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Monday, 30 September 2002


Today, software engineering. Tomorrow, object-orientated programming.

I'm a little busy at the moment, but lots of thoughts swirling around my head.

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Friday, 27 September 2002

Studenty things

Course stuff here.

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Thursday, 26 September 2002

He'll kill me for this

Tom's gone all Kottke (and looks terribly nice).

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Wednesday, 25 September 2002

Let me fill you in

It appears that there are those who actually read this and are interested in what it is I'm doing. For those people who quite clearly have nothing better to do with their time (you know who you are), on Tuesday I started on the MSc. Information Systems course at Liverpool University to kill time before my job starts next year.

It's quite interesting, really. The three lectures I've been to so far have been gripping enough for me to stay awake through their entirety, which is not so much as a first as perhaps the most stunning academic achievement in the last five years. I'm renowned for falling asleep in lectures. It disturbs me that I haven't passed out yet, I imagine (god forbid), that I'm actually finding this kind of thing interesting.

Doing this course seems like a wonderful way to justify all that time spent mucking around on computers and not appearing to learn very much at all. As far as I'm concerned, when someone tells me to sit in a lab for two hours and "find out about UNIX", I get the unnerving feeling that I'm cheating somewhat and should be hating what I'm doing. I'm not. It's all new. Well, parts of it are. Actually, to be more accurate, not much of it is new at all yet, but I put that down to the introductory two week course that we're on.

I know, I know. I need to get out more.

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I'll just be a second

... remote X forwarding is one of the best inventions, ever.

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Things I've done today

Been two two lectures (programming languages and UNIX), ssh'd in to my new account at Liverpool, learnt how to start a remote X session (woo! I made Mozilla run locally) and installed Gnome. Yay.

Oh. And I didn't fall asleep in any lectures, either.

Errata: Of course, that should've been "Woo! I ran Mozilla and displayed it remotely!"

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Tuesday, 24 September 2002

Mozilla is good! Mozilla is evil!

Mozilla is good! It's not IE, it has cool things like tabbed browsing and you can even add pie menus. Mozilla is bad! It's bloated, it's too slow, it's being consumed by featuritis. Enter Phoenix 0.1, which does for Windows and Linux what Chimera does for OS X.

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Almost like a chimp

... or not, as the case may be:

"It has long been held that we share 98.5 per cent of our genetic material with our closest relatives. That now appears to be wrong. In fact, we share less than 95 per cent of our genetic material, a three-fold increase in the variation between us and chimps." [more, New Scientist, so for this week only]

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Monday, 23 September 2002

What you say?

(Main screen turn on, yes, yes)

Anyway. For those of my friends interested in linguistics (and I know there are many), you might want to play with Harvard's dialect survey.

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No meringues in sight

Two of my friends from college got married over the weekend, prompting the usual "Who's next?" discussions and the realisation that, whether we liked it or not, adult life was slowly and inexorably creeping up on us. Everyone has graduated now (after waiting around a year for the laggards that had decided to do four year courses) and has jobs (or, as in my case, a job that starts next year).

Assorted tidbits:

1. Saying "we should do this again" when everyone's leaving doesn't really work, as it requires a wedding and a whole host of other arrangements.

2. The best man's speech was wonderful.

3. The bride was resplendent with beauty. The dress was perfect. You are asking the wrong person for a more detailed description.

4. Weddings should have best men, best boys, gaffers and key grips. It is left to the reader as an exercise what exact function the key grip would perform.*

5. Quite a few people seemed to have nightmares and/or sleep uneasily the night before the wedding. I have been informed that this is categorically not because anyone is suffering from marriage angst.

6. Nor is anyone suffering from baby angst.

7. If you stand too close to the married couple, you will catch married germs.

8. Apparently, wedding rings don't function as homing devices.

* Or even the best boy.

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T-Mobile HotSpots in the UK

There are only two T-Mobile HotSpots in the UK at the moment, both are Starbucks in London. Here's the HotSpot FAQ.

23 March 2003: I've written a little more about T-Mobile's rollout of UK HotSpots here, with details of their pricing plans and expected availability. There's also some useful comments attached to that entry.

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Wired on Berman

Berman: "While these P2P networks have some usefulness, there really can't be any doubt that their primary use is sharing millions, perhaps billions, of copyrighted works. This bill fundamentally affects their whole business method." [more]

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Google News

Google News is up, with the tagline:

"This page was generated entirely by computer algorithms without human editors. No humans were harmed or even used in the creation of this page."

