Main | September 2002 »

Saturday, 31 August 2002

Evolvable Hardware

"A self-organising electronic circuit has stunned engineers by turning itself into a radio receiver. What should have been an oscillator became a radio What should have been an oscillator became a radio.

"This accidental reinvention of the radio followed an experiment to see if an automated design process, that uses an evolutionary computer program, could be used to "breed" an electronic circuit called an oscillator. An oscillator produces a repetitive electronic signal, usually in the form of a sine wave." [more, New Scientist, so will disappear in a week]

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Friday, 30 August 2002

Free Speech

"For the first time in the annual State of the First Amendment survey, almost half (49%) of those surveyed said the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees a 10-percentage-point jump from 2001, which suggests new public concerns in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks." [more]

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N'Sync Conquers Space

"At a NASA press conference on Wednesday, Bass expressed confidence that he will be on board a Soyuz capsule set to launch from Kazakhstan on 28 October. However, he will not fly unless backers of a planned television documentary on his training and flight pay the Russian Space Agency US$21 million. A spokesman for MirCorp, which brokered the deal, said the Russians had not yet received the money." [more, New Scientist, so will disappear in a week]

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Tate Modern

Tate Modern is wonderful, and it's great to see them doing things like this:

" Wireless networking technology could provide visitors to art galleries with a more interactive experience, if a trial project at Tate Modern in London is a success.

"The gallery has launched a pilot scheme which allows users to access a multimedia tour of the exhibitions on handheld computers." [more]

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Apple does it again

"Apple Computer Inc. will release the source code for Rendezvous to the open source community in early September, the company said in an interview today. Rendezvous is Apple's implementation of the ZeroConf standard documented by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the group responsible for defining Internet standards." [more]

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Thursday, 29 August 2002

John School

"I know what you're thinking: That we should be out enforcing homicides. What you did is not that bad. Mr. Happy was talking to me and I lost my mind," says Gilkey, smiling beneath his mustache, and the men chuckle in recognition." [more]

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Shut up shut up shut up

Den Beste speaks:

"At a certain point, I think there's a tendency in any discussion on any issue to begin to feel like screaming, "SHUT UP, ALREADY!" at the other side. In the case of punishment for certain crimes, listening to endless demands for appeals and new trials, you'd scream "SHUT UP!" zorch!! and let Old Sparky have the last word.

"I would hope that good people would try to avoid giving in to that, but it's a natural impulse, and right now I'm feeling the same thing about Iraq. One reason I wish we'd start the war there is so that all of the world's whiners leaders would stick a fucking sock in it." [more]

I take heart that he only says it's one reason, and I know that he's intelligent enough to not take it as an overriding reason. But there is an amusing image of him in the presidential role going "la la la la la can't hear you, shut up shut up shut up" with his finger hovering over the Big Red Button.

Related:

" The UK Government says it will consider proposing a deadline for Iraq to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and allow weapons inspectors back inside the country" [more]

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Pixar Rendered Goodness

"Pixar created a new animated short for the forthcoming home video release of Monsters, Inc., coming to stores on September 17. A sneak peek of the new short is coming today both on Apple's Web site and the official Monsters, Inc. Web site, as well." [more]

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How low can they go?

PS2 and XBox price drops in the EU:

"As from Friday, Sony's Playstation 2 will cost 169.99 in the UK, while Microsoft's Xbox will retail at 159.99. Nintendo's GameCube will continue to cost 129." [more]

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RSS Goodness

Ben Hammersley writes about newsreaders in today's Guardian Online:

" I don't mean to brag but it's 8.30am and I've already got up to date with 75 different websites. I've read all their headlines, perused the articles of interest, and I'm only half way through my coffee." [more]

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Cosmic Airbags

"Airbags could one day save the planet. At least, that is the view of one mathematician, who is suggesting that they could be used to nudge asteroids or comets that are on a collision course with the Earth gently out of harm's way." [more, New Scientist so will probably disappear in a week]

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Wednesday, 28 August 2002

Errata

Thanks to John Robinson for pointing out a mistake in the Switching article.

