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Friday, 27 February 2004

Project Syzygy

Remember the Cloudmakers? That aggregation of thousands of people playing an incredibly immersive game? If you played, you'll remember. It's likely that you'll never be able to forget. Since then, the scene's been, well, not exactly quiet, but not setting the world on fire, either. I got depressed for a while at the state of massively multiplayer immersive gaming. That amazing new genre was starting to look as if it had prematurely died.

Now, though, I'm excited and for good reason: Project Syzygy is launching, and we're hiring.

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Thursday, 26 February 2004

Thursday Trawl

I don't know why I bother: I build up a cache of links at work to stick online when I get home and I find out that at least half of them have already been covered by those loveable alpha grumps. Anyway.

I think I love Patricia Hewitt - she's taking a politically suicidal stance on protectionism and free markets:

“We know, the US knows, that protectionism is the road to recession. If we in government and business and the City want open, dynamic markets, and we do, then we have to make and win the argument that trade will benefit everyone, not a global elite, not a few but the many.” [more, The Times, registration probably required]

Ann Winterton does it again, Prince Phillip'd better watch out (otherwise he'll go all slitty-eyed. Ha):

MICHAEL HOWARD last night dismissed Ann Winterton as a Tory MP after she refused to apologise for a racist joke about the death of 20 Chinese cocklers in Morecambe Bay.[more, The Times]

And now a diversion: I hate Novell's Groupwise 6. Today's pet hate is that in list view there seems to be no keyboard shortcut for replying to a message. Hitting the intuitive control-r amusingly marks the currently selected message unread. Hitting control-r again, even more amusingly, fails to mark the now unread message read. There is apparently no keyboard shortcut whatsoever for replying to an email. This is on top of such UI niceties as not even having the sodding standard alt-f-c file/close menu item in windows which means you actually have to use the mouse to close a window. Bastards.

Heh, Clare Short. I wish I'd seen that:

Well, you knew it was going to be fun watching Clare Short make a dork of herself on a reality show, but not this much fun. No, certainly not this much fun. Then again, nobody with this much self-regard, nobody so disastrously, vainly vulnerable to flattery that they make Malvolio look genetically immune to compliments, nobody so convinced that perhaps she alone has all the answers to the world’s economic and social ills, and who inhabits a moral plane so high that it would give mere mortals vertigo, nobody who is so able to screw their courage to the sticking place, and then unscrew it again ignominiously a few days later without feeling any shame, nobody with such qualities was going to emerge from a show like My Life in the Real World (BBC Two) with what was left of their credibility intact. [more, Times]

No, really, it genuinely does look like Clare Short as a teacher was piss-your-pants hilarious:

"Please don't argue. Please. Quiet, please. Settle down, please. Can I just have some quiet, please. Stop it, you two." It's early in the week, but Miss Short has already lost both the respect and control of her class. She wants to be their friend, it seems, rather than their teacher. She's trying to do a lesson about map-reading but they're all just mucking about, chatting and throwing things around. Ever the politician, she claims it all went quite well at the end of it. An interesting group she says - noisy, but they were working. No they weren't, Clare; it was an absolute bloody disaster. [more, Guardian]

Caitlin Moran on poor fat people (as in, lack of money, not sympathy):

As we all know by now, it’s generally poor people who are getting fat. The middle-class maxim has always been that you should be earning your age in thousands per annum. The modern working-class version of that is that you should be weighing your age in stones; which, I’m proud to say, I had managed by the time I was 11. [more, Times]

Judge in iPod shocker. I read a judgment the other day, probably British Midland Tool wherein the decision was not only witty but even included a lengthy section on nuking a Windows 2000 machine. It was actually quite readable. Anyway:

So the revelation on Wednesday that Mr Justice Mann, sitting at the High Court Chancery Division, not only knows what an Apple iPod is but actually owns one - will come as a surprise to many. [more, BBC News]

Goddamnit it. When The Times isn't even able to accurately use apostrophes you really do despair. Tory's what, exactly?