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Thursday, 19 September 2002


Off to a wedding tomorrow. Back Sunday.

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Whilst googling to find out if there are any places in Cambridge with free wi-fi hotspots (and hoping that they're near sources of coffee), it's annoying that my own bloody site appears in the results, bemoaning the lack of any coffee houses with wi-fi. Grrr.

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I really can't pimp this enough. NetNewsWire Lite has gone 1.0. Go get it. Now. Buy a Mac first, if you have to, just go get it.

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Wednesday, 18 September 2002

Email is bloody amazing

I'm listening to a late night session on the radio. Someone comes on, and I'm pretty interested in whoever it is who's singing. I go over to the website (yeah, sue me, I'm listening to Radio 2) and work out who's singing it and what it's called.

Here's the part where email is bloody amazing. I want to remember what this song is. I could do what I normally do, which is open a text editor and write it down, then stick it on my desktop. I get as far as opening the app when I pause. I could, of course, also use desktastic, which would let me scribble it on the screen. I don't, because it's not loaded and I'd have to go into my apps folder, find it, load it, then write on the screen (also, I can't save that stuff--it disappears when the app closes). I could also open Stickies and make a post-it type not that would appear on my screen. Again, I have to open the app, make the note, and save it, or whatever. I could blog it. That would take time.

Instead, I just email it to myself. My email app is already open. I keep all my email, I have done, since 1994.

Bloody genuis, email is.

Um, everything above this sentence was in the first draft of this post. What makes email even cooler? Well, I could've emailed it to my blog. That would've been kickass. I could email it to some sort of calendar repository, which would also be nice. Or to my phone.

So, yeah. Email. Bloody genuis, buy it a pint or something.

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NetNewsWire Goodness

Brent Simmons has been busy - Final Candidate 1 of NetNewsWireLite has been released, along with an FAQ and an early outline of features for the Pro version.

I can't stress this enough. If you have a Mac running OS X, you need to have NetNewsWire. That is all.

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Tuesday, 17 September 2002

Imaginging the worst

Short Wired article on being recruited by the CIA to imagine:

"It started with an email from a friend, asking if I was available to visit "a certain Washington agency." There soon followed a flurry of messages from people I didn't know - some of them bearing that most shadowy of return addresses: ucia.gov. And then a weighty package in the mail, bursting with federal documents, and then forms and disclaimers.

"My mission, should I choose to accept it: sit in a room full of fellow sci-fi writers and help imagine, shall we say, things that might someday go bump. But first there was a definite moment of double take, and then a scramble to confirm that this wasn't some elaborate hoax. Because, like, the CIA needs my advice on scariness?" [more]

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The future is now

From Wired (naturally), pictorial languages--glyphs ahoy--take off in Japan. Not content with the standard emoticons and kanji, the Japanese are creating a whole slew of new graphics, called emoji. Carrier specific so far, and guaranteed to have those moaning about IM English in instant apopleptic fits:

"Ten minutes late to meet your friends at Shibuya's Module? Select E024, E229, and E047, and they'll know to start drinks without you. Hanako Matsumura, 24, often sends messages using nothing but emoji. "My friends can understand me merely by looking."" [more]

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Wired talks about what happened after warchalking, hundreds of thousands of people look to Matt Jones for the next must-use word:

Memenuked: Sudden and overwhelming media attention generated when an idea takes off globally. After he coined the term warchalking, London Web designer Matt Jones apologized for not keeping up with his blog "due to festivities arranged before my life got memenuked." [article]

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Who's augmenting who?

Interesting Wired story on whether machines are augmenting us, or we're augmenting them:

"Last year, Yahoo! wanted to block porn spambots from obtaining free email accounts. It created a brilliant but simple reverse Turing test: To get an account, you have to identify a randomly generated word that's been slightly stretched and distorted. This proves you're a human, not a robot. Machines are terrible at visual recognition tasks – sure enough, the “picture test” blocked out the spambots."

Of course, the spammers found a solution.

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I'm sorry, what did you mean?

