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Thursday, 21 August 2003

Engaging the Audience and Other Phrases

Newspaper uses discussion from weblog entry to generate and commission content for dead tree edition, film at eleven.

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Wednesday, 20 August 2003


Good: I made it to the big Starbucks in Cambridge to get lots of work done today, hopefully away from a network connection.

Bad: I reached an impasse and had to look up some documentation that wasn't cached locally.

Good: T-mobile appear to have installed a hot-spot here, they just aren't advertising it.

Bad: T-Mobile have installed a Hot Spot here. There wasn't supposed to be any network connectivity.

Good: I can look up the documentation.

Bad: It cost me £14.00 for 120 minutes valid over a 31 day period. That would get me a month's unlimited access in the 'states.

Even worse: US T-Mobile Hot Spot accounts aren't valid in the UK. You'll need another one.

Good, I suppose: Found the documentation I needed. Happy now, even though I'm £14 out of pocket.

Bad: Don't even get me started on the horrible UI that T-Mobile are using here for sign on. It's horrendous. Sample: the connection window that is spawned disappears straight after it's spawned if you're using Safari, leaving no way to log out. And your connection doesn't appear to time out, either. And the survey form to report your bad experience doesn't work. I could go on. I will. At length. Later. Meanwhile: Use Camino.

9 comments and trackbacks

Tuesday, 19 August 2003


Junk folder, Tuesday August 19, 19:47 to to 20:31 - 12 SoBig.F worm emails, one returned mail thanks to it spoofing one of my addresses.

Absolutely no reaction on my part. These things are just sliding off me.

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I recently got NTL digital cable; Sky was far too expensive for the time being, and the only thing I'm really after at the moment are non-fuzzy channels in widescreen (that said, I feel an NTL EPG UI rant coming on soon). Anyway, I digress.

The NTL information channel is currently looping a short video, "an important announcement" for users of Microsoft Windows XP, 2000 or NT. Yeah, it's the msblast worm, and instructions on how to patch and clean the offending system.

It's worth watching for this throwaway line:

"a firewall does exactly what it sounds like: creating a wall of fire around your computer, which should prevent most viruses from getting back in"

Well, if you put it like that, I want one. It'd look really cool in the living room, and I'd save on the gas bill.

Related: Reboot v3.1.3 - Firewall.

2 comments and trackbacks

Online Communities, Microsoft Research and NetScan

CNet News.com interviews Microsoft Research's Marc Smith:

In Microsoft's research and development labs, Smith has spent the past several years slicing and dicing data about messages and message authors in an ambitious effort to help people make sense of the newsgroup manifold--the hordes of know-it-alls, flame warriors, spammers and neophytes who, by Smith's estimate, last year numbered more than 100 million in the Usenet network of e-mail threads, or newsgroups. [more, CNet News.com]


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I Want Love

  • Steven Frank: Danger Sidekick trumps SE P800
  • For all you Cloudmaker freaks: cicadas.
  • Via Gizmodo: SE T616 vs. Tanager - Tanager wins on features, but, surprise, SE T616 wins at being a phone [previously, T610 first impressions and UI rant; Adrian's take (he owns an SPV)]
  • Infoworld: SCO shows code, crowd goes wild.
    "I didn't really take into account the derivative works aspect of it. That's the nail in the coffin," [a reseller] noted. "Not everybody was convinced they had a case. This removes all doubt."
  • BBC News Online on the drinking laws story that will not die and will always be referred to in the future tense.

1 comments and trackbacks

Monday, 18 August 2003

Light and Day

  • Tofu, an experiment in text display:
    "Each line stays in the same vertical position, and only moves past your eyes horizontally. Since this is your reading direction anyway, and the human eye is better at horizontal than at vertical scanning, the text feels much more stable and you feel more in control." [via 2lmc/spool/]
  • Brent takes Winer to task on the distinction between weblog-type and email-type aggregators, and corrects a Wired News article.

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Would you like to play a game?

