Project prioritization – Inspect and Adapt!

I try to avoid telling myself that I don’t have time for this or that. The truth is that it comes down to how I prioritize those things. I naturally try to put family and work first, but I also make room for my own projects and ideas. Some projects only take a few hours, others linger for a long time.

For example, I would like to register the really neat domain name and aggregate blogs on a certain topic connected to the domain name. I have promised myself (and my visitors!) to make a price database for my energy drink site. I have barely started working on my so called Holiday Project. I have not finished the support for tags on my site Folkmun. I would need to polish my Instant Messaging to RSS system Esagila a bit. There are other projects that are postponed indefinitely. All in all, I really shouldn’t bother thinking of new projects right now.

This blog is another project. I could have been working on any of the above instead of writing this blog post! It’s all about what I give priority to, and I’m not always good at choosing. I probably need to Inspect and Adapt, as done in Scrum. Speaking of Scrum, maybe I should create a product backlog for my projects?

A “proxy” that converts a Real Player audio stream to MP3?

While working on creating an Atom feed from a web page I got the idea to create a proxy that takes an audio stream in Real Player format over RTSP/RTP/RDP and converts it to MP3 over HTTP. It should actually not be harder than to use mplayer to “play” the stream to lame and then output over HTTP. The selling point of this would be the possibility to save the MP3 stream to a file, so that you could for example have an hour of an Internet radio station downloadable as a podcast.

The decoding and subsequent re-encoding would take some bandwidth and CPU power, so there would need be more than one node and maybe both geographic and round-robin assignment of clients to nodes. As the Internet radio stations essentially only send 1 second of radio per second, the bandwidth per client connection would automatically be kept low. No audio data is stored on disk on the nodes, it just shuffled though the proxy.

There is also a potential security issue. If someone could craft a stream that caused mplayer to crash, they might be able to run code on the proxy server. The nodes should probably at least run mplayer chrooted.

An even simpler version would simply provide the Real Player stream over HTTP and that could probably support video quite easily. A more complicated system also re-encodes the video.

Bus Watch, a quite useless idea

My route from Ronneby to work in Karlskrona usually include the bus rather than the train. In the mornings I wait for the bus from Karlshamn to arrive in Ronneby. It is usually a few minutes late.

A recent feature of the bus line is the onboard wireless network. (See also Webbsurfning på bussen in my Swedish web diary.) Yesterday and today I used my Nokia 770 web tablet to listen to web radio on the bus. Unsurprisingly it did not work without interruptions but I expect that web surfing or sending mail works quite alright for the moderately patient commuter. The first idea I got after trying this was to install a WLAN-equipped computer at the bus station to scan for available “bus networks” (very funny, right?) in order to log arrival and departure times for the WLAN-equipped buses. The SSID in the bus is called BUSSONLINEn, where n i a single digit, so they are easy to spot.

This would be slightly more useful if a similar equipment was installed at the Karlshamn bus station too, because it would allow be to find out the average time it takes for the bus to go from Ronneby to Karlshamn, and then predict when the bus arrives in Ronneby based on the departure time from Karlshamn. That way I would know at what time I need to be a the bus station in the morning with better accuracy than the timetable.

All in all, a quite useless idea! It also made me think of the cute Gumstix computers that could be used for this purpose. I still haven’t found a good enough reason to buy one of them.

I leave it to someone else to figure out how to abuse these networks. You don’t even have to be inside the bus to do it…

Good domain names are hard to find

As the The Project is a web site, I had to look around quite a while for suitable domain names. Many of my desired names were already taken, but IIRC none of them was actually used for something. Some are probably a case of domain name speculation, some may be registered by people with a project idea similar to mine. I found and registered a .se domain but I couldn’t find a good .com domain available.

Maybe .com and .se domain names are too cheap, so people buy them at a whim? I have another idea for a neat domain name that could contain a useful web site, requiring the .im TLD. The Isle of Man does not sell their domain names cheap! One year is £40, two years £68 — not including VAT! That’s actually not a lot of money, but when making web sites for fun like I do, you don’t get much revenue.

I’ve found two really good competing sites for the original use I intended for the .im domain name. If I get it I need to broaden the scope, but that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Most websites on related topics usually have really lousy web design, so even I could make something better! I have some ideas but when will I have time to realize them?