Archive for the ‘Apps’ category

On Film4

March 9th, 2012

On the quiet there are a lot of good movies on Film4. This is now available for free through the UK on Freeview, on satellite and on cable. The problem is that I keep missing so many good films or turning on just at the end. Because of this I decided to come up with an over engineered solution to this problem. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you my hack On Film 4.

What this hack does is to take the Film 4 TV listings and tweets on @OnFilm4 10 minutes before the film starts. I also check if the film will be repeated and include that information in the tweet. This has already proved most useful and there have seen a few films that I would otherwise have missed, albeit on in the background while working.

I then decided that I needed a way of summarising the listings so I could easily scan the for good films coming up and set the PVR to record them. I did this by setting up the On Film 4 Google Group that sends an email a couple of times a week with the films that are upcoming on the channel. I try and sort these with the most popular first.

There are several sources of Film 4 programme listings but I have opted to use Andrew’s web site as it is simple and reliable. So I don’t put a load on Andrew’s server I only pull down any days I don’t already have listings for at random times of day. I also update listing for the day ahead in case it has changed. The result of this is I should have a complete weeks listing, accurate for the next day at least, but by only pulling a few KB in two files.

The system also looks up each film on The Movie DB and caches the film information. TMDB is a great community supported resource and I am now helping support it by identifying errors and unlisted films as part of this process. Currently I am not doing much with this information but I intend to do more with it in the future. I am experimenting with using the data to order the films in the email although I have found that going by user vote alone tends not necessarily identify the popular films.

I feel I should also say that this is not intended to be a replacement to the Film4 Twitter stream that is a far more rich and interactive service.

If you find this useful or have any suggestions on how I can improve it then please get in touch.


March 27th, 2011

There are many times I knock up a quick application to work around a problem and then just throw it away. I decided that I really should make more of these available to others who may well be having the same problems as me. This is the first of what will hopefully will be many such apps.

DarkBar is a little Windows application that sits at the top of the screen and blanks out any headers or menus of any other maximised application. I built this for a display showing Google Earth at the Maker Faire UK. You can switch Google Earth to full screen mode and turn off all the on screen controls, but you can not get rid of the menu at the top, and that looks a little naff on a big screen. When DarkBar is loaded it stays in front of the Google Earth window and masks out the menu.

By default DarkBar will load on your last monitor and be the height of the standard Windows menu. If you want to change this you will need to enter the following optional parameters.

DarkBar <monitor_number> <bar_height>

To access the DarkBar menu and to exit the application just right click on the bar. Click here to download DarkBar and please let me know if you find it useful.