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Discount Switching Goodness

Those in the USA can take advantage of Apple's US Refurbished Stock, which offers a veritable cornucopia of discount switching goodness, from iPods to iBooks, PowerBooks to those luscious Cinema Displays. Those in the UK, however, have to make do with the UK Refurbished Stock store, which is only open on Wednesdays, sells out within a matter of minutes and only ever seems to offer iBooks.

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0wnz0red

In the best Egan and Stephenson tradition, go read Cory Doctorow's novella 0wnz0red now. [see Cory's post and Mefi thread]

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Tuesday, 27 August 2002

Mozilla Goodness

Since Mozilla 1.1 is out (all you OS X freaks go get it now), one of the better and more undocumented features is this:

Sticking user_pref("network.protocol-handler.external.mailto", true); in a user.js file in the same directory as your prefs.js file will let you use your default external mailer with Mozilla. Which, quite frankly, rocks. [see bug 11459]

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Miscellanea

A bunch of random, unsorted links:

Metafilter thread about the AI Game
Iain Banks interviewed in the Guardian
Tom is having problems with Mac OS X 10.2 and BT Openworld ADSL
Meg sees a lot of herself in the N-Generation
I applied to do an MSc
You might not have noticed, but Jaguar came out over the weekend
Sean Stewart is going to be at Worldcon

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Friday, 23 August 2002

Google Humour

Are you feeling lucky?

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Dear Sir or Madam

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am Mr Dick Cheney a special adviser on Petroleum and economic matters to the Head of State of The United States of America. Because of my strategic position in the former Government, and also being a close confidant of the Head of State, I was able to acquire personally, the Sum of $25,000,000,000.00USD (twenty-five billion United States Dollars) presently lodged in some offshore sham bank owned by his brother Neil. [more, via boingboing]

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The Future Is Now

Via Matt Jones, in a post about the BBC's new building, Wizard Web Signs - a web-based information system intended to be used in offices. I want more of this. I want to work in an Oxygen office.

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Buffy, you're broke

" Buffy has more financial troubles than your typical 20-year-old. She can't hold down a job. She can't call herself a full-time student on her taxes because she dropped out of college the last time she died. Much of her mother's life insurance payout went toward medical bills. The rest of the insurance money paid for upkeep of Buffy's home. Buffy's little sister, Dawn, is probably headed for college, and there's no evidence that anyone saved money for that. Buffy's father doesn't pay child support.

""Buffy should have a financial planner. She's a very worthy person," says Robert Lurie, a financial consultant in Westport, Conn., who has seen every episode of the show, now in its sixth season." [more, via whedonesque]

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This Is The Longest Day Of My life

My copy of the 24 DVD arrived on Wednesday at around 8:30am. I'd seen up to around 4pm before I left for the 'States and had foolishly assumed that BBC2/BBC Choice would've gotten around to finishing the series by the time I'd gotten back. The schedulers at the BBC seem to have missed that one slightly, as the season finale aired this Sunday gone.

Thanks to the net, though, we'd gotten hold of all the episodes anyway, though I'd just decided that I might as well watch the remaining episodes on TV, instead of hunched in front of a computer.

So, at 9am on Wednesday, in a fit of inspiration that I bet didn't occur to anyone else in the country at all, I started watching the 9th our of 24. 9am, at 9am. Then 10am at 10am. And so on. Until I got a bit bored, really, and ended up about an hour ahead of myself. And then two hours. By which point it all got rather silly--with adbreaks removed, skipping the credits and the "This is the longest day of my life" Jack Bauer monologue, you get each episode down to around thirty five minutes.

The ending blew. The alternate ending blew slightly more. The "preview" for season two blew so much that it was like catching a nice jet stream over the atlantic and arriving before you even left: a good five minutes of Kiefer saying "Wow! 24's amazing! We did it in realtime! Traffic lights suddenly mattered! Driving across the city suddenly mattered! (Although friends in LA incessantly commented about his ability to avoid all traffic, ever)" That's all well and good, I thought. So where, exactly, is the preview to season two? Oh, here it is: "So, what can you expect for season two? In a word: more." Well, that's nice. I always like having more, especially when it's a new season. Otherwise it's just the same first season and not any more at all, really. All this in an extra that ended with Kiefer exhorting the viewer to "go watch the DVD" at the very end, in an extra tacked on to the end of the last episode, on the last disc. Oops.