On translations of Hollywood film titles:

"The system replaces a title from Woody Allen's film Annie Hall, which could mean anything, with the foreign distribution rebrand The Urban Neurotic. Boogie Nights, which conceals the central theme of an unusually well endowed hero, is spelt out in China as His Powerful Device Makes Him Famous. The revelations come from a survey in Empire magazine which also features Two Stupid Stupid People (Dumb and Dumber) and I'm Rich But I Like Prostitutes (Pretty Woman)." [more]

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Superman wants stem cells

Reeves on religion, ethics and stem cell research:

"We've had a severe violation of the separation of church and state in the handling of what to do about this emerging technology. Imagine if developing a polio vaccine had been a controversial issue," he says. "There are religious groups - the Jehovah's Witnesses, I believe - who think it's a sin to have a blood transfusion. What if the president for some reason decided to listen to them, instead of to the Catholics, which is the group he really listens to in making his decisions about embryonic stem cell research? Where would we be with blood transfusions?" [more]

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Widescreen? Pah!

I nipped out yesterday to Blockbuster to pick up Vanilla Sky and Monsters, Inc. I'd seen the latter, and I've got to admit that the real reason why I was picking up Monsters, Inc. was so that I could see the wonderful short For The Birds that screened before the film in the cinemas--that, and the new short Mike's New Car and ~2 minutes worth of Finding Nemo, the next Disney/Pixar film. Because of all that, and the time spent playing Boo's Door Game and watching the storyboarded parts of Monsters, Inc. that got dropped, it was a while before I actually sat down to watch the film.

I saw around two minutes of it. Maybe less than that, really. I watched the amusing cow-obssessed THX certification short, and settled in to see the hand-drawn/construction-paper alike credits at the beginning of the film. Within about two seconds, though, a look of worry had not so much crept across my face as stampeded like a herd of angry elephants, undoubtedly having just remembered something terrible that had happened to them many years ago.

The intro sequence was filling the entirety of the screen. This is, of course, wrong. I fast fowarded.

A young boy's bedroom filled the screen. I'm talking filled. There were no bars at the top and the bottom.

Someone had deliberately butchered Monsters, Inc. and I was sitting stunned on the sofa. Surely, I thought, I wouldn't have asked for the pan and scan version, would I? I mean, we don't own any DVDs that are pan and scan. None. All of them are lovingly purchased in the belief that watching films in the original aspect ratio is the right and proper thing to do. Otherwise, well, you're not really watching the film. I was, to overuse a phrase, more than a little pissed off.

I ranted for a while. I went upstairs and, probably rather too indignantly, told Adrian that the DVD was the pan and scan version. This annoyed him somewhat, but not to the extent for him to mutter more than a murmur of dissent at this horrific tragedy.

I went back downstairs. You see, all this was a little unsettling. I recalled reading, earlier in the day, about Blockbuster US only stocking full screen, pan and scanned DVDs and assuming that Blockbuster UK would do no such thing and I wouldn't have to fill in a petition. It turns out I was wrong. See, I hadn't accidentally chosen the pan and scan edition of Monsters, Inc. It turns out there wasn't a widescreen version to choose. Blockbuster UK will not rent you the widescreen version.

Anyway. Widescreen vs. pan and scan is apparently a heated debate, and there's the inevitable slew of websites devoted to advocacy of one or the other. IGN has an analysis , whilst widescreen.org (wow, a whole dedicated domain), has its own take.

Me? I watched Vanilla Sky instead.

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Really Simple Syndication

MacMerc.com has an article up about NetNewsWire and Really Simple Syndication (as opposed to RDF Site Summary).

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Switching of a different nature

Windows has a great window/application switching system that works via alt-tab. You hit alt-tab, then a window comes up in the middle of the screen showing you your open windows, displayed in their stacking order--so the foremost window is at the beginning of the list. This is good. Hitting alt-tab again moves a selector to the next window in the stack. So far, so good.

Mac OS X doesn't do this. It's application/window switching is terrible. For one, cmd-tab doesn't switch windows. It switches applications. In fact, it doesn't even switch applications well. OS X doesn't need to tell you what applications you currently have open, because those that are open have little black arrows underneath them in the dock. So, what cmd-tab does is change the active application to the next one in the dock, going from left to right.

This sucks.

Enter, at the suggestion of Marc Liyanage, LiteSwitchX, an application that seems to have fallen prey to current pressures to a) use the spelling "lite" instead of light to denote streamlinedness, and b) insert an "X" somewhere in the product name. Anyway. What LiteSwitchX does is make application switching Not Suck (a technical term, I'll have you know) in OS X. How so, you ask?