At least it's not globo-thermo-nuclear war:

The first game-playing DNA computer has been revealed - an enzyme-powered tic-tac-toe machine that cannot be beaten.
The human player makes his or her moves by dropping DNA into 3 by 3 square of wells that make up the board. The device then uses a complex mixture of DNA enzymes to determine where it should place its nought or cross, and signals its move with a green glow. [more, New Scientist]


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Blast Away

Via Ovidiu Predescu:

I believe that the outage was caused by the MSblaster, or its mutation, which was besieged upon the respective vulnerability in certain control and monitoring systems (SCADA and otherwise) running MS 2000 or XP, located different points along the Grid. Some of these systems are accessible via the Internet, while others are accessible by POTS dialup, or private Frame relay and dedicated connectivity. [more, BugTraq]


The failing niagara power-plant belongs to National Grid USA. That power-supplier is listed as a reference customer of Northern Dynamics. Norhtern Dynamics labeled themselves as "Home of the OPC Experts" and offer a range of products that use OPC for control and operation systems.
OPC stands for "Ole for process control" and is based on microsofts COM/DCOM model. In a network affected by the W32.Blaster worm the DCOM-communcation fails, and therefor OPC fails on unpatched systems. [more, BugTraq/Heise]

BugTraq thread here, see also Risks List digest Sunday 17 August 2003 22:86.

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This is why Finder becomes unusable after over a day's worth of use, right?

bash-2.05a$ uptime
7:59AM up 1 day, 10:25, 4 users, load averages: 1.39, 1.77, 1.51
bash-2.05a$ leaks Finder | less
Process 409: 23354 nodes malloced
Process 409: 685 leaks

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Monday Morning

  • Palm, formerly of 3Com and USRobotics, becomes palmOne. Cue "what's the sound of onePalm..." jokes.
  • MacRumors: Panther 7B39 seeded.
  • MacRumors PowerBook revision rumours, links to ThinkSecret report, custom build train for more models? I don't think I'm allowed to buy one, the amortized cost for mine is still over £100/month after 20 months.
  • New York Times: For Those Needing 32 More bits - G5s will be in Apple stores this week.
  • O'Reilly Network: ACLs in FreeBSD - something we can expect for OS X 10.4?
  • Mark Frauenfelder finishes Oryx and Crake, despite what Atwood thinks, Clute's convinced she's written some derivative SF.
  • BBC: A-level grades 'are fair' -- not balanced?
  • Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index has some good themed collections.
  • Kicking out agricultural subsidies: Guardian editorial and perhaps overly cutely named weblog [naturally via OnlineBlog].

3 comments and trackbacks

Thursday, 14 August 2003

Eeek! HTTPS!

I swear to god, right now anytime my laptop makes an HTTPS connection (over wi-fi, at the moment), I can hear it go "eeek". Seriously. Not just any connection, I checked: only HTTPS.

Has this happened to anyone else?

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ABC News Oops

Bronwen on someone getting past Ted Koppel's researchers on ABC, covering the eastern seaboard power outage:

The guy says, "What we need people to do is to get on the trains."
Koppel: "Aren't they clearing the trains?"
Dude: "For now, yeah. Anyway. What we need people to do is to -- um, once they get home safely -- we need them to log onto thankyoufortakingmycall.com so that we know they're safe."

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CyberCode and the PhoneCam

New Scientist gave word a few weeks ago of Sony's Gaze-Link. At first glance, it seems designed to solve problems that ZeroConf/Rendezvous already deal with:

The camera-based system, developed by researchers at Sony's Interaction Laboratory in Tokyo, Japan, lets users instantly transfer data from a laptop or handheld computer to a device in close proximity connected to the same wireless network.
"It is so troublesome, especially when there are many networked devices," Yuji told New Scientist. "When you want to send data in your PDA to a printer, for example, you have to input or to select a correct network address."
A code displayed on a small sticker attached to each device is identified by the laptop's camera. Software running on the laptop then automatically locates the device on the network. "Gaze-Link is one of the challenges to make connecting more 'intuitive'," Yuji says.

It seems that Gaze-Link isn't a configuration tool as such, more of an autodiscovery tool, or a point-and-shoot autodiscovery tool, so it's obviously not without its uses. There's a demo video (MPEG, Japanese, 28.1MB) available that provides a better idea of what's going on: the demo involves someone sitting down with a Vaio with a built in camera, pointing it at a desktop and keystrokes being transferred from the former to the latter.In fact, the recognition tags that are stuck on to the devices look eerily similar to those used by Sony's CyberCode software that shipped with the early PictureBook Vaios. It's not a surprise then to see that both Jun Rekimoto and Yuji Ayatsuka were involved with the CyberCode project in the first place, having published a paper on it in 2000. The use of this is, to me, more interesting than the autodiscovery involved in Gaze-Link since CyberCode was initially developed as an augmented reality project.