[more on 24 - Caitlin Moran in The Times, and yes, there's spoilers]

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Panic: Desktastic

My friend Cabel, who founded the Panic - they make stuff like Audion and now Desktastic, which bloody well rocks - it's an OS X app that lets you scribble all over your desktop. Amazing.

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Thursday, 22 August 2002

Will Wright and The Sims

Celia Pearce interviews Will Wright about Sims, BattleBots, Cellular Automata God and Go - a rather lengthy piece that contains stunning comments from Wright about the directions in which his Sims series might go:

Will Wright: "Yes. I'm trying to basically chronicle the average model that the players have made in their heads. It's like cultural anthropology. Already it's having a huge impact on what we do with our expansion packs and the next version of The Sims. We're getting a sense of when people like to play the house building game vs. the relationship game, and what types of families they like to create, what objects they like the most. Eventually, in the not too distant future, we're working towards having this be dynamic on a daily basis so the game in some sense can be self-tuning to each individual player based on what they've done in the game. That's what I think is going to be really interesting slash kind of scary[sic]. Because I can see a really clear path to getting there. You look at what a million people have done the day before in a game, have all that information sent up to your server, do some heavy data analysis, and then every day send back to all these games each with its own new tuning set."

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Switching

I think the turning point was when I saw a Sony Vaio laptop next to an Apple PowerBook in a department store. The Sony, although svelte, sexy and shiny in its own way, simply paled in comparison to the PowerBook. I mean, come on. The PowerBook is one inch thick. It's got a titanium skin. And, to top it all off, it ran OS X.

Sure, there was doubt. I've been weaned on Microsoft products all my life, ever since I can remember my dad carting home an IBM AT in the late eighties. Then, it was DOS all the way up to 6.22, Windows 3.0, 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98SE, NT4, 2000 and XP. I remember mucking around with config.sys files, tweaking emm386 parameters, making boot disks that would be exceedingly funky with dos4gw. It was all very interesting. It wasn't really frustrating. I didn't particularly think that there was any other way for things to be. And--let me get you straight on this--it didn't feel that bad. I felt like I was learning lots. I guess I was, maybe.

One time (no, not at band camp), in an effort to get Wing Commander, or something or other, working on an old NCR 386 (it even had a 387 co-processor, but was badly stung with EGA graphics), I'd mistakenly done Very Bad Things to config.sys and didn't have any spare floppies to boot off. That got me in trouble. Apart from that, everything was a learning experience.

A few of my friends had Macs. They were normally used for word processing or desktop publishing. Sometimes, when I went round and played with them, they had little pictures of bombs on them. It was cute. I was told, back then, that although Macs were cute and could do fun stuff like record sound (they had microphones! You could actually record your own voice and it would play it back!), they were Bad because they Shielded You From Things. Back then, a computer that you didn't have to fight with to get to do what you wanted didn't really seem like a computer.

I grew up. I got on the net. The machines in our household began to accumulate, the NCR 386 was superceded by a 486, then a Pentium Pro, then a Pentium II, and then and then. I struggled with getting the relevant OSes to work (the Pentium Pro was a Dell model that came with NT4 preloaded and a SoundBlaster AWE64. It didn't work out of the box. At all. There were tech support calls to Dell in Ireland, who were dumbfounded but, in what still stands out as the best tech support I received ever, transferred me to tech support in the 'States until someone could work out the problem with me. That was fun.) - being the only competent techie in the house kind of thrusts you into that position.

Our family got on the 'net in 1994. I'd found out that my dad, an academic, was entitled to an account on his university's unix system and that they offered SLIP dialup. That was a no-brainer. There was trumpet winsock for a while, then TCP/Connect II (by Intercon, which has now bizarrely become an engineering and manufacturing corporation), then Windows 95 came on, which, the TCP/Connect II people reluctantly informed me, had its own TCP/IP stack and dialer. Oh well. Unix was fun. I think I learned how to use pine and tin around then. Then unix disappeared for a while, apart from occasional forays to chmod things that were promptly forgotten.