Tory's [SIC, I TELL YOU, SIC] to hold gay summit [more and more, The Times, for crying out loud]

Greenspan rocks:

The US Congress must take action to reduce the swollen US budget deficit, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has said. Mr Greenspan urged Congress to cut spending, particularly on the state pension scheme, social security, before the Baby Boomer generation starts to retire. [more, BBC News]

Absolutely sodding hilarious Microsoft Office advert. Must resist making mean security comment. Oops. Too late.

Great moments at work: 9:52 a.m. No e-mails asking to set up file sharing. [image]

I love how 70% of respondents in the USA said they'd die for their God or beliefs.

Sigh. I need to think about this:

WASHINGTON - The House voted Thursday to treat attacks on a pregnant woman as separate crimes against both her and the fetus she is carrying. Critics say it would undermine abortion rights by giving fetuses new federal legal status. [more, Yahoo news]

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Wednesday, 11 February 2004

Wednesday trawl

WTF?

Macintosh synchronization is something that the Palm OS used to offer, but won't any more. Mr. Slotnick made it clear that PalmSource isn't developing a Mac version of the Palm Desktop. As the way the PIM apps work has changed significantly, this means Mac users won't be able to HotSync without third-party software. [more]

Re-implementing Solitaire on Longhorn:

It all began several months ago when I happened to be in a meeting with my new "Longhorn" laptop. When I'm in a meeting, I find that I zone out if I'm not intimately involved in every topic. When this happens, there's a very real chance that I'll start handling e-mail or writing code or doing something else useful 'til *zing* someone asks me a question, but all I hear is "..., Chris?" and I look up like a deer caught in the headlights. To avoid this unpleasant situation, when I begin to drift out of a meeting, I generally start up the most popular Microsoft Windows® application ever—Solitaire. [more]

I have eight days away from the office starting tomorrow. GPRS rules:

The information on this page has been supplied mainly by users of my Apple GPRS scripts, though one or two network providers have supplied data (officially or through an employee). It may be subject to change, particularly as GPRS networks mature. [more]

Spoilt insufferable idiot spends £12k on father's credit card, is unrepetant, buys "nice things". Watch my mouth foam:

A TEENAGER who stole his father’s credit card, flew to Rome and spent £12,000 on designer goods and smart hotels has blamed his parents for not taking him to the January sales. Tom Smith, 17, took his father’s NatWest Mastercard and Switch and went on a four-day spree because he was fed up with the weather and wanted a Prada coat. [more, Google trawl]

Department of Constitutional Affairs - goddamn getting rid of the Lord Chancellor, I'll never forgive them for that - plans for Supreme Court:

Plans to establish a Supreme Court for the United Kingdom were unveiled today by Constitutional Affairs Secretary Lord Falconer. As part of the radical modernisation of Britain's constitution, Lord Falconer said it was vital the people who ultimately interpreted the laws were clearly separated from the people who make the laws. [more]

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Saturday, 07 February 2004

BBC4 Documentaries

Some good documentaries this week on BBC 4. The first on Tetris:

Monday 9 February 2004 9pm-10pm; rpt Tuesday 10 February 11.30pm-12.30am; Thursday 12 February 7pm-8pm; Sunday 15 February 10.05pm-11.05pm. This is the story behind the fiendishly addictive game, a tale of high stakes, intimidation and legal feuds set against the backdrop of Cold War tensions between East and West. [more]

The second on the history of the personal computer:

Monday 9 February 2004 10pm-10.30pm; rpt 1.30am-2am. Time Shift charts the development of the PC from its precarious early days. The 1970s and 80s saw the explosion of the Sinclair, Spectrum, Apple Mac and Amstrad into the domestic market, while video games brought the arcade into the living room. [more]

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Friday, 06 February 2004

Friday's child is full of links

This isn't the kind of link that I normally post, but it's the one thing that has happened recently that has fundamentally upset me. It took a while to figure out exactly why I was so upset, beyond the plain tragedy. I imagine I'll have a lot to write about this one in the near future.

