a little better quality 
#bitrate=4800000
peak_bitrate=4800000
bitrate=4300000
channel=$1
length=$2
output=$3

if [[ -z "$channel" || -z "$length" || -z "$output" ]] ; then
    echo must supply exactly 3 arguments
    exit 1;
fi

ivtv-tune -d $device -t europe-west -c $channel
v4l2-ctl -d $device \
    -c video_peak_bitrate=$peak_bitrate,video_bitrate=$bitrate,stream_type=3
ffmpeg -y -v 0 -i $device -t $length -vcodec copy \
    -acodec copy $output 2>/dev/null

It is executed with three arguments:

rec-tv.sh <channel> <record period> <output file name>

I’m starting the recording with something like this:

echo ./rec-tv-sh E5 1:45:00 recording.mpg | at 22:00

An improvement to be implemented is a mapping from raw channel numbers to sensible program names.

With the peakbitrate/bitrate combination of 4800000/4300000 you get about 2 hours and 10 minutes onto a standard DVD. With the 550000/4800000 combination you get about 1 hour and 50 minutes onto a DVD, while the picture is somewhat better.

New Glass for my Canon 350D

Tamron 17-50 vs. Canon 18-55
I’ve been considering the Tamron 17-55mm/2.8 lens as a replacement for the original Canon 18-55mm kit lens for quite some time now. It has been getting some pretty good reviews at SLRGear, the Digital Picture and from Bob Atkins. An additional reason was, that the Value Added Tax was increased from 16 to 19% starting with 2007. So I quickly placed the order on Dec. 30th, 2006, sort of a belated Christmas and early birthday present.

I made a quick and unscientific comparison between the Tamron and the Canon kit lens. I’ve been reading about the occasional quality problem of the Tamron lens in some forums and I wanted to check, if my copy was ok. It’s very obvious from the picture (top row Tamron, bottom row Canon), that the Tamron is indeed a very good lens. The shots were taken at the telephoto end with a distance of about 1m from the keyboard and a flash on a tripod left to the keyboard with no processing of the raw file, only converting it to JPG.

After the storm

Just before the year change, on the night to Sylvester a pretty heavy storm hit the middle and the north of Germany. I’ve been lying awake until 3 in the morning during that night in the expectation, that a tile from the roof comes flying along or that a branch from one of the trees behind the premises comes down. Fortunately nothing of that sort happened.

After the storm

This tree apparently was not so lucky. I came across it on my regular running route. No wonder, that it didn’t make it since the core is pretty rotten anyway. At least it provided an interesting photographic object. I returned a couple of days later and took some shoots.