Then unix kind of came back. I got an account on a student server at university, and then ended up doing some work for my dad's university for a friend that involved us sticking Red Hat on a machine, messing around with samba, perl, mysql and apache. Linux was becoming trendy, and I wanted in.

2002. My domain was hosted on a box in someone's kitchen (Chris's domain seems to have vanished), and he refused to install pine, so I was forced to learn how to use mutt. Still not that much learning going on. Still, I really did want to pick up what little perl I'd forgotten, and gluing all these free sql database to perl and apache had given me some kind of rush.

Early this year, it was finally time to buy a laptop. The desktops in the house were all running Windows 2000 or XP, and I'd done my homework. It had come down to a Sony Vaio. Then I saw those two machines, the Vaio and the PowerBook next to each other. And I wanted the PowerBook.

I read, voraciously. No one would say anything that bad about OS X. Sure, it was slow. It'd get better. But it was gorgeous. And hey, there was all that BSD goodness lurking just under the lickable Aqua/CoreGraphics frontend. I could play with apache again. Perl 5.6 came preinstalled. If I got fink running, I could stick X11 on. Samba was only a compile away.

I bought the PowerBook. When the machine arrived, I'd probably sat in front of a Mac for less than five minutes in the entirety of my life. It was a big gamble. An expensive one. Those I knew who had switched--a friend who had switched from Windows and bought an iBook--were ecstatically happy.

I realised that things were somewhat different when, after booting up and installing OS X, I had tried to insert the Airport CD to get onto our wireless network. I didn't have to. It'd already been detected. I could already ping every other machine. I tried installing some software--it had come in some kind of disk image. Double click on the disk image. It bounced in the dock. I double clicked on the newly mounted disk. "Drag this into your Applications folder," it said. I did. That was it. It felt a bit weird.

A couple days later, I downloaded the source to Samba and tried to compile it. My unix knowledge could have been put on the head of a pin and a million angels still could've had room to dance. I followed the instructions I had, but they were somewhat vague, and amounted to "download samba, compile it, and then just change all the config file in /etc/samba/smb.conf". I did, and it didn't work. I ignored it for a while.

Office v.X finally arrived and was installed on the machine. Word is fine, apart from a few problems with using up around 1gb of swap. Excel X makes pinging noises every so often, but does the job. Entourage X is pretty, though it could do with acknowledging the existence of Outlook a little more than, say, going "lalalalala I can't hear you". I went back to getting Samba to work. It did, I'd just been a little thick about the whole process. That same day, Sulaco, the PowerBook, started showing up in the local workgoup and started leeching MP3s from my desktop.

I swapped shells to Bash, simply because I could, and every other unix system I'd used had used Bash as its shell. Oh. And all the cool kids were doing it too.

I tried learning Java, downloaded a book and attempted to install the JDK on an XP box. It didn't work. It didn't like XP. I just used javac on OS X instead. Last week, I started playing with Perl again to write some irc bots.

I found some instructions to start an imap server so I could migrate mail from Outlook on my XP box. It took around an hour to do. In retrospect, it was pretty easy.

I played with Fink for a while, and would've installed XFree86 for Darwin, only I'm on a narrowband connection that gets dropped every two hours. It's on my list of things to do.

I couldn't have done any of those things with a Vaio laptop. Well, maybe I could've wiped it and stuck Debian on it. But that wouldn't have been the point. Things wouldn't have worked. Or, I've been lead to believe that things would've been a lot harder to get working. Right now, I've got a one inch thick svelte machine that does everything perfectly and when I tell it to. It has a gorgeous UI that, minor niggles withstanding (what is it with a dock that will let you put applications behind it so you can't get at them again?) is a joy to use. iTunes is fun. iPhoto is fun. I want an iPod. Chimera is a wonderful browser.

My only reservation is, Apple hype be damned, this machine is a tad slow. Maybe Jaguar will help with that.

I love my Mac.

[More switch stories at Apple and O'Reilly]

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Wednesday, 21 August 2002

Everything Changes, But Chew

Bloody hell. I used to write a lot, didn't I? And it used to be much prettier, no?