Eighteen cockle pickers have died after becoming trapped by rising tides in Lancashire's Morecambe Bay. The accident happened after more than 30 cocklers - thought to be Chinese who do not speak English - were caught by rising waters in the Hest Bank area. [more, BBC News Online]

Vonage doing well, probably not long until it gets bought or (misty-eyed at the late 20th century) buys a conventional telco, also launching in Europe by year end 2004:

Broadband phone provider Vonage's international expansion plans got a $40 million boost. The Edison, N.J.-based company announced on Friday that it picked up the multimillion-dollar funding in a round co-led by two new investors: London-based global venture firm 3i Group and Meritech Capital Partners in Palo Alto, Calif., which focuses on wire-line and wireless communications equipment and services. The injection brings Vonage's total funding to $103 million. [more, News.com.com.com.com.com]

Wolfram's A New Kind Of Science is online and apparently annotatable. A New Kind Of Peer Review?

Just over twenty years ago I made what at first seemed like a small discovery: a computer experiment of mine showed something I did not expect. But the more I investigated, the more I realized that what I had seen was the beginning of a crack in the very foundations of existing science, and a first clue towards a whole new kind of science. [more, Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science]

Via Mefi, cover letters of the overqualified. I still haven't touched the dictaphone I've been given at work yet. I can type pretty quickly, but I'm starting to see that there might be some times that, in spite of me being able to do a document quicker myself, it'd just be less hassle. Anyway:

The fact that your job posting requested a "Dictatypist" was not lost on me. You did not post looking for a "Dicta-typist" or a "Dicta Typist". You posted seeking a "Dictatypist", and I assure you that I am such a person. You want someone dedicated to the art that is Dictatyping, and I am that someone. Nothing has ever excited me the way that Dictatyping has. Nothing has ever moved me with such force. [more, A Softer World]

Another year, another introduction to FOAF. I swear one day I'll release the code to my dissertation project but honestly I think I can think of more creative ways to commit ritual suicide other than the publishing of horrendously bad code:

FOAF facilitates the creation of the Semantic Web equivalent of the archetypal personal homepage: My name is Leigh, this is a picture of me, I'm interested in XML, and here are some links to my friends. And just like the HTML version, FOAF documents can be linked together to form a web of data, with well-defined semantics. [more, XML.com]

I'm platform agnostic. I like anything so long as it's cool. Which is why I want an IBM ThinkPad X40: (Just imagine that voice as a cheesy American voiceover and you're all set. Anyway, I already have two PowerBooks.)

The new notebook weighs just 2.7 pounds (1.2 kilograms) and measures 26.8 centimeters long by 21.1 centimeters wide by 2.7 centimeters thick, but comes with a full-size keyboard. [more, Infoworld]

IEEE writes about dream jobs for Electrical Engineers. My dream job involves being given the use of a considerable amount of cash to create something that really fucks with peoples' heads and in the process grows the first pile of cash in a really rather stunning and sustainable way. Someday. Anyway, being an astronaut would also be cool:

In this special report, IEEE Spectrum identifies 10 of the coolest, baddest, hippest, grooviest (depending on your generation), most gratifying EE jobs in the world. Our criterion was simple—find the people having the most fun. We zeroed in on jobs involving a deep connection with technology—not corporate leaders, not venture capitalists. [more, IEEE Spectrum]

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Thursday Trawl, Part Two

Stephen Evans, BBC North America Business Correspondent in an op/ed piece that some are mistaking for fact:

If anyone's anger has no measure, it is the wrath of internet zealots who believe that code should be free to all (open source). So, it seems likely that the perpetrators of the MyDoom virus and its variants are internet vandals with a specific grudge. SCO is the big, bad company that violates one of their sacred principles, as they would see it. There's no proof, of course, but it must be one of the theories at the top of any investigator's list. [more, BBC News Online]

People like to date people who are like them shocker, websites take advantage:

Army cadets and police officers regularly organise '999' parties where they can mix with women in similar jobs. Trainee nurses are renowned for their parties for police and firemen. Relationships in uniform are a tradition. The unique site hopes to keep the custom going, and expectations are that it will be inundated. [more, The Observer]

