Who would have thought the old month to have had so
many days in it?
appeals courts has ruled that DeCSS, the original DVD encryption
standard, has been circulated so widely that it is no longer a trade
secret... :-) But it looks like it might well be replaced
by Microsoft's Windows Media 9 format instead, all ready to tie in
with the top-to-bottom digital rights management eagerly anticipated by
everybody except end-users. No changes are likely until the second
"Blue Laser" DVD formats, however, and that gives plenty of time for
the bad boys to winkle out a flaw or two in the encryption methods.
It's interesting to see that these days Microsoft is
increasingly moving to
industry standards as well as attempting to establish their own,
though - and, indeed, that this seems to be paying off in unlikely ways...
Old-guard mailing systems company
Sendmail has just announced that it will be backing and helping to
develop Microsoft's new "Caller-ID
For Email" scheme, as well as Yahoo's not dissimilar
Domain Keys facility. This is a smart move for both Sendmail and the
end users themselves, I'm sure, as these authentication methods will only
work if they are supported right from source to destination.
And, talking of Microsoft, it seems that the
of a new release of Windows XP planned as an interim release before the
generation Longhorn OS may well be a touch premature. The project,
code-named "XP Reloaded" <groan> within Microsoft, is at this stage
feasibility study rather than an actual planned code release - and as
many in the company still flinch at mention of their previous interim OS,
ME, I'm sure that the entire idea is being held up to the light for an
especially close examination.
Meanwhile, as a follow-up to the wildly successful
CAN-SPAM act, a group of
are drafting a bill to oppose spyware, adware and the other
nasties that are so prevalent these days. Whilst I agree with the aim,
of course, I can't help think that even if it isn't neutered by big
business the way that CAN-SPAM was, the result will be sufficiently
vaguely worded and hard to enforce that it will make little or no impact
on the real world of malware... And, of course, these measures do little
to control the non-US parts of the Internet, still a significant factor in
spite of what the US government
would like to
Hitachi is developing an
display based around a
of mirrors. There are so many companies working in this area, now,
that I think we'll be seeing some significant advances over the next few
years - and hopefully something will finally make it into the consumer
The Canadian government are planning to make
reception of foreign satellite television illegal, and punishable by
large fines and a prison sentence! Making no distinction between unpaid
reception of domestic signals and paid reception of American signals, the
change seems to have been bought by significant donations by the TV
industry lobby, desperate to retain their monopoly in the face of
increasing competition from the US. What a shower of bastards!
Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have begun to
scale down their operations due to power issues - the shorter days
caused by the onset of the Martian autumn, together with an accumulation
of dust on the solar panels themselves, means that significantly less
battery power is available to the rover's systems. To help counteract
this, transmission of data has been cut from three times per day to two,
and more use is being made of the UHF antenna, which uses about a third of
the wattage of the faster high-gain antenna.
About a year ago I bought a
Navman iCN 630 in-car GPS navigation system, and on the whole it has
been absolutely marvellous. It turned out that Ros has made far more use
of it than I have (I never really go anywhere except the office, it
seems!) but it has happily navigated her around not only the local area of
Essex and the Home Counties, but further afield to the West Country and
The North without any significant problems. The unit was
not without it's
eccentricities, it has to be said, for example an inexplicable
tendency to occasionally direct the driver to leave a motorway at a
junction, proceed right across a roundabout, and back onto the motorway
again at the other side of the same junction - but after the first few
times these erroneous directions could be recognised and safely ignored.
In fact, the only serious annoyance was that due to the
constant changes in the UK road network, the maps were a touch out of
date: the new M6 toll road was completely absent, for example, and the
improvements to the A13 in Essex meant that some of the time we were
apparently driving through fields - not ideal when one is trying to
spot the correct turning onto a minor road...
A few weeks ago, however, I noticed that the
offering a free
upgrade to the latest version of the built-in mapping application,
together with updated maps from a different provider, and these sounded
very appealing. The
software offered the ability to navigate straight to a postcode, which
seemed extremely useful, and also an adjustable 3D perspective view that
rather took my fancy. We also hoped that the updated maps would remove a
number of the more unsettling moments, when the Navman insisted that we
were in the sea, or driving through fields...
