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Thursday, 20 May 2004

UK Stem Cell Bank

Guardian Life article on the opening of the UK stem cell bank:

It will be a tremendous medical resource: it has the potential to accelerate massively the field of regenerative medicine and it sets the benchmark for stem cell research worldwide. Funded by the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the new bank will be based in the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in Hertfordshire. It is the only place in the world that will systematically maintain and distribute an ever-growing range of stem cells to scientists around the world. And the Centre for Neuroscience Research at King's College London yesterday donated one of the bank's first set of embryonic stem cells. [more]

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Extra N means it's really small

Via BBC News Online, nannobacteria versus nanobacteria.

Doctors claim to have uncovered new evidence that the tiny particles known as "nannobacteria" are indeed alive and may cause a range of human illnesses. The existence of nannobacteria is one of the most controversial of scientific questions - some experts claim they are simply too small to be life forms. [more]

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Wednesday, 19 May 2004

So help me god

I committed a grave sin today by adding another meaning to a word today in a terrible noomeeja fashion. The example below is a vastly rewritten version of what I was talking about, but you might be able to get the gist, especially if you bear in mind the context as being massively multiplayer viral immersive gaming:

Because of the genre we're working in, there's certain things we can do that other forms of storytelling will forbid, or make practically impossible. The point is that if we do [x], it'd be a little like [y] - only way more watercooler.

I'm sorry. You can shoot me now.

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Google your computer

News from the NYT that Google is planning a client application for search of local media:

SAN FRANCISCO, May 18 - Edging closer to a direct confrontation with Microsoft, Google, the Web search engine, is preparing to introduce a powerful file and text software search tool for locating information stored on personal computers.
Google's software, which is expected to be introduced soon, according to several people with knowledge of the company's plans, is the clearest indication to date that the company, based in Mountain View, Calif., hopes to extend its search business to compete directly with Microsoft's control of desktop computing.

brings their software principles announcement into a whole new (and somewhat predictable) light:

We do not see this trend reversing itself. In fact, it is getting worse. As a provider of services and monetization for users, advertisers and publishers on the Internet, we feel a responsibility to be proactive about these issues. So, we have decided to take action. As a first step, we have outlined a set of principles we believe our industry should adopt and we're sharing them to foster discussion and help solve the problem. We intend to follow these guidelines ourselves with the applications we distribute (such as the Google Toolbar and Google Deskbar). And because we strongly believe these principles are good for the industry and users worldwide, we will encourage our current and prospective business partners to adopt them as well.

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Tuesday, 18 May 2004

bbc.co.uk updated

What's going on here, then? Have they ditched the reinforcement over time, too?

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Monday, 17 May 2004

More Longhorn Goodness

No, really, I'm OS agnostic. I just like cool shit. Anyway - WinSuperSite has some more shots from WinHec 2004 on auxiliary displays that look pretty good (and useful? We'll see), but the most interesting thing is a prototype/reference design for a Longhorn laptop with an auxiliary display.

Remind you of anything?

Note, for all you weird Apple fanatics: this isn't an 'OMG! Microsoft is stealing from Apple again!" post. I don't care about that: I'm genuinely excited about Longhorn.

Update: You know, I've thought about this for more than five minutes now, and the idea's really quite lame given that I've got a cellphone in my pocket that can show me how many emails I've got to read. Just get continuous synching of the display over Bluetooth (and hopefully when the lid's closed and the laptop's still "asleep", or, uh, the phone grabbing my mail anyway), and I've got a more useful display in my pocket, rather than in my bag. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

Stylish laptop though, no?

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Apple bits and pieces

Some Apple-related bits and pieces:

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Saturday, 15 May 2004

Space management in 2D UIs

Stumbled upon Christian Sandor's homepage while doing some augmented reality research and saw this quite stunning illustration video (11MB WMV) of a spatially aware window manager. More details here, but the Columbia Dynamic Space Manager looks awfully like the granddaddy of Apple's Exposé (and does a hell of a lot more).

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Thursday, 13 May 2004

Google Groups 2

Google Groups 2 (beta) is very obviously still in beta. It's evidently not feature-complete yet - from one of the groups I've set up:

This page is primarily for large groups where paging through the member list is non-interseting. For example, 10,000+ members. Here are some ideas of what we would show here:
subscriber count
subscriber join/leave graph
bounce count
breakdown by top level domain
most recently joined
most active
pending invitation count
rejected invitations/additions

Amongst that, the unintentional double-, triple-, and quadruple-posting, the inability to make anyone else a moderator, the breakage of the granting additional rights to other members, and you've got a site that really, really, shouldn't have been made beta yet. Especially if there isn't a way to submit bug reports (I haven't found any way to, yet).