Relaunched BBC News 24 plays catch-up with Sky News, I still hate the tabloid format:

BBC News 24 has drawn level in the ratings tussle with its principal rival, Sky News, two months after a high-profile relaunch. In January, the first full month of News 24's revamp, the channel had more viewers than Sky in two weeks out of four. It was also ahead of Sky at the end of December. [more, The Guardian]

Guardian commentary on ubiquity of email, some people are starting to get it:

The best emails are much like the best kind of conversation; the best kind of conversation is recognised as an art form; and now I begin to suspect that the best kind of email may one day be respected as an art form too. So it isn't at all good news that, as Ian Sample reported in Tuesday's Guardian, researchers at Edinburgh University, analysing the language of emails, are turning up tell-tale signs revealing how neurotic or extrovert their writers are. Neurotics, it was reported, are more likely to indulge in multiple use of exclamation marks or use "..." in their emails. They are also that much more likely to start sentences with the word "well" and to spray their commas and adverbs around more erratically. [more]

Guardian commentary - independent inquiry into the Paris 2009 bombing, gets a little shrill imho:

At last, we have the inquiry we need: a full, independent inquiry into the Paris bombing of 2009. As we all know, in that appalling attack, a large area between the Boulevard du Montparnasse and the River Seine was devastated by a small nuclear bomb, detonated by suicide bombers linked to the Algerian-based Islamic Armed Group (GIA). Some 100,000 people were killed or wounded. The supremely cultured heart of one of the most beautiful cities in the world was reduced to smouldering ruins. None of us will ever forget the photograph of Rodin's statue of Balzac, looming as if in tortured grief above the half-dismembered but recognisable corpses of a young couple on the Boulevard Raspail. [more, The Guardian]

ESA gets all the cool mission names - Aurora and now Rosetta:

Rosetta is a European mission destined for one comet last year and then redirected to another after its proposed launcher failed. A box of instruments the size of a garden shed will be fired into orbit around the sun by an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou on February 26, for a date with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on the far side of Jupiter in 2014. [more, The Guardian]

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Thursday Trawl

It's late. Sue me.

Elgin marbles to be laser-scanned:

Hundreds of fragments of the Parthenon’s sculptures, scattered across ten museums in eight countries, are to be brought together in a computerised mapping exercise that could eventually lead to a physical replica in marble. [more, The Times]

MPs should use websites, a tiny number use them well:

Only a tiny minority of elected councillors - less than 5% - try to communicate with voters through the web. [more, Guardian]

Computer forensic experts call floppy discs "Archers":

Increasingly, computers seized from suspects act as a virtual crime scene. Many offenders remain unaware that internet usage leaves footprints that can be traced, and that files, emails and images can be recovered even after they have been "deleted". The difficult part of Barrett's job is not recovering the evidence, but wading through the material to find what is relevant. "We're looking at the whole contents of the hard disk - all the existing files and all the deleted files, and when you consider that one 1.4Meg floppy disk produces 500 sheets worth of A4 - a Jeffrey Archer, we call it in the business - you can imagine that a 20 or 30 gigabyte computer disk would produce several lifetimes of reading material. You've got to know how to express the search terms to find just what you want." [more, Guardian]

Anatole Kaletsky seems to think that Bush in '04 isn't a dead cert:

t is, of course, too early to hang out the Democrats’ blue bunting or even to be certain that John Kerry will be their candidate; but Tuesday’s primaries and caucuses in Missouri, South Carolina and five other states strongly suggested that the Democrats will unite around a credible nominee. Bush will thus face an even tougher contest in the forthcoming election than he did in 2000 against Al Gore. Given that almost all political experts, not only in Washington and Wall Street, but also in London, Brussels, Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing and the Middle East, still seem to take a Bush re-election for granted, the global implications of what has happened in the past few weeks could be immense. [more], The Times

Letters to the Editor - Chief Exec of the Countryside Alliance doesn't rate the BNP's chances:

The BNP would need an unprecedented electoral surge to gain a European parliamentary seat in her own East of England region in June. In the 1999 Euro elections the BNP polled 0.9 per cent of the vote in the region. To gain a seat in the European Parliament it would have had to get 9 per cent. The highest BNP votes in that election were in the West Midlands and London, where the party polled 1.7 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively. [more, The Times]

BBC launches BBCi Connector, looks like some sort of annotation service:

By using web pages as meeting points, Connector allows you to find and talk to people who have similar interests to you! [more, BBCi Connector]

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Wednesday, 04 February 2004

Wednesday trawl, part two

Times Opinion on legal language. Can't work out whether it's praising or damning, to be honest, but if it's any help we get told off for this sort of thing nowadays:

I gave up reading law at university because it made my brain hurt. It was partly a matter of jargon — the definition of non-feasance, the burden of proof required to demonstrate “testamentary incapacity”, the extent to which mens rea is the essential concomitant of the actus reus, they all contributed to a thudding pain behind the eyes. [more]

ESA Aurora Programme - roadmap to Mars:

Aurora’s long-term plan stems from two strands: the current human spaceflight experience in low Earth orbit (LEO) and the development of robotic planetary exploration. The former is to be continued and enhanced so that human spaceflight can be extended beyond LEO. The latter will be pursued throughout the Aurora Programme with the aim of extending capabilities towards larger spacecraft suitable for the human exploration of the solar system. The intertwined development of capabilities in the two strands will eventually result in Europe being able to play a key role in a future international human mission to Mars. [more]

Big-ass convection tower in Australia to generate similarly big-ass sized amount of electricity:

A solar greenhouse with a 7.2km (4.5-miles) circumference will be spread around the base of the tower and heat air so that it is about 30C (86F) hotter than air at the top. The temperature difference will create an updraft of about 50kmh (30mph), which will drive a bank of 32 turbines. At night, tubes filled with water heated during the day will allow the station to continue to produce power.[Times article and Company website]

As expected, really - human cloning attempt fails. Notwithstanding the dubious benefits brought about by human reproductive cloning the anticipated abysmal success rate in terms of mortality for both offspring and mother is more than enough discouragement to even think of trying this at the moment:

The attempt by US fertility expert Panos Zavos to clone a human has failed. The controversial scientist recently announced he had successfully implanted a cloned human embryo in a woman's womb. But tests have shown that the woman did not become pregnant. [more]

Technicians apparently forgot to delete temporary files on Spirit:

The Spirit rover dedicates 32MB of its 128MB of RAM to the onboard Wind River VxWorks operating system and a host of science applications, and as the mission progresses, technicians are scheduled to periodically delete old files and directories to clear out the memory for reuse, [Mike Deliman] said. But with all the excitement after the Mars landing on Jan. 3, and with data being returned to Earth by the rover, that step was not performed quickly enough by mission technicians. [more]

Pearls of wisdom for expectant mothers:

Dads, remember to remark, quite spontaneously, on how much thinner and babe-like she's looking (this is important). If tempted to remark on how tired/stressed out you are, check your own bottom for stitches and/or general battering, and shut up. [more]

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Wednesday trawl

infoSync World reviews the Sony Ericsson Z600:

For those looking for a clamshell phone, the Sony Ericsson Z600 certainly comes recommended. Not only does it harbour a great amount of advanced functionality, it also offers a user friendly menu system where all functions are handily available. Certain performance issues were noticeable, but nevertheless this handset performs better than any other clamshell phone we've tested to date. [more]

Commission Regulation (EC) No 65/2004 requires the establishment of a system to develop and assign unique identifiers for genetically modified organisms:

[An] operator placing on the market products containing or consisting of GMOs is required to include, as part of that relevant information, the unique identifier assigned to each GMO as a means of indicating its presence and reflecting the specific transformation event covered by the consent or authorisation for placing that GMO on the market. [pdf full text]

Transgenic zebrafish produced by retroviral infection of in vitro-cultured sperm:

Here, we report the production of transgenic zebrafish from cultured sperm. The sperm were differentiated from premeiotic germ cells infected with a pseudotyped retrovirus in vitro. The collected sperm were used to perform successful in vitro fertilizations, and transgenic embryos were identified. The transgenic fish transmitted the proviral integration to the next generation in a Mendelian fashion. [abstract]

And related to the above, mice produce sperm from monkeys:

Mice have been used to produce viable monkey sperm using tissue transplanted from the testes of macaques. The US scientists involved say their work might one day help to conserve animals that are facing extinction. [more]

About time - Nokia patents a self-configuring virtual keypad for mobile phones:

The processing unit is configured to determine a virtual keyboard for the touch pad and a tactile appearance of the keyboard, receive information generated by the pressing of a keyboard key and identify the key that was pressed on the basis of the information. The processing unit)is further configured to collect information on the key presses and carry out an analysis of them, and re-determine the tactile appearance of the keyboard on the basis of the collected information and the analysis carried out so as to make the keyboard more ergonomic for the user, which makes it easier to use the keyboard and/or the pressing of a wrong key less likely. [WIPO, search for WO 2003/107168]

Design concepts for inflatable hab modules initially for ISS now probably used for Moon/Mars missions:

Twelve reports present concepts for the design of structural and functional systems, subsystems, and components of the proposed TransHab module — an inflatable, lightweight habitation module that would be used by crewmembers of the International Space Station and would serve as a prototype of habitation modules for future spacecraft on long missions (e.g., missions to Mars). [more]

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Tuesday, 03 February 2004

Tuesday roundup

MEPs consider a more coherent European space policy:

Given the US recent announcements on its new space strategy including a return to the Moon and missions to Mars, MEPs urge the Commission to define what role and importance it assigns to the International Space Station. There is also a welcome for the Franco-Russian agreement of November 2003 concerning the setting up of a Soyuz launcher at Kourou in French Guyana, with a view to widening the range of European launchers and preparing for the possibility of future manned European flights. [more]

European Parliament gets its Galileo on:

MEPs adopted an own-initiative report drawn up by Yves PIETRASANTA (Greens/EFA, F) on Galileo with 395 votes in favour, 37 against and 8 abstentions. The report welcomes the fact that the obstacles to funding have been overcome and stresses the enormous significance of Galileo for the European Union's industrial, transport, technological and environmental development. Galileo is basically a giant clock, consisting of around 30 satellites, capable of determining a position in time and space very accurately. Due to be operational in 2008, it is a project which is to be used solely for civil purposes.[more]

Times Opinion: BNP is stalking rural Britain:

The price of liberty is eternal voting. There is a school of thought which says that it doesn’t much matter if the EU elections in June only have a turnout — as predicted yesterday — of 18 per cent. As for the chore of voting in council by-elections, it is one which denizens of quiet rural places often feel free to skip. [more]

Times Opinion reveals stuff I never knew about the hijab and the ingenuity of marketers:

To justify the hijab, Islamists claim that women must cover their hair because it emanates special rays that drive men wild with sexual passion. That idea has led to some niche marketing from some designers. A transparent hijab by L’Oréal allows the woman’s hair to be seen while keeping its dangerous rays under control. Another, designed by Calvin Klein, covers the hair while allowing the woman’s less dangerous ears and neck to show. [more]

BBC News in "playing computer games doesn't incite mass murdering rampage" shock story:

Ultimately, it probably did not matter who won [an international DDR tournament]. For most, being able to express themselves, having fun, getting a bit of exercise, meeting old online pals and making new friends, is what counted. [more]

(compare and contrast the relentless Daniel Etherington)

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Monday, 02 February 2004

UK pays lipservice to anti-spam bandwagon

Bandwagon? Check.

'Secure Your Server', a global anti-spam initiative to help combat junk e-mails worldwide was backed by Communications Minister Stephen Timms today. The move will see the US Federal Trade Commission advising Internet server companies around the world on how to secure their servers to prevent them automatically forwarding spam. [more]

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