The upgrade itself went smoothly enough, but after Ros
had given the system a thorough workout driving from Northumberland to
Devon over the last week, unfortunately the results were far from
impressive. To begin with, the M6
toll road was still absent - rather disappointing, and
considering how long it has been in planning and construction there really
isn't much of an excuse! Secondly, even on roads that were in the
system's map database, it sometimes found it very hard to decide where the
car actually was - while driving down the M4 it apparently insisted for
the best part of an hour that she was on the nearby A420 instead, and
several times it told her that she was driving off-road when in actual
fact she was on a major and well-established motorway! Finally, just to
add insult to injury, for no apparent reason it frequently lost the
satellite signal altogether for extended periods of time - something
it has never down before except while driving through tunnels.
Fortunately, and somewhat to my surprise, it has been
easy enough to revert to the original software and maps, and I've spent
the last half hour doing just that. According to the
discussion online it may well be possible to mix the later software
with the original maps, apparently the favoured combination of the
available modules, but given that Ros is off on her travels again on
Monday I've elected to play safe and revert to the original and familiar
configuration. We shall see how it goes...
Elsewhere, via The Register...
drop iBook power rustling charge - they were prosecuting for €0.002
worth of electricity... <long sigh>
hit by price-fixing claims - it is alleged that Samsung, Hynix,
Micron, Infineon and others covertly agreed to increase prices to help
themselves out of a price slump.
IT workers do
it for free till 9 March - some techies do so much unpaid overtime
that they are effectively working for free until March every year! You
won't catch me doing that, though...
mulls spam curfew regulations - unsolicited commercial email to be
banned between the hours of 9pm and 9am. Oh, sure, that will help!
Softbank rocked by giant data leak - and the president and other
senior execs have put themselves on half pay for the next six months to
apologise! I'm not holding my breath until that starts happening in the
UK, I have to say!
punch-up surrounds mobile Java upgrade - but Sun has to make it open
source to guarantee rapid uptake and widespread support, claim critics.
I'm not holding my breath for that, either...
named and shamed - AV company
have released the list of the worst offenders, and the US is far,
far in advance of anyone else... Nice to see that CAN-SPAM is working
so well. Not.
So, open source evangelist guru Eric Raymond has
rant on the complex, obscure and ugly procedures required to perform
what should be simple tasks under the Linux OS. Focussing on the routine
task of attaching to a print queue on a remote server, he really tears
into the design and documentation of the CUPS network printing services:
"This kind of fecklessness is endemic in
open-source land. And it's what's keeping Microsoft in business -
because by Goddess, they may write crappy insecure overpriced shoddy
software, but on this one issue their half-assed semi-competent best is
an order of magnitude better than we usually manage."
Needless to say,
the reaction from the online community has been mixed, ranging from
predictably venomous responses from the mindless evangelists, pouring
scorn on an "old has-been", to thoughtful acceptance and approval from
many of the people who have run up against exactly the sort of issues he
has a lot of influence in the Linux community, of course, and it will be
interesting to see if his article has any long term effect.
A pair of nasty flaws in the Sophos anti-virus software - certain
attachments without MIME headers can pass straight through without being
scanned, and attachments with faulty headers can actually hang the
prayer, austerity, charity and refilled inkjet and laser printer
- a new and rather appealing idea for PC cable management.
Domain-squatting porn merchant sentenced to 2½ years in prison.
VeriSign is suing ICANN over the controversial Site Finder service.
Oh, and I bought a camera... We've both been very
pleased with the Canon
S45 that Ros has taken around England and America over the last year,
but in use it's become clear that I need something a little better suited
to indoor close-ups of guns and computer components. There's no doubt that
its bigger brother the
Canon G5 has some flaws, but having poured over a whole sheaf of
reviews this week I think that it will be very suitable for my needs, and
one is one its way to me now. Unfortunately this means that I've lost my
last excuse for not updating the
airsoft pages with all the more recent acquisitions, so I guess I'll
have to pull my finger out. Watch this space...
