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January 6, 2007

You’ve got to love the BBC. When we replaced our dead TV recently with a new one which included an internal Freeview decoder, we lost the ablility to pipe the sound to the stereo (until I can be bothered to resurrect it) and thus have to listen to it using the TV. But here’s the rub: the TV manual says to avoid screen burn-in you shouldn’t watch channels with static graphics, which is exactly what the radio channels provide. And although you can watch the picture with no sound (muted in other words) there’s no vice versa available.

BBC to the rescue! Press the red button while tuned to a radio station, press 0 (zero) and voila, a screen saver! Thanks BBC techie folks.

Speaking of gadgets, BishWife is a bit on the artistic side and has long wanted to return to painting as a creative outlet. Since we’ve never had the space to permit this luxury, I bought her a Wacom graphics tablet for Christmas, along with Ambient Design’s ArtRage painting software, so we could see how it was on the PC. I have to report that ArtRage is absolutely brilliant for messing about with. It’s amazingly sophisticated for something that only costs £10 and it works beatifully with the tablet. (Yes, that’s right £10. It was a Christmas present ok? She will get something more expensive for her birthday. Tch, some people.)

Needless to say, in my ignorance of graphics tablets I bought one which is not very fully featured – it supports pressure sensitivity to fewer levels than the big ones, and pen tilt angle isn’t transmitted – but it’s enough to give a good feel, and worlds better than using a mouse.

Thinking of buying one? The Volito2 is good, but for serious work, go for the expensive stuff. And if anyone from Wacom can arrange to have a feature comparison table of their tablets somewhere prominent on their web site it would help people make good buying decisions. Grrr.

One more thing. As is the trend these days, the software that came in the box was hopelessly out of date, and I had to upgrade the tablet driver and ArtRage just to get it to work satisfactorily for all the users on our machine.  Go play!

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