Well, it knows about window stacking, which is a godsend. No longer do you have to switch applications by whatever order they appear in the dock (which is so arbitrary you might as well be tabbing through applications from least number of vowels in their name to the most), but you can actually switch according to the way their windows are stacking on the screen. What else? Well, it's been Aquafied, which means that it too is lickable, what with a user-resizeable window area to show you your currently open applications. The real clincher, though, is that it's free. Hopefully Apple will at some point include this functionality in OS X itself (and not butcher it)--and possibly with a little more recompense than was offered to the developers of Watson.

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More on Switching

Giles writes about Switching:

"Currently, I own a PC running Win98, on which I do most of my stuff, and an iBook running Mac OS X 10.1.5, on which I write and fiddle.

"But I find the computing environment on the Mac so much nicer. I am far more productive when writing on the Mac than I am on the PC. The Mac is much more stable and reliable and has a great many more exciting new applications to play with. The Mac wuvs me. The PC crashes daily." [more at gorjuss]

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My God, it's full of stars

I'm watching a tiny Indiana Jones robot crawl up a tiny secret shaft inside an immense pyramid. It's unbelievably thrilling.

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Monday, 16 September 2002


"Psychologists, neuroscientists and philosophers like to talk of a hypothetical instrument called the 'cerebroscope'. The first time I heard about this, in San Diego, I expressed a bit of surprise, and then asked, 'Why isn't it called a 'brainoscope'?"" [more, via mssv.net]

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Mac OS X, the death of 9

eWeek story on the reorganisation of the OS 9 group at Apple:

"According to sources, the reorganization does not significantly reduce the number of staffers involved in Apple's OS efforts; some departing employees have not been replaced, and a number of former Mac OS 9 developers have moved to Marklar, the company's Mac OS X-on-x86 project." [ more]

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Online, in-game ad placement

News on a deal for in-game ad placement for Intel and McDonalds in forthcoming EA/Maxis game The Sims Online:

"Players in the game also will be able to buy a McDonald's kiosk and sell the company's branded food products, earning "simoleans," the game's currency. Eating that food will also improve their standing within the game." [more at Reuters]

Update: See also an MSNBC article and a slashdot thread.

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Lab Kit Breaks Speed of Light

"Electric signals can be transmitted at least four times faster than the speed of light using only basic equipment that would be found in virtually any college science department.

"Scientists have sent light signals at faster-than-light speeds over the distances of a few metres for the last two decades - but only with the aid of complicated, expensive equipment. Now physicists at Middle Tennessee State University have broken that speed limit over distances of nearly 120 metres, using off-the-shelf equipment costing just $500." [more]

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Amusing Google Image Searches


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Saturday, 14 September 2002

Moderating the Cloudmakers

Last night, I was talking with some friends (namely, co-moderators of the Cloudmakers list) about what, exactly, we had done right--if we had done anything right.

In trying to explain what we'd done, I attempted the following explanation: there's work to be done in moderating a forum. If you can, you really do have to read everything. If there's a pulse to your community, then you have to be on it and you have to know exactly where it's going. The principal who knows the name of every pupil in her school is more often than not better than the one who doesn't. This is pretty much what we ended doing. What with the filtering system that we had implemented (post), every single message was read, with a mailing list that was peaking at around 700 messages a day. Every single message. Good behaviour was praised (perhaps not as often as it could have been), and bad behaviour was gently chided. The point is that you have to watch and gently guide the participants into a form of good behaviour where everyone can participate. Most importantly, what you have to do is let the participants do what they want to do as much as you can, without getting in their way.

Ah, so you mean that you shouldn't run communities as a democracy? Isn't a democracy supposed to be the best way to govern?

Well, it's not really that simple. As always, the answer hinges upon the qualifier of "it depends". The kind of ethos that we wanted to foster with Cloudmakers was one of openness and the belief that the more people we had contributing, the richer the experience. Lowering the barrier to entry was a good thing. Teaching by example was the only real method we had of ensuring certain forms of behaviour--at least, it was regarded as better than raising the barrier to entry to keep out undesirables.

It would've been perfectly possible for the community to democratically vote to say "we want to be mean to newbies". In the case at hand, that would've been a terrible idea (exactly how successful we were at attracting, retaining and not straight-out scaring away newbies is left as an exercise to the reader). In a sense, then, the community couldn't "vote" about what it could or could not do. There were certain things that, from our on-high position, we really didn't see as being beneficial to the community. On the other hand, everything else was fair game.