To nobody's great surprise, more random links...
Sucks/Rules-O-Meter - rating the public opinion of operating systems,
based on searches at Google. Clever, but hardly statistically rigorous...
- German scientists have successfully recorded an interval of one ten
million billionth of a second. I'm sure they had a good reason for this,
but right now I can't imagine what it was!
competition - and it seems I missed the
JenniCam competition a few months ago, too...
- from the R in RSA, of
all people! Great to see that not all of the
have faded away into corporate obscurity.
And talking of old hippies, the EFF has proposed a
voluntary tax on P2P music sharers, with the money going straight to
the artists themselves. I have to say that this sounds a touch kooky even
for the EFF... :-)
Computer gaming fans are
quite so isolated and friendless as the meme suggests, according to a
survey by... wait for it... a company that organises computer gaming
If looks could kill - Boeing wins the contract for the new version of
the Air Force's Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, a targeting
computer that aims where the operator is looking.
wonderful hand-built PC case, based on the Borg Cubes from Star Trek.
I've seen similar ideas before, but this one is head and shoulders above
the rest. Beautiful work...
More quick links - it's one of those weeks, again!
FCC to push
relaxing of low-power FM restrictions - this might slow the corporate
homogenisation of American radio just a little, if it succeeds.
More legal P2P
Music sharing - listen to new music, rate it, then receive
recommendations based on your tastes. Interesting!
Rutter on file sharing and copyright - as always, with Dan's unique
spin on the subject and many interesting links...
Linux bullied by media company King Features, holder of the "Mandrake
The Magician" trademark. This is another bullshit lawsuit if ever I
saw one - nobody could ever confuse an operating system with a TV show, so
obviously it's just another attempt to make a fast buck for nothing.
faintly surprised that the Can-SPAM act doesn't seem to be working -
they're probably the only ones, I'd say...
Pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about computer cabling
- all in one convenient place at cable supplier My Cable Shop.
And, finally, an extremely useful guide to
installation and maintenance of PC power supplies at InformIT,
courtesy of hardware guru Scott Mueller.
Another sad day for the few remaining British shooting
enthusiasts, unfortunately, with the news from
Practical Airsoft (via
BASC) that the Firearms Consultative Committee has been dissolved. The
FCC was an
independent expert group organised by the Home Office, and over the
last decades it has been virtually the only source of common sense and
genuinely informed opinions in the face of continued and pervasive
media hype, axe-grinding, and downright lies that the whole issue of gun
control has produced. However, because they have so firmly opposed the
Home Office's stance on blanket bans of firearms and, more recently,
replicas, it has been clear for some time that the committee's days were
numbered. At this stage the Home Office has been extremely vague
about what, if anything, will be put in its place - but all evidence
suggests that they'd much rather not have any kind of opposition to their
increasingly draconian and ineffectual legislation and I wouldn't be
surprised if the upcoming firearms policy review is undertaken without the
benefit of any external opinion save that of the powerful anti-gun lobby.
To compensate for this, therefore, in however small a
way, today's Epicycle is resolutely focussed on guns:
The new Heckler & Koch MP7
Personal Defence Weapon - a fistful of 4.6mm mayhem.
Also new from HK - the
HKM4 midlife improvement of the venerable US military
M4 carbine. Very slick!
Firearms and Ammunition web site - with more technical data and
illustrations every time I visit, this is fast becoming one of the
premier reference sites. Highly recommended.
gun porn at the Argghhh!!! weblog - mostly antique and classic
firearms, including some extremely rare and interesting items. The rest of
his site is unpleasantly right wing politically, but I'm prepared to
overlook that just this once...
the Smith & Wesson forum, everybody is posting pictures of their
favourite S&W snub-nosed revolvers. It's kinda like readers' wives...
Slow-motion videos of guns firing -
here and here...