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Slightly Cunning Government

The Register writes about a cunning move by the UK government - the consolidation of public sector purchasing of broadband.

"The theory behind it is simple enough; the public sector could provide a massive market for broadband providers prepared to supply schools, hospitals, local government offices and agencies etc.

"Of course, not all its schools, GP surgeries, etc are within cable and ADSL-enabled areas.

"So, if enough demand is whipped up for broadband - especially in these areas currently not served by cable or ADSL - then this aggregated demand might just be enough to entice providers to invest in the roll-out of this technology."

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Command Line Goodness

After installing yesterday's security update for OS X, the laptop steadfastly refused to reboot. Or shutdown. Or do anything, really, related to turning itself off. Which is why sudo reboot is exceedingly funky, because it managed to do what a whole bunch of pull down menus didn't.

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More on Entourage and PST Files

So, I ended up just sticking an imap server on my PowerBook and copying all my email over from Outlook XP that way. For the contacts, I got about halfway through trying to get importing through CSVs, but then gave up since I realised it'd be a damn sight quicker to just type them in anyway. Why was it difficult?

" There are some 87 contact fields in Outlook 2000, 92 in Outlook XP, 78 in Outlook 97, 29 in Outlook Express Windows, and 60 or so in Entourage, only 40 or so of which are actually equivalent. (Incredibly, Outlook allows only 3 email addresses per contact, whereas Entourage permits 13). The fields are all called something else, and they're all in a different order. The scripts take care of all that, often with user options for custom field-mapping and the ability to save your choices so you never have to go through this again." [more, full article]

Gits.

Anyway, anyone who's making the switch and has a whole bunch of stuff on Outlook to worry about moving over is well advised to read the above article.

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Haddock Blogs

Via Tom, Haddock Blogs: probably good fun if you like the links that haddock.org throws up.

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Consequences

Vaughn is playing Consequences over at his blog.

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More OS X Goodness

Via Oblomovka, Linux to an iMac, another Forwarding Address: OS X-style weblog.

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Serial Gamers

Via Wired:

A French video game company hopes to do what no gaming company has done before: successfully launch an interactive episodic title that hooks gamers like The Sopranos hooks television viewers.

Quantic Dream, which saw some success with its PC and Dreamcast game, Omikron -- The Nomad Soul, plans to introduce the first episode of Fahrenheit later this year, with subsequent episodes to be released every four months.

CEO David Cage describes the real-time 3-D game -- which follows the story of two detectives working to solve a series of murders -- as an attempt to "invent a new format merging cinema and interactivity." Fahrenheit is being written, produced and directed like a real TV series, with recurring characters and an ongoing story throughout the episodes.

If Quantic Dream can pull it off, it will have succeeded where other episodic titles, like Electronic Arts' Majestic, and Origin's Wing Commander: Secret Ops, have failed. Both games were discontinued after neither attracted significant numbers of players. Mainstream gamers bristled at both the pacing and the intrusive quality of online conspiracy game Majestic, while the large download size of each episode of Wing Commander: Secret Ops (about 120 MB) prevented the game from catching on at a time when most people used 56-KB modems to connect to the Internet (the game was released in 1998). Plans by Arush to sell single episodes of its Duke Nukem game were eventually dropped in favor of bundling all the planned episodes together in one package. [more]

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Tuesday, 20 August 2002

You say Axis of Evil, I say Business Opportunity

"Halliburton came under fire in the early '90s for supplying Libya and Iraq with oil drilling equipment which could be used to detonate nuclear weapons. Halliburton Logging Services, a former subsidiary, was charged with shipping six pulse neutron generators through Italy to Libya. In 1995, the company pled guilty to criminal charges that it violated the U.S. ban on exports to Libya. Halliburton was fined $1.2 million and will pay $2.61 million in civil penalties." [more]

So, let me get this straight. Sell Iraq stuff that, at the time, is unequivocally illegal to sell to Iraq and get fined $3m. Then, go to war about them developing weapons of mass destruction. Aaaah, now I understand.

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Evil and Good

Check out the Evil Site to find out what's evil and what's good, then add your own if you've got any suggestions. If you feel like it, you can even wade in to an age old debate.