A lot of Sony's own material about CyberCode seems to have gone missing, as continent-spanning multinationals are wont to slowly let their webservers rot: Rekimoto's own link to a page on CyberCode and the PCG-C1AT points to a defunct document, and neither archive.org or Google seem to have the page cached.

Fortunately, there's a paper [PDF, 2.8MB] available on Sony's site. Here's the abstract:

The CyberCode is a visual tagging system based on a 2Dbarcode technology and provides several features not provided by other tagging systems. CyberCode tags can be recognized by the low-cost CMOS or CCD cameras found in more and more mobile devices, and it can also be used to determine the 3D position of the tagged object as well as its ID number. This paper describes examples of augmented reality applications based on CyberCode, and discusses some key characteristics of tagging technologies that must be taken into account when designing augmented reality environments.

The chief method of tagging envisaged by the authors was that of paper-based printed tags. Paper's cheap, and so is printing: "printed tags are probably the least expensive [compared to RF and IR] and most versatile tagging techonology. They can be easily made by normal printers, can be attached to almost any physical object, and can be recognized by mobile readers."

While I'm not entirely convinced as to the aesthetics of having two dimensional barcodes plastering my favourite gadgets, there's something about the system that appeals to me. The fact that I'd be able to print as many as I wanted, and stick them wherever I want, is a clear benefit over systems like RFID - I'm not sure whether most people have some sort of ubiquitous technology acting as trojan RFID fabs in their houses yet. I expect not.

One of the examples touted by the CyberCode technology was of embedding information about a document when it was printed out: wave the hard copy in front of the camera and the original document would pop up on the screen, ready for editing. While this isn't necessarily a boon for home users--how many documents do you have, exactly, and how much time would you save by waving about a hard copy you had meticulously filed away?--I can certainly see benefits for businesses which have a large investment in hard copies. Unfortunately, most of those businesses are smartly moving away from having anything to do with pulped tree matter and there's a whole plethora of document management and electronic filing/submission solutions available: step forward Adobe Acrobat. That's not to say that CyberCode could augment such a system, of course.

Regardless, Sony's video demo was much more informative than the writeup proffered by New Scientist, which isn't much of a surprise these days. One of the main stumbling blocks with the technology is that it requires at least one device to have a built in camera of sufficient ability to resolve the code in the first place, and--phone cameras notwithstanding--there don't seem to be enough of those about: not laptops, not palmtops and not PDAs. Whether this means Sony are about to release a J2ME asset tag/tracking application for their Sony-Ericsson camera equipped phones that will pull up data on CyberCode tagged objects is left as an exercise to the reader.

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The Langford Basilisk

Blit, a short story at Infinity Plus:

2-6. This first example of the Berryman Logical Image Technique (hence the usual acronym BLIT) evolved from AI work at the Cambridge IV supercomputer facility, now discontinued. V.Berryman and C.M.Turner [3] hypothesized that pattern-recognition programs of sufficient complexity might be vulnerable to "Gödelian shock input" in the form of data incompatible with internal representation. Berryman went further and suggested that the existence of such a potential input was a logical necessity ... [more]

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No white flag above my door

  • One Hundred Interesting Mathematical Calculations, no. 18: Sunscreen
    "Strange mutant freak near-albinos who would drive our remote ancestors away, gibbering in terror!"
  • Den Beste on Europe's Future:
    We can't discount the possibility that in fifty years the EU and most existing national governments in Europe will be gone, replaced by a new Fascist dictatorship, which among other things chooses to make the investment in a modern military and which hopes to use it in yet another round of world conquest. And we might not be able to interfere before this point, because France has nuclear weapons. Even though Europe won't have the ability to threaten us using conventional forces for the next few decades, they do have the ability to threaten us with nuclear conflagration.
  • Jeremy Zawodny announced Yahoo News's RSS feeds, but they're not quite ready yet.
  • The trailer for Paycheck is out, yet another Phillip K. Dick film. Yay.

