The Geek’s Garden Part 1: Inception

It’s a little over two years since me and Coralie took over the smallest cottage in the village. It was a bit run down, but that’s par for the course when your budget looks like ours. Since then we’ve made a lot of improvements, and while there’s still a lot of work to do (I’m led to believe that this is the natural state of all houses ever), we’ve done enough of the “need to do” stuff that we can now work through the “nice to do” stuff. With summer approaching, top of my list is the garden.

The mudpile
The mudpile

Calling it the garden may be overselling it somewhat; it’s a paved courtyard, a little over two and a half metres wide and about seven metres long. When we arrived, the defining feature was a heap of soil over a metre long covering the rear width of the yard. It may once have been a carefully maintained raised bed, but when we arrived it was home to a combination of nettles and daffodils, with a few large pot plants dumped on top.

Bless this mess
Bless this mess

Maybe this was all deliberate and I’ve harshly judged a neatly assembled modernist piece. Indeed, we may have inadvertently enhanced that effect by adding some installation art in the form of a spare tyre, an old oven and a collection of copper and plastic pipes as we renovated the insides of the house. Seeing as there’s no obvious signs of Arts Council members issuing prize money, I have to assume not and return to my original conclusion: our courtyard is a dump. It must be razed to the ground and we must start again.

The brief for the project is pretty lofty; I feel that in a small house every square foot must pull its’ weight. It must be a nice place to relax, with seating enough to entertain guests. I want a herb garden – this is an English cottage and I want our yard to play the part of a much larger English cottage garden. Also I hate paying seventy odd pence a time for fresh herbs at the local Tesco only to have them decompose within a few days. The whole garden must be incredibly low maintenance, because I am absent-minded at the best of times and I struggle to make sure I get enough water, let alone the plants in my care. Lastly, the project must be done on a fairly meagre budget, because I much prefer to spend my money on shiny gadgets and when you get down to it, most gardens are a combination of soil, stones and plants, and it does not feel satisfying to spend lots of money on these naturally occurring and plentiful items.

I’m blogging about this partly because I feel that making a target public will pressure me into meeting it, and partly because it might be useful for other amateur gardeners who can learn from my inevitable mistakes.

Opening .AJP CCTV Video Files

If you’re unlucky enough to find yourself needing to view CCTV in an .AJP file format, (as far as I can tell these are created by older Hangzhou Hikvision DVRs) then the following will hopefully be helpful.

Some Googling suggested an application called JPEG2000 AJP Video Player. Downloading it and installing it (always use a VM! Do not install random applications on a production machine! Eat your greens!), will lead to disappointment. Not just because it’s a hideous old application, but because it doesn’t work on modern Windows – I’ve tested on 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 7 and no amount of futzing with Compatibility Mode settings will get it to run properly, and often not even install at all.

What you’ll need to do is set up a Windows XP virtual machine (SP3 worked fine for me) and install the JPEG2000 application there. Once installed (it atually calls itself JM Integrated Remote Station) you can view your AJP file with the “Player” section of the application.

The application is pretty user-unfriendly and some features still won’t work reliably (I couldn’t rewind the video without closing the application to start it again!), but there is a silver lining in that you can output the video to a standard AVI file that will play nicely elsewhere. You can only do it one camera at a time, in real time, but having seen other horrible vintage CCTV programs, any standard-ish export option is a good one.

Blogging

So yeah , I’m blogging again. I’m very web 2.0.

Goals for the blog this time are a bit more concrete: I’m an IT admin at a small to medium enterprise and from time to time I come across useful information, which I’ll be sharing here. There may also be occasional rambling. Anyway, on with the blog!