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Monday, 19 August 2002

Grey Goo

IHT covers nanotech [via mefi].

"Nanotechnology is becoming a new organizing focus for groups such as the Science and Environmental Health Network, an Internet-centered research group for environmental and public health groups. The network is a leading proponent of the go-slower approach to new technology, sometimes known as the precautionary principle. The principle has become a potent force in European regulation in recent years and is often discussed, if less adhered to, among U.S. regulators. The most conservative backers of the principle tend to look for proof beyond a reasonable doubt that potential risks have been examined, as well as evidence that less risky ways of reaching the same or similar goals have been weighed."

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Make The Pie Higher

Via email, today:

This poem is composed entirely of actual quotes from George W. Bush. The quotes have been arranged for aesthetic presentation by Washington Post writer Richard Thompson. Too good not to share, especially during National Poetry Month...

MAKE THE PIE HIGHER
by George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where
our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

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Coming Soon

News.com article about forthcoming technologies in notebooks:

Fuel cells (3 times longer than batteries) - late 2004
Fuel cells (10 times longer) - 2005+
Supercapacitors - late 2005
Notebooks in Palm form factors - late 2002
OLED displays - 2007+

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Friday, 16 August 2002

Buffy and Slaying Terrorism

Via Wonderful Remark:

In a paper titled "Biological Warfare and the Buffy Paradigm," Mr. Cordesman suggests that the challenges (and shortcomings) facing the United States in the war on terrorism are not unlike those facing Buffy and company. After all, they too live under a constant threat, or at least over one: Buffy's town, the story goes, is built atop an evil portal that "every slag wants to unlock" so as to "unleash hell on Earth." [more... (NY Times)]

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Tweens

This month's Wired has a featurette about what's cool in a tweenager's world (and how I hate that word). Some choice statistics quoted in the article:

- In one study, 17% of kids said they'd used IM to ask someone out. 13% used IM to break up with someone.
- 61% of parents say they check the family PC to see what Web sites their kids visit. But only 27% of teens think their parents check.

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More Aschroft Fun

Declan McCullagh of Politech writes: 1. Ashcroft asks for new "antiterror" powers last fall.
2. Congress near-unanimously gives him what he wants in the USA Patriot Act.
3. Ashcroft refuses to say how they're being used.
4. Whoops! It turns out that the congresscritters forgot to put something in the law that requires Ashcroft to answer any questions about how his brand-new "antiterror" powers are being used. (Detention camps, perhaps?) Nice job, everyone! [more...]

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iBooks, TiBooks and MyBooks

Nathan Torkington writes about what you what you REALLY need to know when switching:

"1. iBook vs TiBook. iBook fits on cramped airplane traytables, whereas TiBook requires you to gouge your neighbours with your elbows. iBook has better wireless range than the TiBook (unless you use a PC-Card instead of the Airport card and a third-party driver). Oh, and of course, you can darn near afford two iBooks for the price of a TiBook (and as the saying goes, if you buy one iBook you've got two weeks to get another or get a divorce)."

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Thursday, 15 August 2002

Narrative in Games

There's been a good thread on narrative in gaming over the last few days on the Mud-Dev list, culminating in this conclusion by quite a few of the participants.

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Tuesday, 13 August 2002

Better than O2

An article at Boston.com has some more tidbits about MIT's Oxygen project:

"For instance, Ken Steele totes a heavily modified iPaq handheld computer, featuring a Cricket and a standard wireless networking card. The handheld displays a live video image of grad student Jason Waterman, who's located elsewhere in the building. But when Steele crosses the threshold of his office, Waterman's image instantly appears on the monitor of his desktop computer.

"Steele didn't issue any commands or press any buttons. He didn't have to. The system knew what to do. A Cricket on the ceiling detected his presence in the room, and notified the Oxygen network. The network "knew" Steele was viewing video on his handheld, and that he'd get a better picture on his desktop monitor. So it routed the image there, without being asked. If Steele needed to print out a document, the system would know enough to use the printer in his office, not the one down the hall.