42 comments and trackbacks

Wednesday, 13 August 2003

Windows XP Picture and Fax Viewer

Here's an experiment: every time I'm asked to troubleshoot something, if it sounds like something other people might come up against, I'll try to remember to add it here. At least Google will find it.

Some people get confused when XP's Picture and Fax Viewer application stops being associated with, say, .tiff files. Picture and Fax Viewer is useful for .tiffs mainly because they can contain more than one page, and most applications aren't aware of any pages past the first one.

Here's one way you might be able to get Picture and Fax Viewer to open your .tiff files if another application--like Quicktime--has hijacked them:

  • Put a .tiff file on your desktop
  • Right-click it
  • Choose the "Open With" submenu
  • Click "Choose Program..."
  • Wait - if you have a slow computer (over two or three years), the window may not come up quicky. If it takes more than five minutes, something's probably up. And that's five real minutes.
  • In the "Open With" window that pops up, click on "Windows Picture and Fax Viewer". It should be in the "Recommended Programs" list at the top of the window.
  • Click the "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file" checkbox that's near the bottom of the window, just above the "Browse..." button.
  • Click "OK".

That should do it.

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Rebuild OS X Address Book Index

A tip on speeding up OS X's Address Book/AddressBook.app by rebuilding its ABPerson.index index file:

For extra speedy goodness, try deleting the "~/Library/Application Support/Address Book/ABPerson.index" file, then opening Address Book and searching for an entry. This will force a rebuild of the Address Book index, too. [more, via Forwarding Address: OS X]

This supposedly increases the performance of Apple's email application, Mail.app--I wouldn't know, I use Entourage X, but nothing bad has happened to my address book after trying this.

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not fish; duck

My friend Matt is publishing a chapter a day of not fish; duck online. Go check it out.

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For future reference

I'll probably be moving hosts at some point, so: transferring MT blogs from one host to another.

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Sympathy, distilled

Or not, as the case may be.

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Fair? Balanced? You^WThe Court Decides!

  • Google celebrates Alfred Hitchcock's birthday, you've probably seen their new calculator by now.
  • I wish to draw attention to the fair and balanced nature of this site.
  • The Washington Post covers the Hutton Inquiry, for a US take.
  • O'Reilly's David Weiss road tests Quark 6 for OS X.
  • MacRumors on new PowerBooks
    "Deciphering Mac rumors is as much an art as it is a science. Unfortunately, clear and direct information is rarely offered. Instead, pieces of information must be collected and interpreted..."
  • Think Secret published a look at the Finder and System, part five a few days ago. I completely missed it.
    "Panther now includes a nifty OpenGL effect when launching applications and opening files. The file's icon scales larger, fading out as it grows." - I hope I can turn it off.
  • Great Wired article on artificial diamonds and a scared De Beers.
  • Via makeoutcity.com: alternatives when in the Matrix; military adverts in the WaPo Online (I saw the same in the print edition, wasn't the first time I'd seen them, nor was I fazed).
  • BBC News: embryonic stem cell first
    Human embryonic stem cells have been grown in the UK for the first time, a team at King's College London announced on Wednesday.

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Tuesday, 12 August 2003


The slightly more astute/anal/bored among you will have noticed that the individual entry archives have now moved from Movable Type's rather useless default of /ec/mtarchives/nnnnnn.shtml#nnnnnn to /ec/mtarchives/yyyy/mm/dd/entry_title_here/index.shtml#nnnnnn, which is all well and good were it not for the fact that the "/index.shtml#nnnnnn" bit looks like a complete eyesore.

Anway, this looks useful: Future-proof URLs in Movable Type, which will help in removing those silly filenames and anchors. Only it's just past midnight, I'm a little tired and don't particularly want to embark on that journey just yet.

Oh, and Phil Gyford's .htaccess redirect trick deserves a mention, too.

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Tom Cotes Goes Fact Checking

I'm only linking this because my friend Tom Cotes was mentioned on MSNBC's weblog central in a para about him fact checking Bill Thompson's shameful reporting. I mean op/ed.

Sorry, did I say Cotes? I'm sure I meant Coates. And no, it doesn't look like a typo. It's spelt that way three times.