Daniel Nauenburg's pro-gun cartoon gallery - and the rest of his
site, Green Ammo.
Russian Military is
offering some very nice
ex-Soviet assault rifles. As deactivations go these have been modified
very elegantly, with the minimum of parts removed to comply with UK law. A
full range of accessories and equipment is available too, and you can even
find the technical
manuals online, courtesy of the
semi-official Kalashnikov site. Actually, they compare extremely
favourably in price to replica weapons - at £300 for an AK-74, for
example, and £1000 for the beautiful
sniper rifle complete with scope, they're a real bargain...
parody of the UK's
Gun Control Network lobbying group - not an especially subtle piece
of work, it has to be said, but as the real GCN are a thoroughly
worthless, dishonest, self-serving organisation (in spite of the enormous
influence they seem to wield!) any parody is still extremely worthwhile.
And finally, talking of which... a political message on
behalf of the Glove Control Network:
Menace Of Gloves!
Millions of pairs of gloves are in circulation on
the streets of England right now - many of them in the possession of
children! The continuing manufacture, importation and sale of gloves
threatens lives and lifestyles!
Gloves hide fingerprints - only criminals
wish to conceal their identity! If you have nothing to hide, why would you
need to wear gloves? Gloves aid crime - reduce crime at a single stroke
and Ban Gloves Now! There is no good, legal reason for possessing these
tools of evil!
The idea of using gloves to warm hands is just an
excuse put about by liberals and Glove Nuts! If you want to keep your
hands warm, simply keep them in your pockets! After all, what about latex
gloves? Easily concealable, and think of the uses they are put to!
Certainly not for warming hands!
Even fingerless replica gloves, or de-activated
gloves that have had the fingers removed, can easily be turned back into
fully functioning gloves with only a few minutes work. All gloves
must be banned!
Gloves are currently legal
to own! There are no age restrictions! Ban them now, before it is too
I have no brain, so I must link... (Apparently
tonight's Epicycle is brought to you with with apologies to
A £70,000 primary school classroom
on a Star Trek spacecraft bridge? The Sun is not noted for its
accurate journalism, though, so one does wonder...
Suing the bejesus out of the spammers - Yay! Even it it is AOL!
to win Pepsi's free iTunes music downloads - and maximise their costs,
into the bargain. :-)
RIAA sued under the anti-racketeering acts. Hah!
Police fined for
detaining legitimate anti-war protestors. Hah, again!
Via my friend Mike - strange little
figurines, strongly reminiscent of the
Lego people. Odd...
And now, as it seems
I currently own two and a half
assault rifles, two submachineguns, three shotguns, two revolvers and five
automatics - I'm off to shoot something in the head. Probably myself.
the EU are still whining about Microsoft including Media Player with
Windows, it seems, and insisting that even Microsoft's unprecedented offer
to provide a CD of competing applications with every copy of Windows isn't
enough! Imagine the furore if Microsoft sued the major Linux distributions
for not bundling a Media Player port with Linux, though! Steve at geek
suggests that MS should stop selling Windows in Europe and do just that...
Ah, poetic justice.
examination of the leaked Microsoft source code shows that [Shock!
Horror!] most of it is actually rather well written:
"In short, there is nothing really surprising in
this leak. Microsoft does not steal open-source code. Their older code
is flaky, their modern code excellent. Their programmers are skilled and
enthusiastic. Problems are generally due to a trade-off of current
quality against vast hardware, software and backward compatibility."
Many Windows techies and power-users won't be that
surprised to hear that, I suspect, whatever the
bigotry of the Linux lawn dwarves and the foamings at the
mouth of the Mac fan boys. Microsoft themselves are extremely
un-amused about the leak, though, and are
"back off!" emails to anyone they spot downloading it...
search engines nipping at Google's heels
Apache vs. IIS in the Battle for the Web
against Pepsi and the RIAA's superbowl advert
From the people who brought you
the assassination of Bill Gates,
how online music sales
A MiG 29
fighter plane, intact and working, up for sale on eBay - but if you
can't afford the multi-million dollar asking price, how about
settling for just the clock?