"It's impressive, but "it wouldn't be commercially viable at the moment," Steele says. Each Cricket costs about $60 to build. Besides, an iPaq equipped with all the necessary accessories is about the size of a brick far too clumsy for use by a consumer."

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Wonders of the superinterwebway

1. I can apply for a job just like that.
2. I can find out that I didn't get the job just like that.

Technology's amazing!

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Buffyage

Via Whedonesque, 'Stina's Buffy Theories, including a Sunnydale Death Toll (unfortunately, only updated to season three).

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TIPSters beware

Wired writes: "The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a website for people to protest the Bush administration's citizen informant program, which would enlist civilians nationwide to report suspicious behavior by their fellow Americans."

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Monday, 12 August 2002

XML Frenzy

Infoword article on XML usage in in-development Office 11, SQL Server and Windows Longhorn.

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Saturday, 10 August 2002

Personal RSS Aggregators

Jon Udell writes about personal RSS aggreagators for Byte.com [old, May 27 2002].

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Thursday, 08 August 2002

The Browserless Web

Giles has written a great email about the browserless web, aka the semantic web. Check out the rest of his luvly list.

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Never say Never, Be sure when you say Always

The .sig "My USD0.02 will always be worth more than your EUR0.02, so :P" has been showing up on Slashdot for a while now. What makes it funny is its factual inaccuracy. To me, at any rate.

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Monday, 05 August 2002

Fink-ness

Buoyed on by yesterday's successes with imapd, today was spent trying to get Fink working with slightly more than the cursory 10-second attempt that the first trial entailed. Turns out the first time round I'd forgotten I was using bash instead of tcsh, which really explains the horrendous error messages.

So, now, I'm much happier that I have BitchX, screen, mutt and fortune living in /sw/bin/. Aside from that, I'm a little annoyed that I can't get X on X working because of stupid 2 hour connection limits. Grrr.

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Saturday, 03 August 2002

And before I forget...

I've got one of these now.

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Narrative in gaming

Yoz Grahame writes about narrative in gaming, which should be of some interest to the people who played this game.

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Family Tree

Blogtree now has entries for ext|circ and daily doozer, its precursor. More: Meg and Tom [1, 2] have written about Blogtree and blog genealogy, too.

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Email Freedom

Spent this afternoon putting imapd [Stepwise, Macwebb] on the laptop--still no better way to transfer mail from Outlook .pst files to Entourage X/any other mail client on OS X, so decided that I might as well do it this way. Worked great over airport albeit a little slowly, I'll have to try a wired connection next time; took a very long time to import ~500 messages and Outlook exported them all with those dreaded winmail.dat attachments.

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Recently Read

Body of Secrets, by James Bamford (Good, detailed) [Related: NSA Broke the Internet at BoingBoing] and The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil (Bad, patronising, too populist).

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Coming to America

"On the boats and on the planes / They're coming to America"

About a month and a half ago, after all my lawyerly exams, it was Holiday Time--five weeks in the 'States, with a trip up to New York while I was up there. A fairly hectic schedule, really, for getting there in the first place: my old college's May Ball was on Tuesday the 18th June and my flight left Heathrow on the 20th. Only the May Ball would last all the way through to early on the 19th, and I'd have to get down to London at some point...

Much thanks to Vicky and Katherine for putting up with me for a night before I took off to DC, or Arlington, Virginia, to be more precise. The train down from Cambridge to King's Cross wasn't exactly the relaxing sleep that I had in mind - the 9:45am Cruiser train, already late, was packed by the time it arrived at Cambridge which left people boarding with the choice of standing room only or, well, standing room only. Actually, I tell a lie. A lucky few were bumped up to the luxurious first class coach. Wait, it wasn't a coach. To call it a first class coach would be an overstatement of government media adviser proportions, what it actually was was a collection of seats at the end of the last-most carriage, protected from the prole scum by a sliding door. So, the lucky few who'd elected to stay near the entrance of the carriage instead of moving down to free up some room were bumped up into the bliss of being able to sit down while the rest of us had to stand for the hour-long journey.