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Not cool

(Number one in a series that will in all likelihood go on for far too long) TV ads that are not cool:

  • Wrigley's extra mints ("get a little closer"). Hanson are not cool.
  • Any advert for ringtones on any music channel.
  • Any advert for any sort of personal finance, especially debt consolidation.

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iTunes Music Store Europe: 1.29 Euros?

Latest rumours peg pricing at the European-wide version of the iTunes Music Store at 1.29 Euros per track. 0.99 US Dollars at the time of writing is 0.56 GBP (live conversion), and adding 17.5% on top of that brings us to 0.66 GBP, rounded up. 1.29 Euros, on the other hand, currently converts to 0.87 GBP (live conversion), a hefty 32% increase that's not accounted for by VAT.

Now, one of these reasons could be record labels realising that Apple's on to something here and wanting to kill it dead (can't think why), but I can't say I'm surprised at all.

What is interesting, however, is the rumour that iTMS Europe will be selling ringtones. Seeing as consumers are willing to pay ridiculous amounts for ringtones (no hard evidence here, but it's not particularly hard to find, and quite why people are willing to do this is completely beyond me) and ringtones are even cheaper to distribute (I imagine) than AAC protected multi-megabyte single tracks, there's a hell of a lot of money to be had. Smart thing to do? I think so. (And not, note, in the recent BBC redefinition of the word "smart" where in "Come and have a go if you think you're smart enough", "smart" suddenly means "pub trivia" and not, say, the exhibiting of any sort of reasoning process or intelligence whatsoever. But that's a different rant).

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Wednesday, 12 May 2004

Intego is at it again

Another OS X "trojan". Only not, really. From the makers of the other OS X mp3 "trojan".

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Tuesday, 11 May 2004

The NCC can bite my shiny metal ass

Browsing the Guardian on my devil box:

The introduction of tiny "spy chips" on shop-bought goods from underwear to crisp packets risks a GM-style consumer backlash unless adequate safeguards are put in place, a leading consumer interest group claimed today. [more]
"Businesses must be totally open and honest with the public about how the chips work and where and why they are being used," said the NCC's chief executive, Ed Mayo.

Ed Mayo is allowed to ask for businesses to be totally open and honest, but his organisation is evidently allowed to use emotive and, quite frankly, hysterical language. 'Spy chip'? Excuse me?

Advancing and covert use of the latest retail bar code technology – radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, or ‘spy chips’ - could threaten personal privacy and risk a public backlash unless safeguards are put in place now. [NCC press release]

and

Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID), or ‘spy chip’ has already been piloted by a number of retailers, including, Tesco, Benetton and Marks and Spencer. The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, has told its top 100 suppliers to get RFID ready for launch next year. Experts predict that from 2006 onwards RFID systems will be used more extensively.

I fully expect a forthcoming NCC press release along the following lines:

Cars, or 'high-speed killing machines' have already been on sale for decades now by a number of manufacturers, including, Mercedes, Ford, Volkswagen and Toyota. Experts predict that in the next few decades, the largest growth area in high-speed killing machine (car) sales is expected to be Asia.

Blood. Boiling. So calling them and shouting at them tomorrow. Hooray for constructive debate!

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Monday, 10 May 2004

Laughing-my-ass-off-hilarious

I'm sorry, but this really takes the piss. From the F-Secure weblog:

The FTP server in the Sasser worm family has an apparent buffer overflow vulnerability. A small program has appeared on the InterNet that exploits this vulnerabilty and opens a remote shell on TCP port 530 (by default). [more]

Sorry. That's terribly funny.

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Longhorn

Quickly: why all the outrage over Microsoft's alleged "average" Longhorn specs? Average specs for Windows XP right now are, what, 2GHz P4, 512MB RAM, 80GB HD, 64MB DirectX GPU? If Microsoft had said the average XP desktop had that spec in 2000, we'd have been laughing at them.

Note: "average" means, well, average over the lifetime of the OS. I'm pretty much OS agnostic: I "switched" to OS X because it looked a hell of a lot more exciting than Windows XP (and as far as I'm concerned, no PC laptops come close to the open-and-closeability of Apple laptops) amongst other reasons.

Which means I'm incredibly interested in Longhorn, not least of all to see what we'll be doing with WinFS, and I do so very much want to see what Aero Glass looks like. Speaking of Aero: shots of the latest WinHEC build of Longhorn have started coming out with the DCE enabled - check out some of them here, most notably the nearly-like-Expose-but-not-quite re-implementation of alt-tab switching (can I just say that the caption is amusing: "You can actually see the contents" -- er, no, you can't. You can see a tiny portion of the window, about enough for it to be completely useless).