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Music industry in reinvention shocker

BBC News reports that sales of mobile phone ringtones set to overtake CD singles:

Sales of mobile phone ringtones are set to overtake CD singles, according to new figures - providing a much-needed "shot in the arm" for the music industry.
Sales of ringtones - which are more profitable to record companies than singles - are expected to rise 60% this year, said the Mobile Data Association (MDA).
Most pop hits are available to buy as mobile phone rings - as are other popular tunes such as TV themes - for between £1.50 and £3.50.

It's no fun without vague comment masquerading as fact:

Steve Mayall, from trade publication Mobile Messaging Analyst, warned the music industry not to rely on ringtones. "It's a fact that piracy is definitely decimating the record industry at the moment and it's a fact that the ringtone business is starting to show quite healthy growth," he said.

It's a fact that piracy is definitely decimating the record industry? Or is that just what the record industry is saying?

In other news, BBC's Fame Academy (a Reithian attempt at Pop Idol) is offering paid-for downloads of contestants' performances. Cunning.

31 comments and trackbacks

Monday, 11 August 2003

All in my head

  • Steven Frank: P800 Notes
    For now, I still have my P800, despite various threats to hock it to the highest bidder, and the occasional temptation to hock it down the street.
  • A Colder War: a novelette by Charlie Stross
    There's a blurry photograph of a concrete box inside the file, snapped from above by a high-flying U-2 during the autumn of '61. Three coffin-shaped lakes, bulking dark and gloomy beneath the arctic sun; a canal heading west, deep in the Soviet heartland, surrounded by warning trefoils and armed guards. Deep waters saturated with calcium salts, concrete coffer-dams lined with gold and lead. A sleeping giant pointed at NATO, more terrifying than any nuclear weapon.
  • Mud-Dev information
    The MUD Development mailing list is not platform, language or game specific, but concentrates on discussing the design and implementation of any and all MUD servers and systems. Another large related topic is game design.
  • ThinkSecret: Panther hits 7B34
    The company internally reached build 7B34 of Panther and build 7B32 of Panther Server. At press time, the new builds had not been seeded to developers and testers via the Apple Developer Connection Web site.
  • MacRumors: PowerBook Rumour Summary
    15" PowerBooks were last updated in November 2002, with the introduction 1GHz machines with the Superdrive at the top end...
  • Tom on "two years" of weblogs--a vast proportion of "bloggers" might be crap journalists, but that doesn't preclude journalists from being crap, either. And it gets bloody irritating.
  • Mobile Burn: T610 Review Updated (Again. Not that it matters, since practically everyone's gone and bought one now)
    [August 10th, 2003] I have been playing around with a T616 for a week or so now. The reception is, in general, on par with the T68i. Sometimes it seems a bit better, sometimes a bit worse. But safe to say that the T616 is more usable than the T610 is on any band. The downside is that the T616 won't work on the primary GSM band in the world, 900Mhz.
  • Slashdot succumbs to the silly season: Flavor vs. Flavour, though one could reasonably say that Slashdot never left the silly season in the first place.
  • Maximum temperature for August 2003 in Cambridge, from the AT&T Cambridge Labs weather site.

41 comments and trackbacks

Saturday, 09 August 2003

Pre-emptively bowing to cephalopoid overlords

More octopus links, because they're so damn interesting:

  • What is this octopus thinking?
    In the cephalopods alone among the molluscs, evolution has also constructed a brain. It has greatly expanded the forwardmost pairs of ganglia and moved them closer together to create a tightly packed mass of lobes that lies between the eyes and encircles the oesophagus. This is an awkward arrangement in some ways - researchers have discovered spines lodged in octopus brains, the result of a meal going down the wrong way.
  • The Octopus News Magazine Online
  • National Resource Center for Cephalopods
  • Armed But Not Dangerous
    Octopus literature is filled with tales of naturalists briefly leaving animals in open tanks and returning to find them scaling a bookcase, hiding in a teapot or expired on the carpet. Astonishingly compressible, an octopus can ooze through an opening no bigger than one of its eyeballs. Its yen to get loose is probably linked to an instinctive urge to change dens every week or two. But on dry land, an octopus is doomed: Within half an hour, it will die from lack of oxygen.
  • Armed and mysterious in Puget Sound
    Anderson offered anecdotal evidence to back up his claim of octopus intelligence: Years ago, a woman was hired by the Aquarium to work as the night-shift biologist. She would come in every night, shine a light on the sleeping octopus and then leave. Eventually, Anderson said, the octopus learned to recognize the woman.