That said, I'd normally not be overly distressed by standing up for an hour--actually, I wouldn't really be distressed at all. As herculean tasks go, greater punishments have been inflicted on more unfortunate people. I'd doubt, though, that those people had sinuses on the verge of exploding due to the quite horrific pollen counts that Cambridge is renowned for. Fine, I admit it. Even with exploding sinuses, standing up for an hour in a train isn't exactly the kind of cruel and unusual punishment that's going to get you indicted for war crimes if you inflict it on someone, enemy combatant or no. No, what caps the whole thing off in a wonderfully offended middle-class manner is that I desperately longed for a little sleep after the May Ball that'd only finished at half six in the morning and grabbed an hour and a half of sleep before my train left. I wouldn't have minded the exploding sinuses or the standing if I were able to sleep (and yes, I realise that sleeping is rather hard to accomplish if you're on two feet). After nine hours of solid partying, free food and free drink, an extra hour of sleep is like gold dust. Absolutely impossible to find on a packed WAGN train.

So anyway. Exploding sinuses and streaming noses--if you're sensible then the best way to deal with something like that is to have an abundance of tissues and to be fully loaded up on antihistamines. Anthihistamines - check. Abundance of tissues? Ih. More or less. Ten minutes into the train ride? No more tissues. Raw nose? Check. And ouch. Look around frantically. No, tissues nearby. Nothing to blow the nose that is now affecting a rather good impression of a geyser under enormous pressure. Oh, but wait--what's this? There's a small trolley lurching its way towards me that looks incredibly like the trolley used to dole out ludicrously overpriced drinks and snacks. Excellent. I bet they have paper napkins. I bet they wouldn't mind if I grabbed a couple...

It wouldn't be interesting if they didn't mind, would it. Not at all. Trolley guy lurches his way up, tells us to get out of the way (like we have a choice, really) and is incredibly offended that people would have the temerity to actually get on to a train and stand there! I ask if I could possibly grab a couple paper napkins--my nose is now streaming like a BBC Realplayer server.

"No, you can't have a napkin."
"Well, okay then. Can I have a drink?"

I get a diet coke. The trolley guy makes a very, very big deal of picking up one paper napkin, folds it elaborately, and smiles as he gives it to me.

Bastard.

Dear WAGN, you suck.

But everything else is fine, of course. I get to King's Cross with no problems apart from attempting to sleep upright, and from King's Cross to Wimbledon there's nothing eventful at all on the District line. I meet up with Vicky, who hands me the keys to her and Kathryn's apartment. Taxi to the apartment, dump my bags and, very slowly, pass out.

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Friday, 02 August 2002

QDB

The IRC QDB has completed its move from geekissues and can now be found at http://bash.org.

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Essential OS X, Redux

An updated version of Essential OS X:

Some people think that NetNewsWire Lite iis better than Slashdock. At the very least, NetNewsWire Lite is less resource intensive and is being updated more often than Slashdock. If you're interested, you can check out my current subscriptions.

Microsoft has released Remote Desktop Client for OS X which is slightly better than VNCThing for connecting to Windows XP/Terminal Services.

Chimera is now up to version 0.4 and Mozilla has released 1.1beta, which can be found here for the time being.

Apple went and released iTunes 3, whose biggest new feature is smart playlists. They also took the opportunity to reveal a little more information about Quartz Extreme in a 3.5mb pdf file.

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All Change

Since Blogger went and lost ext|circ's template a few weeks back (and all attempts to persuade it that ext|circ does, in fact, have a template have failed), I've switched over to Movable Type.

Two immediate benefits: I can actually post updates now, which makes a change. Those who have been pointing out to me that absolutely nothing up has gone up on this site for quite a while may now be silenced. The second is that for those inclined, there's now an RSS 0.91 index that NetNewsWire Lite isn't averse to reading.

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Essential OS X

  • Chimera is a gecko-based browser that rocks.
  • Mozilla 1.0 is pretty good, too.
  • Weatherpop rocks for telling you that you should be outside.
  • Slashdock is an RSS/RDF headline browser that sits in the dock and saves time if you read sites like Slashdot.
  • VNCThing is a godsend if you're me.
  • Adium is the best AIM client out there.
  • Celestia will let you explore the universe.

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