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Saturday, 08 May 2004

Somewhat confused

I picked up a copy of the SF Masterworks edition of Greg Bear's Eon today from Galloway and Porter in Cambridge. All good so far, but I had a strange reaction to reading one of the paragraphs in the first quarter of the book which finished

Wallace was attractive enough, but about twenty pounds overweight. She seemed perturbed about something.

I then had the overwhelming desire to type

> ASK WALLACE WHY SHE IS PERTURBED

before I realised I was reading a book.

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Two-sentence review: Equilibrium

Equilibrium: passable book-burning/1984/Apple Macintosh advert/martial-arts flick. Only gets into its stride in the last quarter.

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Two-sentence review: Van Helsing

Van Helsing: the quality of the vampire movies in which Kate Beckinsale appears is improving (notwithstanding this forthcoming trainwreck). The ending of Van Helsing can bite my corny metal cliched ass.

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Thursday, 06 May 2004

I am impervious to your base rate

[danhon] omg
[danhon] my mortgage application has been accepted
[danhon] "regardless of weather [my] credit is bad"!
[danhon] Approval will take 1 minute, but it only takes me 1 second to visit the link!
[danhon] Thank god for Polly McPherson
[danhon] I am going to email her at qaraaweojgko@beruytew.com straight away
[danhon] Her company gives its employees funny email addreses

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Wednesday, 05 May 2004

Palm(One|Source) is to 3Com...

... as iTunes/iPod/iTunes Music Store is to Apple? BusinessWeek reports:

For Apple, the best move right now is to spin out iPod and pocket the cash, because Wall Street's current euphoria marks the market's peak. Although Apple would be loath to admit it, digital music players are on the verge of commoditization. [more]

Heh. Over Steve Jobs's dead body, I bet.

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Biometric ID Cards: Our Survey Says...

The Register (and just about everyone else) reports that the Home Office's biometric ID card trial is lucky that it's only in the trial stage, because it's all fallen over arse over tit:

The test equipment is reported to have run into "hardware, software and ergonomic problems leading to inconsistent enrolment," i.e. it faced the predictable calibration problems. The adjustments made by the contractor, ATOS Origin, gives us some signposts to where the difficulties are likely to lie, and to manifest themselves in spades when the systems (being called "enrolment pods" - we're going to be a nation of pod people) hit the sub post offices. The resolution and focus of the facial recognition camera was changed, a system to allow single fingers to be re-examined for prints was introduced, and the background in the booth (surely "pod"? -Ed) was changed to a "consistent texture" for iris scans.

Of course, the last time the British public were asked about implementation of ID cards, "Nearly 60 per cent of them don't believe the government will be able to do the rollout without screwing it up".

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Java and Cocoa on OS X

Via the spool, someone thinks Apple should switch from ObjC to Java:

[Apple] should switch from Objective-C and its runtime to a fast, clear, mainstream language like Java and the Java VM. BTW, when I say Obj-C, I mean Obj-C + the Apple Cocoa libraries (or even the NextStep ones I presume).

Jerakeen rightly points out that there's not that many good Java-based OS X apps out, but I wouldn't necessarily put the lack of such apps being down to Java being slower. My experience while developing my masters thesis last summer was that while there was (is) in principle Java support for the Cocoa API, what was there was decidedly lacking: there wasn't even any support for AddressBook at the time. I don't think it's so much Java support being inherently bad (indeed it was pretty easy for me to knock my project up) on OS X as Apple deciding to emphasise Objective-C and devoting more resources to making sure ObjC works better. It doesn't help either that the implementation of Java on OS X has been lagging for a while.

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Semacode and CyberLink

Semacode 2D barcodes look awfully like Sony CyberCode 2D barcodes... (I've written about Sony's CyberCode 48 comments and trackbacks


Tuesday, 04 May 2004

Anti-c*nsorship

Heh, via New Scientist:

A web-proxy service set up by the US government's International Broadcasting Bureau to enable websurfers in Iran to evade censorship is itself massively censoring what they can see.
That is the conclusion of an independent new report released from the OpenNet Initiative, an international collaboration between researchers at the University of Toronto, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge. [more]

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PowerBook wishlist

Brian D Foy has a list of things he'd like his next ideal PowerBook to feature. Amongst them:

You know those little displays on the outside of some flip phones? I want one of those for my PowerBook. I would display WiFi signal strength, battery life, and the number of email in my inbox. That way I do not have to do anything to figure out if I have anything to do. I do not have to open my PowerBook if it is not worth it.

Hell, I'd be happy with a sleep light that's capable of glowing more than one colour and gets told what to do just before the OS goes to sleep. Got unread mail? Blinky red light. Not quite sure what to do about it telling you whether 802.11{b, g} is available or not without impacting a little more on battery life. Not that PowerBooks have much battery life nowadays anyway.