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Friday, 08 August 2003

Welcoming our new cephalopoid overlords

In discussion inspired by the amazing octopus video posted on Metafilter, an amusing and in-depth page about keeping octopuses in aquaria:

Octopuses are escape artists and care must be taken to prevent losing one once you have captured it. Immediately after being caught, Legs discovered a small hole in the seam of my new dive net, went through it, plopped in the water, and disappeared from sight... all in about two seconds! Luckily, at least for me, I was able to relocate her. Once back at the Hall of Justice, (o.k., o.k., hotel room) Legs was placed in a five gallon bucket with its lid slightly ajar to provide an air line to circulate the water. Later, that same morning, a distinctive 'splop' awoke us, somehow penetrating our half asleep brains. That we heard it was no small miracle as we were no doubt still traumatized from waking up at 3:00 A.M. to go look for octopuses. We rushed into the bathroom of the hotel room and there was Legs, obviously upset, scooting around the floor. We managed to catch her and return her to the bucket (yes, the feeling of octopus suckers on your skin is weird at best). Besides keeping the octopus safe, a well sealed collecting bucket and/or octoaquarium helps to allay a loved one's fear that 'that thing is going to crawl out in the middle of the night and suck my brains out through my nose'. [more]

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Spiders Three.Five

Patrick Farley's fantastic online comic Spiders has now been bumped up to part three.five after a phased rollout. Go read, now [via his livejournal].

Updated 8 July 2003 21:59 BST: Mirror here

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Someone is stealing my bandwidth: they're using this image, hosted on my server, as the background image on their webpage.

I sent an email via that person's hosting provider, xanga, and a friend left a comment on the user's site informing her, quite simply, about what she was doing (ooh, not attributing the image, plus having me pay towards her bandwidth). To date, there's been no reply, and my friend's comment attached to this entry has since been deleted.

Evangelical Christians aren't, it must be said, my favourite group of people in the world, but generally they're harmless compared to, say, mass murderers. On the other hand, I'm really getting quite annoyed that this hasn't been fixed yet.

So I'm going to give one more warning. And then I'm going to change the image she's linking to.

The latest entry at the time of writing starts like this:

The picture behind this writing reminds me of a night when my husband rushed home and told me to grab my jacket and hurry to the car, he had to take me somewhere.  I could see the excitement on his face and could tell there was some kind of great adventure he wanted to share with me.  I reported to the car as quickly as I could and we left with me not knowing where he was taking me...it was exciting! 

So I'm thinking maybe tubgirl or goatse.cx would provide a sufficiently hilarious and unequivocal message (unlinked, for obvious reasons if you're already seen those sites. If you haven't, well, you might not want to be at work and consider yourself duly warned) as replacement images, but am entirely open to suggestions in the comments below.

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Adsense Upgrades

To answer 2lmc's question, I got an email this morning from them saying:

We want to let you know about a new Google AdSense feature, designed to enhance the overall experience of web users who visit your site. Starting today, you'll be able to customize the appearance of the Google ads on your site. You can now set the background, text, and border colors of the AdWords ads displayed on your site so that they complement your site.

More information at the Adsense FAQ.

2 comments and trackbacks

Wednesday, 06 August 2003

Panther 7B28 and 10.2.7

ThinkSecret brings news of two seeds:

Panther build 7B28 was first provided to select sites late last week, and was posted to the Apple Developer Connection Web site Tuesday. "Once again, this release reflects extensive engineering efforts since the last seed, with issues addressed in almost every component of the OS," the company told testers in a seed note. Apple listed a number of "components that had the most extensive changes": AFP, CUPS, AppKit, Web Services, QuickTime, Mail, System Events, Printing, Web Core, HI Toolbox, Carbon Core, Kernel, Address Book, Launch Services, OpenGL, Chinese Input Method, AppleScriptKit, Graphics Drivers, Script Editor, Finder, Character Palette, Core Audio, and Navigation Services.