Really, the point was--and is--to make it better for the participants themselves, which is more or less where the benevolent dictatorship comes in. One of the central beliefs that the moderators held about Cloudmakers was that everyone had something interesting and useful to contribute. As Shirky points out, participation matters more than quality. Of course, the failing here was that the system Cloudmakers was using--Yahoo! Groups--didn't have any community based filtering methods in place. Any filtering that was done wasn't done by the participants, but by the moderators on high. As far as methods go, it--more or less--worked. I wouldn't want to do it again, though. It's a fairly labour intensive way of working...

One lesson that illustrates the "make it better, but don't interfere with what they're trying to do" lesson (clumsily worded, I know), was one incident that happened during the AI game. It was pretty obvious at one point that the game designers had built in a mechanism for audience feedback--the audience was supposed to come up with a honeypot, something to kill an in-game character. The moderators immediately leapt upon the implications, wondering how, exactly this was going to happen. We thought about creating a site, wondering how the designers would change the content on it, wondering how the players would take part in creating that content. All that was for moot. By the time we had decided what we wanted to do, the Cloudmakers themselves had put together a scarily beautiful nightmare database, from which the game designers picked at sentences to produce the death-throes of an in-game character. It was amazing. We learned, quite bluntly, to let the players build. We now know to encourage it.

There really isn't much more to say than that, without getting into specifics. The principles themselves are pretty clear: let them talk to each other and stay out of their way. If you do, hopefully they'll love you for it.

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Warm and Fuzzy

Today's warm and fuzzy story comes from Tom.

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Sony Dream World 2002

Yes, yes, the Sony worshipping continues. BBC News has a report on Sony Dream World 2002, where Sony unveiled:

- CoCoon, a TIVO-alike device, able to store 100 hours of video that runs on Linux. There's a ZDNet report.

Now, excuse me while I get diverted for a couple of minutes. There's a rather amsuing Aberdeen Group report that says "The reason standalone PVRs haven't sold well to date is because they're Intel PC based (such as the devices made by SONICblue) and they are relatively high priced. Sony's approach is to avoid Microsoft's licensing fees and the expensive Intel processors, which could enable this to be positioned as a true consumer device." Which is untrue - for starters, TiVo makes use of the PowerPC platform and runs on Linux. Shockingly, you can even get hold of the source. Heavens above. ReplayTV on the other hand, seems to use a VxWorks derived OS and runs on a MIPS processor. Forthcoming SonicBlue portable video players will be using Intel xScale processors, which makes sense, seeing as they're low power. But in-home PVRs? No.

Scratch the Intel reason. The reason PVRs aren't selling is the price, irrespective of what platform they may or may not be running on. And that's it. So much for Sony's CoCoon being cheap, either, the ZDNet report mentions that they'll be retailing at around USD1,100, with a production run of 5,000 per month. Not quite ready, I think. Good job that report was free.

- a concept model of a sensing computer, packed into a compact hexagon gadget [that] would memorise your preferences and experiences over time.

- another home media server called "Vaio Contents Egg", that would store photos, video and music.

Sony has a press release (English) and website (Japanese) for the event.

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Apple has no monopoly...

... on sexy hardware - Sony makes a gorgeous 802.11a base station.

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Friday, 13 September 2002

Google and Elgoog, redux

More on the Google in China story:

"Chinese internet users report that a two-week blockage on the internet search service Google has been at least partly relaxed following widespread international protest and efforts to beat the restrictions.

"The Chinese government refutes denying access to Google and has suggested that surfers could be suffering normal network problems. But outside observers suspect that the notorious "Great Firewall of China" is still blocking the site." [more, via New Scientist, so only around for a week]

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Clay Shirky talks about online community:

"There is a long history of businesses trying to harness the power of online communities for commercial ends. Most of these attempts have failed, for the obvious reasons. There are few products or services people care about in a way that would make them want to join a community, and when people are moved to speak out about a commercial offering, it is usually to complain.

"Media organizations, however, would seem to be immune to these difficulties, because online media and online communities have the same output: words and images. Even here, though, there are significant obstacles to hosting community, obstacles peculiar to the nature of media. Much of the discipline a broadcast organization must internalize to do its job well are not merely irrelevant to community building, but actively harmful." [more, via Ray Ozzie]

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Behind the marketing

An interesting article on what it's like to be on an eTeam:

"I knew I couldn't go into this thing as a grizzled 28-year-old music snob. So step one was to create a cover for myself: I became Kate Thompson, born on July 4th, 1984, and currently living in Allston, Massachusetts (a.k.a. "Rock City!!"). All I know about being a girl is what I've learned from Judy Blume novels and the WB, but I figured I could bluff it well enough to get in the door. I set up a fake e-mail address in Kate's name and then sent in my application for TeamAVRIL." [more, via mefi thread]

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Don't you dare

"What is wrong with this sentence? “The enormity of Bruce Chatwin's massive celebrity is, ironically, legendary.” Answer: apart from being utter tripe, almost every word in it is guaranteed to have editors snarling with rage.