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Cutting out the middleman

Google vs Wall Street, via Brad:

One of the husbands works for CSFB and I congratulated him on the coup of being named the lead on the Google IPO. Whereas I expected a little gloating, instead he bit his tongue and complained about the greed of Google and how little money CSFB was going to make (including its not insignificant banking fees). I think the point he was trying to make was that by going the way of the auction, that Google was trying to take every single penny off the table that they can. Seeing his genuine anger, I didn't have the heart to remind him that this was a good thin overall, namely that companies were going to start to benefit fully from the intersection of buyers and sellers of their stock, not the marketmakers per se.

Heh. We don't need to pay no stinking fees...

There was something I'd read elsewhere, too, that implied that the people who'd been building the auction infrastructure for the IPO were CSFB (bets on the auction UI being a nightmare, anyone? Not because CSFB are implementing it, but because, well, what're the chances of it not being?)--you'd have thought that Google might have lent a hand, but I guess that's what they're paying these people for. Maybe it'll end up hosted in Google's datacenters.

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Monday, 03 May 2004

Laziness++ and apathy++

Via BoingBoing, news that Apple is starting to replace PowerBooks with splotchy screens with new PowerBooks.

Of course the replacement 15in 1GHz AlBook I got from my insurers after the cracked case fiasco ended up developing unsightly splotches.

I know I complain about the myriad things that have gone wrong with my PowerBook(s), but if I end up getting a 1.5/1.33GHz model thanks to the (somewhat annoying) splotches that have appeared on the display, that'll be second free laptop. It's as if I get a free upgrade every year!

Related:

You know, I'm sure more has gone wrong.

I still loff my laptop, though.

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TransLucy

Via the spool, TransLucy, an alternative OS X DVD player that can (among other things) overlay transparent DVD video over your desktop. Sounds interesting apart from this colossal interface no-no highlighted (bizarrely, as a plus) in this review:

Most of the controls should be obvious. Those three things that look like dials? Well, they are dials that you can grab and then swing around in huge arcs, like we had in an older version of QuickTime Player’s controller. The lower left knob controls the percentage of translucence and the lower right the volume. [more]

May I humbly point the reader in the direction of the Quicktime 4.0 thumbwheel.

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BBC News 24 (2003 remix)

David Lowe is the guy who did the music idents for BBC News 24; there's a CD available of his work for BBC World. Oh, and he's the guy behind that Touch & Go song. Anyway. BBC News 24 trails: you can get most of them here.

If you're weird like me, you'll stick on one of the longer trails, put it on single track repeat, turn on a suitable visualisation (I recommend WhiteCap's Table of Fury) and then stare at it for about half an hour.

This post was brought about because I'd only just noticed (ha) that the theme had been remixed. Anyway, the channel doesn't seem to be running 35 second plus trails anymore like they used to a couple years back.

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Sunday, 02 May 2004

Schoolhouse Rock

Three - it's a magic number. Schoolhouse Rock, well, rocks, and my attention was drawn to it again today with the introduction of "No More Kings" (which, might I add, I regard as nothing more than blatant and simplistic propaganda). You can find the lyrics for No More Kings here, but there's one verse that stands out in particular:

With no more kings...
{We're gonna elect a president!}
No more kings...
{He's gonna do what the people want!}
No more kings...
{We're gonna run things our way!}
No more kings...
{No one's gonna tell us what to do!}
No more kings!

How's that working out for you across the pond now, huh?

Disclaimer: of course, some of my very best friends have had the fortune to be born in North America.

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Nothing is forgotten

Via the spool and Mark Bernstein, news of VKB, the Visual Knowledge Builder. Apparently it saves your entire undo stack.

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Saturday, 01 May 2004

vue cinemas++

Warner Village Cinemas are now vue cinemas, which means I didn't expect the bookmark for my local cinema to work anymore:

http://www.warnervillage.co.uk/WVOnline44.asp?WCI=CinemaSearch&WCE=44014

In order of depressing expections, I was expecting:

  1. Existing bookmark fails (most likely)
  2. Existing bookmark redirects to myvue.com front page (fairly likely)
  3. Existing bookmark redirects to myvue.com explaining what happened to Warner Village (pretty unlikely)
  4. Existing bookmark redirects to myvue.com page for Cambridge (iTunes on Windows, Bill Gates going to work in a snow plough etc)

This whole post was going to extol the virtues of vue cinemas since they'd taken the unusual step of having some semblance of clue and, you guessed it, redirecting to the new equivalent page. But although this neat trick was working earlier this evening, it isn't now (warnervillage.co.uk appears to have disappeared). In which case vue cinemas suck and I revoke any praise I had for them.

Update: it works now, but it appears to be because of weird cookie stuff and not funky rewriting or redirecting. Oh well, it's still a neat trick and much appreciated.

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