In a less-expected development, Apple also seeded a new Jaguar build, Version 10.2.7, build 6R34. In a seed note, Apple said that 10.2.7 "delivers various component updates." The company suggested that testers concentrate their testing on the following areas: USB, Graphics Drivers, FireWire, USB, and PCMCIA cards, particularly USB 2.0 cards.

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Tuesday, 05 August 2003

Somebody shoot bad reporters, please

The Times is wonderful. In an article about instant messaging and its impact upon language evolution:

The measured era of "Dear Sir" and "good morning" has fallen to "g'day", "hola", "easy tiger" and "wassup". We no longer remain, sir, your most humble and obedient servant; we sign off with "hasta la vista", "adios", "catch ya" or "check ya".
Dinosaurs need to know what we are talking about here: instant messaging over the internet, which is said to be even faster than e-mail. Britons now apparently send 43 million of these speedy billets-doux to each other every day, whether for the purposes of romance, commerce or sheer mindless drivel. [more]

Well, well. "Instant messaging over the internet, [which] is said to be even faster than e-mail". This kind of phrasing evokes to me the drunk guy down the pub who's lolling against the wall and tries to tell anyone fool sauntering up to him that "instant messaging is faster than e-mail". It's just a rumour. Nothing substantiated, of course. And the name's just a misnomer. It's hardly instant at all. Everyone knows an instant message commonly arrives after an e-mail sent at the same time. Why, you're better off writing your message out with a quill on parchment and sending it off with a solid, dependable pony than use this instant messaging lark.

Presumably the journalist (some of whom are said to be at least an order of magnitude slower than email) was thinking "Well, I asked around, and some people said it was faster than email, some people said it was slower. To be honest, I don't really understand this computer lark, our readers won't either, it looks like my editors won't, so hey, let's just write any old crap."


I'd better stop telling people to IM me if they want a quick response. There's no telling on when the message might get to me.

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Things done:

  • Packed
  • Moved
  • Unpacked
  • Taken pictures of furniture damaged whilst Moved
  • I am Jack's IKEA furniture assembler
  • Swore at IKEA Malm bed
  • Swore at hole in dining table
  • Been confused at curious lack of television signal from one socket and mysterious extra television signal from another altogether more sinister socket
  • Swore at garage full of things that aren't mine that I don't want
  • Swore at garage for which I appear not to have the key
  • Swore at news of train delays
  • Swore at utility companies for having the foresight to send me bills before I actually move in, backdated to a month before I moved in anyway
  • Bought soap
  • Washed mouth out with soap
  • Discovered leaky sink u-bend after washing out mouth
  • Inevitably swore again

Things yet to do:

  • Dissertation design presentation
  • Take train from Liverpool to Cambridge
  • Discover train from Liverpool to Cambridge has been delayed
  • Pay bills
  • Pay more bills
  • Get "pay bills" tattooed on hands
  • Watch someone install a cable internet connection
  • Watch someone else deliver a fridge and peer over their shoulder while they do arcane things with pipes and tubing (i.e. install a washer/dryer)
  • Pay an exorbitant amount of money to check that my gas fire doesn't kill me while I sleep
  • Pay a further exorbitant amount of money to have someone else tell me how easy it is to fix the kitchen sink
  • Go to a picnic
  • Meet far too many people for far too much coffee
  • Start my job
  • Rest. At some point

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Monday, 04 August 2003


The latest alpha of NetNewsWire (1.0.4a5) includes diff support, highlighting changes in RSS feeds similar to the infamous Winer Watcher. It's rather cool yet also somewhat disturbing: I've now got fully marked up feeds showing me exactly what changes have happened in entries. You may or may not need a registration key to use the alpha, I forget.

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Marriage is not about affirming love

Senator Rick Santorum manages to not only piss off gay rights activists (now there's a surprise), but also childless heterosexual married couples:

"Marriage is not about affirming somebody's love for somebody else. It's about uniting together to be open to children, to further civilization in our society." [more]

I submit that Rick Santorum is not about furthering the interests of the American people; he's about being an asshat and rolling back civilization while he's at it.