Meanwhile, a sneak preview of a new acquisition. I used
to hate the fussy lines and garish colours of the
Strayer Voigt pistols, but
apparently this particular model grew on me overnight. Like all of the
Arms Infinity replicas it has a metal frame, and even though the slide
is ABS it still looks very convincing in a brushed nickel effect. I
discovered that the well-known custom airsoft company
Perversity Guns makes an aluminium
replacement, though, and one is currently on its way to me from
along with some upgraded internals to allow use of the highest-powered
propellant gasses - something of a necessity given the considerable weight
of the slide assembly even before the metal upgrade!
It's big, it's heavy, it's ostentatious - but, as a
friend commented, it somehow manages to be sleek as well... I'll
post a full review when my life settles down enough.
Just fish heads, today. Oh, no, my mistake - I mean
Problems developing for the flagship Linux migration in Munich? The
city council seem to think so, and have asked for a detailed cost analysis
and migration schedule.
Anime fans are
going over to the dark side
- using distributed computing grids in an attempt to decrypt Japanese TV
Killing mosquito larvae with sound - kind of like the US invasion of
Panama, from the look of it? I always wondered what would have happened if
General Noriega had enjoyed rock music...
New "FISH" memory
card standard - head to head with CF, SD, MMC, MS, and all the
others... Is there really room for yet another format in the
Some images of one of the NCSA's Cray 2 supercomputers - including the
"Waterfall" liquid cooling unit. Mmmmmm. :-)
at Dan's Data, Dan is writing about the puzzling lack of computer
generated 3D pornography - and along the way, as is his wont, he throws
out some extremely unusual links:
Car Stuck Girls
- pictures of women, mostly fully clothed, whose cars are stuck in mud,
snow, sand, whatever. Um, Ok.
Frontal Assault -
a game, allegedly, where one performs various "moves" on a large pair of
animated breasts. In real life, of course, attempting "the helicopter"
would probably provoke grievous bodily harm in return, so I suppose it's
just as well the game is there...
graphics demo, displaying a highly realistic animated fairy (the
traditional sort, not the San Francisco sort) in a charming pastoral scene
- and which becomes nude when the program's EXE is renamed to particular
names! Is there no end to the perverse imagination of geeks? I do hope
Anti-virus company MessageLabs are
talking up a new
worm - they're behaving more and more like the old-guard AV companies
every passing month, it seems... Doom, doom, we're all doomed!
papercraft from Yamaha, of all places - not origami, really, in that
it actually looks like things...
store sparks crime wave - Mac zealots are breaking in for a look
around even before the store is finished and open to the public!
Amazon accidentally outs self-publicists - and exposes a whole
underground movement of commissioned reviews, personal attacks, fake
reading lists and long-held grudges... Bizarre stuff.
Presidential candidates resort to video spam - as if we're not already
saturated with bullshit from politicians in all the other channels of the
And finally, something I found at the office this
morning while I was processing the weekend's mail, blocked by my anti-spam
server's "hoax virus warnings" filter:
>Sent: Monday, 16 February 2004 07:48
>Subject: FW: SCAM WARNING
>Normally I hate these e-mail warnings, but this one is for real.
>Send this warning to everyone on your e-mail list.
>If a man comes to your front door and says he is conducting a survey
>and asks you to show him your tits, DO NOT show him your tits.
>This is a scam; he only wants to see your tits.
>I wish I'd got this e-mail yesterday. I feel so stupid and cheap.
Well, it made me laugh - and laughs are few and far
between first thing on Monday mornings, thanks to the quantity of spam and
junk that needs to be checked manually these days... :-(
Die, spammers, die!
Hardware geek links, today:
have a review of
Swiftech's MCX478-V heatsink - I was looking at the Xeon 603 flavour
of this one for my CPUs, but it wasn't launched in time to meet my
schedule and as it turns out the
Akasa coolers are performing very well. It's an impressive device,
A guide to wiring
PC cases at Modder's HQ -
including an idea that I haven't seen elsewhere, installing a Plexiglas
partition to hide the bulk of the system wiring. The result is probably
the least cluttered case interior I've ever seen, and almost makes me
ashamed of my nest of cables,
beautifully sleeved though they are!