"Enormity, for starters, does not mean huge — strictly speaking it means great wickedness. Chatwin is banned by the New Statesman Editor, Peter Wilby, for being a chattering-class favourite. He also hates massive. It doesn't mean great in size, but great in mass. The word celebrity is regarded as overused by several papers. The Guardian won't have ironically used in anything other than the proper sense. And John Witherow of The Sunday Times detests legendary." [more, The Times, so free registration for UK readers]

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Thursday, 12 September 2002


"Spectators "flee" as huge waves of the Qiantangjiang River approach in east China's Zhejiang Province Sunday, Sept. 8, 2002. Huge tides occured as Typhoon Sinlaku swept the southern part of the East China Sea at 5:00 a.m. since last Saturday, with the maximum wind force of 40 meters per second." [more]

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These things just happen

"In an ironic twist, the September Standard & Poor's 500 futures contract closed Tuesday at 911.00 — a day before the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks." [more]

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NetNewsWire 1.00b23

NetNewsWire 1.00b23 is now available. Changenotes are here.

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Independence Day



We see a world dominated by an American flag. This is INADVERTENT FORESHADOWING. Then a shadow moves across the ground and the flag. This is SYMBOLISM. Then an immense spaceship crawls across the screen. This is STAR WARS. [more]

More at The Editing Room.

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Have they told you about it?

What, you mean you don't know yet?

Probably not the best way to build buzz, but hey, it's an attempt.

See also the mefi thread.

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The things I'm gonna do for my country

Triple OS X.

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Not a moon

"The latest analysis of the mysterious object called J002E3 suggests it could well be a leftover Saturn V rocket component from one of the Apollo lunar missions." [more]

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Measure the world

"In 240 BC, it took all the ingenuity of the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes to estimate the size of the Earth to within 10% of today's accepted value. Now, you can achieve a comparable level of accuracy with the internet, a globe and a piece of string. Crucial to the method are optical fibres laid along the sea floor between, for instance, Seattle and Hawaii." [Measure the world with traceroute, a howto]

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Iain Banks interview in the Guardian - "How do you imagine the net evolving? What do you think I am - a science-fiction writer?" - [more]

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i(will)Cal in time

iCal apparently not ready.

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Stupid laws, redux

Greek gaming law declared unconstitutional: BBC and CNet.

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Third moon rising

Yes, yes. So it appears that there is a new NEO in the neighbourhood - the catchily titled J002E2. It could be man made, it might not be. It seems to have just shown up, which is always fun (I hope it's bought some drink with it). Anyway, this is all old hat - Cruithne's gone there and done that.

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And here are all the things in the queue, in no particular order:

"Police tackle clashes between BNP protesters and Muslims radicals at a mosque holding a controversial Islamic conference to mark 11 September." [more]

"Philips and Sony are concocting an alternative to Bluetooth for short-range wireless communications; dubbed Near Field Communication, it mainly targets payment services." [more]

"In a remarkable feat of tissue engineering, major parts of the penises of several rabbits have been replaced with segments grown in a lab from their own cells. The animals were able to use the reconstructed organs to mate." [more]

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Yesterday's page is here.

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Tuesday, 10 September 2002

Escape Velocity

"A man who publicly confronted astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin over whether he actually went to the Moon said on Tuesday that the Apollo 11 hero almost sent him into space with a punch to the jaw." [more]

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Money and stars

The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope has been named - what was called the Next Generation Space Telescope will now be known as the James Webb Space Telescope (NASA site; STSCI site).

It's all very interesting. The new telescope will be situated at a Lagrange point (L2), which more or less means that it can just sit still without worrying about being tugged all over the place by gravity. What's even more amazing is that the James Webb Space Telescope is only going to cost (at this stage, at any rate), $824.8 million. Which is peanuts.