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Sunday, 03 August 2003


Things you can accomplish without trying particularly hard (or, indeed, accidentally): plug your USB Bluetooth adapter into your PowerBook G4's ethernet socket. No, really. It fits. Trust me (you're not advised to try this unless you're stupid, rich or generally ambivalent towards causing what could be expensive damage to an attractive piece of hardware).

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Well said

Online communities are often a labour of love, and sometimes they can be damn near infuriating. I have oodles and oodles to write on this subject, but am instead somewhat preoccupied with moving house tomorrow.

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Apple Codenames

List of Apple codenames - slightly more codenames than on Apple History.

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Friday, 01 August 2003

Sony Ericsson T610 Usability

I like my phone. Really, I do. Provided I'm not outside and in full daylight, of course. Otherwise, there are a few little niggles, one of which is that Sony Ericsson appear to have skimped a little on their user interface testing.

Here's an example of the steps required to send a text message on a Sony Ericsson T610 configured for use on the Orange network. If I get round to it, I'll post screenshots of each annoying stage at some point.

  • Default screen: move navigation nipple to the left. Bonus point for making a common task (sending a text message) quickly accessible. Score: 1.
  • "Write New" screen: Write text message in either T9 or "multitap", press the "continue" soft key (left hand side of the screen) to send the message. No, I don't know why "continue" means send. Deduct above bonus point. Score: 0.
  • User interface asks for a "Number". I don't know the phone number of the person I'm sending a text message to, so I press the "Look up" soft key (left hand side of the screen). Here's where things start to go wrong: of course I don't know the number. I bet I know the name. I'm not allowed to type in a name. Deduct one point. Score: -1.
  • "Options" screen lists "Phonebook", "Groups", "SIM entries" and "unsaved numbers" as options to look up the recipient's number. There's no reason why the first screen I see after pressing "Look up" shouldn't just ask me for a name. I choose "Phonebook". Deduct another point for just getting in my way. Score: -2.
  • "Contact" screen has a "Find" prompt. We're now where I should've been two steps ago. Type in first couple of letters of name. Press "OK" to select highlighted name. Getting bored now. Deduct another point because I can. Score: -3.
  • Screen title is contact's name. Highlight mobile number (identified by completely unrecognisable icon depicting what must be a mobile phone, because it doesn't look like the other icon, which looks like a house. Press "Select". Deduct a point for the silly mobile phone icon. Score: -4.
  • "Send Message" screen: shows me that I have just selected that contact to send the message to. Soft key on the left says "Send" (but not continue?), soft key on the right says "Recipients" and lets me add more recipients, presumably through the same convoluted process. Deduct a point for the designers suddenly deciding to use the word "Send". Score: -5
  • Message gets sent.

Here's a suggestion. The first two steps in the process are fine, but I really shouldn't have to go through that terrible rigmarole of adding a recipient. Ideally, after pressing the mislabeled "Continue", I should be able to type in a number and hit send, whereupon we skip to a screen showing the current recipients and I can add any others. Otherwise, typing in a name should, horrors, just search any collection of names on the phone.

To add insult to injury, it took me ages to figure out how to turn on SMS reports that let you know when a message has been received. This is because it's called a "status request". Finding the SMS options menu wasn't a problem. Deciphering what the text meant was.

Updated 2 August 2003 0:51 BST: Move nipple left, not right, to send a message. Thanks to Gareth for the correction.

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Friends in the news

New Scientist Online reports on Miguel Garvie's work:

A digital simulation of natural selection, taking place in scores of internet-linked personal computers, is being used to evolve superior electronic circuits.
The calculations used to improve circuit design would normally be performed on a single powerful computer or a large cluster of machines. But Miguel Garvie, a research student at the University of Sussex in the UK, has developed software that lets ordinary computer users contribute their spare processing power to create a virtual evolutionary environment for the project.
Such "distributed computing" is already providing cheap but substantial computer power to the search for alien messages in radio signals from space and to the quest for the largest prime numbers.
In the five days since the project was launched, Garvie says he has evolved circuits that outperform commercial designs on standard tests by 100 per cent but are only 50 per cent larger.
"It's gone as far as conventional circuits and beyond," he told New Scientist. "The plan is to go with bigger and bigger circuits, which is why I started the distributed project." [more]

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