Agency have a review of the super-cool
Corsair Pro Series RAM with activity LEDs. It seems to be pretty good
RAM actually, even if the full potential is probably wasted on unclocked
systems like mine - but those LEDs are really rather sweet... :-)
ATI have released a
new version of the Catalyst driver suite - no major changes, and no
major performance gains,
but it seems stable and as I'm running a little behind I'll probably take
the plunge for this one.
And finally - risqué, but rather funny:
A while ago I posted a link to an
advert by Trojan, manufacturers of latex unmentionables, featuring a
parody of Olympic weightlifting... and following their recent launch into
the UK market they've released a couple more. They're all available at the
new Trojan Games site:
Some of my geek friends have made fun of me because the
core of my home network is a rack-mounted 24 port gigabit switch, but I've
usually defended myself on the grounds that actually it was extremely
cheap - and, besides, look at all those pretty flashing lights!
I suppose I'm going to have to use the same defence for
my new tape library, as in spite of having to import it from the US it was
still a bargain - only recently retired by Dell, its list price then
was well over two thousand pounds. This is actually the second
model I've bought, as the first one arrived in pieces
thanks to the carelessness of the couriers and thoroughly inadequate
packaging - the supplier refunded my money without a quibble, but anyone
who thinks that is it appropriate to pack a 15kg tape library in only
bubble wrap is not someone I'll buy from again.
The second one was safe in its original packaging,
though, and survived the journey from Texas completely intact. Actually an
Adic FastStor, this one has been rebranded by Dell as a PowerVault
120T. With a
7000 drive and seven tape slots, it has a
native capacity of 245Gb, or around half a terabyte with compression -
exactly what I need for the admittedly rather excessive quantity of data
currently living on the server it supports: it took around 5 hours to back
up 80gb of test data, even before tweaking and tuning, which is quite
adequate to my needs.
For various reasons the new addition has meant that my
server, DATAVAULT, now has four Adaptec SCSI adaptors - the
1130 zero channel RAID controller for the internal disk array, a pair
2940 series for the external array and the CD library, and a new
2944UW for the high voltage differential tape library. Somewhat to my
surprise they all co-exist very well, and while even I admit that
it is a touch excessive in a home server, it certainly makes the
Adaptec CI/O SCSI manager screen look impressive...
Can you tell a computer geek from a serial killer? Ros can, it seems,
but I certainly can't...
Dell launches laptop computer for gamers - complete with skull and
Stanford charged with hacking Redbus - the accusations have been
year, but yesterday the Demon co-founder was formally charged with
conspiracy to blackmail and computer crime offences by officers of the
UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. Gosh!
Copy-protected CDs continue to cause problems - although the record
perfectly happy to blame the manufacturers of the players, instead!
Memo to EMI - a standard is a standard, and if you don't comply with it
any compatibility issues are your fault.
via Reuters - I wish I lived in New York, where apparently this year's
backlash against Valentine's Day
is stronger than ever:
They stand by the lake.
His heart makes the sound of fish
on the deck; she throws him back.
He’s not ready; it’s the law.
- Filthy Dead
Links. So sue me.
Love Lucy Currency Converter - for the next time you're trying to
work out why Ricky is so upset about Lucy spending $20 or something...
Just choose the episode you were watching, enter the amount in question,
and the converter will translate it into 21st century money.
Today's News of the Weird is that Dr. Robert Atkins, inventor
of the eponymous diet, was extremely overweight and died after a history
of high blood pressure and heart disease. Veronica Atkins, his widow, is
trying to play down the significance of this - while his opponents in the
medical industry are trying to make the most of it, of course.
formula predicts marriage breakdown - "The mathematics we came up
with is trivial, but the model is astonishingly accurate" - although
maybe only for Americans!