Peanuts, of course, in comparison to the amount of money it's going to cost to upgrade the west coast main line, a piece of railway track from London to Glasgow in the United Kingdom. Latest estimates put the cost of upgrading that single line at £10-13 billion. Bear in mind that this isn't a project proposing to upgrade hundreds and hundreds of miles of track. Well, not more than two hundred, at any rate. In fact, that's around it: two hundred miles of track. It's been pointed out that a similar two hundred mile track upgrade in Switzerland cost around £2 billion. And that was 20% under the forecast.

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I can't quite put my finger on it

... but something looks familiar...

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Monday, 09 September 2002

Newton's Inkwell

"Using Inkwell, if you write Rosetta! Rosetta! Rosetta!, your Mac will recognize the text, placing a Hey,that's me! string in the converted output. This is actually a Newton Easter Egg that pretty much proves that they just ported the Newton Code to Inkwell." [more]

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Information wants a highway

"Far too many businesses are crossing the information highway without knowing anything about the risk," said a CBI spokesman, in a BBC News Online story entitled "Exposed - Parts of British industry prone to viruses". One assumes that the parts of British industry most prone to viruses would be the pink fleshy "humans". But anyway.

All this business of the information superhighway is faintly amusing. Google seems to think that quite a lot of people like the term information superhighway (~137,000).

It's a good job that term caught on, otherwise the more painful "information megahighway" (2), the slightly more painful "information hyperhighway" (2), or the even more painful "information ultrahighway" (2) could have claimed the throne.

Of course, it was either that or the information gigahighway (0, but 1 probably, now). The RIAA or the MPAA would crap their pants at the bandwidth the information gigahighway would be throwing at scumsucking pirates...

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Do as I say, not as I do

Slashdot, well established last-bastion on the net of fair, accurate and unbiased reporting sets itself up against BBC News Online.

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Nanotechnology, CNet and human hairs. For some reason, the human hair has become the de facto unit when talking about nanotech or MEMs.

Other promising ways of measuring Really Small Things include telling us how many of them will "fit into the period at the end of this sentence", or how much "smaller than the period at the end of this sentence" they are. Google tells us that the latter seems to be the preferred method of getting across just how unbelievably small these things are.

But wait! Here's everything we've been waiting for: revolutionary technology!

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Hall of Shame

Via Mozblog, the OS X interface hall of shame -- and Mozilla's entry.

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Sunday, 08 September 2002

OS X and the Blogger API

Train of thought: after hearing about Blapp, a GUI for Blosxom, I wondered if anyone had created/was working on an OS X client for Movable Type seeing as it had an XML-RPC interface. Turns out Movable Type implements Blogger's API, so then I was just looking for anything on OS X that supported that. Here's a quick list:

The wonder of Applescript means that someone's hacked together Blogger API support from inside Word v.X.

Here's a list of XML-RPC Weblog API clients.

There's always mozBlog (that Mozilla gets bloody everywhere, it does).

Here's a list of applications that support Radio Userland over XML-RPC (which is pretty much the Blogger API anyway).

Hey, you could always do it in flash anyway.

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ATM to mobile top-ups

"From Monday an estimated one million mobile phone users will be able to start topping-up their mobiles using cash machines. The mobile top-up service will be available to any Abbey National customer who has an Orange pay-as-you-go mobile, and it is the first service of its kind in the UK." [more]

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NetNewsWire 1.0b22 (8 September) is out, changenotes here. Definitely an OS X essential app, and great thanks to Brent Simmons for what seems to be a relentless slew of updates.

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Friday, 06 September 2002


"China's widely criticised blocking of the web's most popular search engine Google can be defeated by viewing a strange Google mirror site through a mirror, New Scientist has discovered.

"The mirror site, called elgooG, is a parody of the English language version of Google in which all the text on the web pages has been reversed. The text terms used for searches are also entered in reverse. The site, which returns all the same hits as Google, can be accessed from behind China's "great firewall"." [more, New Scientist, so will disappear in a week]

See also: Google and elgooG, redux

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I want I want I want

"[The Nokia] 3650 sports an integrated digital camera capable of taking pictures in VGA resolution, 4 MB RAM a 12-bit color display, GSM, GPRS, HSCSD and Bluetooth - but there are some subtle differences as well. Apart from the updated looks of the 3650, which sports a rotary style keypad, the phone has tri-band and not dual-band GSM, its Bluetooth is likely to support Bluetooth headsets and car kits - meaning it's v1.1, and there is also an integrated MMC card expansion slot." [more]

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Tuesday, 03 September 2002

Feeding time

Matt Jones lets us know that BBC News now has public beta RSS feeds. Quite possibly the most fun news of the day.

Update: Tom has put up a list of all of the feeds.

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Monday, 02 September 2002

Yet More Google

"Today Google is dominant. Web users perform 150 million searches a day on Google, 50% more than its nearest rival, Inktomi. Google can search in 74 languages through 400 million photos and images and more than two billion Web pages. Chris Sherman, editor of SearchDay, a widely read industry newsletter, points to a study showing that in a recent one-month period users logged nearly 13 million hours at Google. Yahoo ranked a distant second with 5.4 million hours." [more, via Ars Technica]

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I Heart Google

Can I just mention how unbelievably wonderful Google is? I mean, I think it's pretty cool that when someone does a search, they find as the top result an article I wrote a day previously. Now that's cool. Worshipping over, for the time being.

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Rolling rolling rolling

1. The Beckhams name their new son Romeo.

2. BBC News 24, in a fit of not being able to find anything to fill 24 hours of rolling news schedules with, say, important and relevant news, manages to interview someone with the name Romeo about seeing Romeo and Juliet.

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On Coulter's Mirror

Richard Cohen writes in the Post about Ann Coulter's book, Slander:

"May I say something about Ann Coulter? She is a half-wit, a termagant, a dimwit, a blowhard, a worthless silicone nothing, physically ugly and could be likened to Eva Braun, who was Hitler's mistress. As it happens, these are all descriptions or characterizations Coulter uses for others in her book, "Slander." It ought to be called "Mirror."" [more]

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Pictorial Languages

Who said Apple doesn't do random cool shit? I mean, it isn't enough that, overnight, they turn into the company putting the most unix boxes on desks, it isn't enough that they do things like take standards such as Zeroconf, tart them up and then release the source to their implementation, that they singlehandedly start an immense brain drain amongst the geek elite while at the same time selling them amazingly cool designer hardware. No. That's not enough. They have to go and run experiments in damn pictorial languages and kids. Apple rocks.

"The Elephant's Memory is a pictorial language consisting of more than a hundred combinable elements (called logograms or signs). The goal of this language is to set up an experimental research environment (the language kitchen), gathering a community of users to explore the field of invented languages and the questions orbiting around their form, structure, and development process." [more]

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Sunday, 01 September 2002

Social Processes in AI

"Lionhead Studios, the creators of the seminal game Black & White, is working on a new game that extends the idea of the 'group mind' to give its characters the appearance of more realistic artificial intelligence."

""We have modelled a community," said Evans. "If someone is hurt then everyone will gather round and try to help." In Dmitry there are squares and hard guys, romances and arguments, bars and schoolyards. Characters even have the ability to dynamically create their own language, constructing simple sentences on a word by word basis." [more, via slashdot]

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On blank slates

Stephen Pinker has a new book out, The Blank Slate : The Modern Denial of Human Nature. [Amazon UK; Amazon US]

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Come Quick, Danger

On the origin of the terms SOS, CQD and the history of maritime distress calls:

"In 1904, the Marconi company filled the gap by suggesting the use of "CQD" for a distress signal. It was established on February 1 of that year by Marconi Company's circular No. 57. Although generally accepted to mean, "Come Quick Danger," that is not the case. It is a general call, "CQ," followed by "D," meaning distress." [more]

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The Longest Day Of My Life, Redux

There's spoilers here. I mean it.

I get enough people coming in to my This Is The Longest Day Of My Life entry looking for the alternate ending to 24 that I might as well just say what happens here.

It's only the last thirty seconds, really. I was rather annoyed with the original ending, Kiefer runs in and sees Bride of Kiefer sitting in her chair with a big splodge of blood covering her chest - Bride of Kiefer is dead, leaving Kiefer to skream various obscenities (well, maybe not) and look generally anguished at the kamera.

What kind of thrilling changes could be in store for the alternate ending? Maybe Nina's not really a mole (of course not, the alternate ending featurette is only a couple minutes long). Maybe Nina dies. Maybe Kiefer dies. Who knows? All wrong. It's much soppier than that. Depressingly, it's pretty much the last thirty seconds that are different. Kiefer runs into the sekret room where Bride of Kiefer was all bound up in the chair. She's asleep. Kiefer wakes her up. Yay! Clapping all around, lots of tears, and Bride of Kiefer, Spawn of Kiefer and Kiefer himself are reunited in one whole mass of Kieferdom. That's it. [more Kiefer Kraziness]

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