Graffiti 2 with original Graffiti on Palm Tungsten series PDAs,
something I'm seriously considering as I'm not getting on at all well with
the new flavour... Also,
Predictions for the Palm OS in 2004. Interesting stuff.
a rather elegant way of searching eBay auctions, with results
clustered into groups with similar characteristics -
a quick look suggests that it might be very useful, actually,
presenting the large bulk of data from a relatively broad search into
extremely well-defined categories.
Georgia science teachers to keep evolution - "We're empowering the
teachers of Georgia to teach science as it should be taught," said Stephen
Pruitt, the state's science curriculum specialist. "No teacher will have
to stand in front of the Board of Education or anybody else and have to
defend why they are teaching evolution." Well, Amen to that...
Interplanetary International Internet tested - ESA's Mars Express
spacecraft relayed instructions between NASA's JPL Mission Control and the
Spirit lander, and then relayed the responses back over the same route.
It's a small step, but an important one.
Yet more links... And stop looking at me like that - it
really has been one of those weeks, OK?
setback for Microsoft in the Lindows trademark suit - after
various European courts found the name to be an infringement of the
Windows trademark, a US district court may rule otherwise, claiming that
the name is too generic to act as a trademark at all!
are in court, too, facing five class action suits over the
infamous iPod battery life
problem. The charges include unfair competition, claims of false
advertising, fraudulent concealment and breach of warranty. Gosh...
a couple of the current sound-deadening foam sheets for noisy PCs - and,
unsurprisingly, comes to exactly the same conclusion
that I reached with my previous
system... The stuff is just no damn good.
A new software package enables
listening to users being routed through automated telephone answering
systems - and transferring them to a human operator when they start
sounding frustrated and angry!
Imatoy lets you
create a comic book superhero based on yourself! Has Ubergeekman
been taken yet, I wonder?
ebay pyramid scams use iPods as bait - the problem is
especially rife in England, according to tech newsletter
X Prize award
expected to be
won by the end of this year - two US teams are on the verge of a
private manned space mission.
broken off the International Space Station and floated away - and now
NASA are trying to work out what it was. <stifles a giggle>
So I turned on the television, and an episode of
Star Trek Voyager is just starting - and as soon as I heard the words
"I'm just going to wire the faulty transceiver into the holodeck's
pattern buffer" I could make a fairly shrewd guess at what was going
to happen next... The capacity of computer systems in the Star Trek
universe to run hostile foreign programs at the drop of a hat is exceeded
only by an obsolete version of
Outlook Express with all the security features disabled, and while it
makes for interesting plot twists it's hardly very plausible... Ho, hum.
Mars rover successfully drills hole in rock - Spirit is back online,
and doing very nicely indeed!
High-definition porn has arrived - and, unfortunately, shows off every
wrinkle, blemish and pimple...
Lots and lots of SF e-books - including a version of Vernor Vinge's
A Fire Upon
The Deep, complete with hundreds of annotations added by the
author while the book was being written and edited. Mmmmmm!
Elsewhere, check out
DanaSoft's site for this really neat customised signature designed for
used in chat forums etc. It's just a link to a JPEG, with no HTML
component, and uses some cunning server-side code to build the client's IP
address etc. into the image it returns in real time. There are a fair few
options to customise the appearance of the sign, and altogether I think
it's a rather clever idea...
In my few moments of free time over the last few days
I've finally managed to give the shell-ejecting assault rifle a good
workout. After almost four months I finally have a supply of shell cases,
and although there are still significant problems with the gas
cooling/charging rig used to fill the gun's tank from my big CO2 cylinder,
Area 51 have promised yet
another new design and in the meantime it's nothing that a pair of
strap wrenches and vigorous blows from a large spanner can't fix... Once
the tanks are full, though, and the shell cases have been laboriously
equipped with a BB each and loaded into the magazines, what follows is a
few seconds of real, genuine, simile-bringing fun. The sound is completely
different from any other airsoft weapon I own, a sharp crack much more
reminiscent of a small-bore rifle than a replica, and as the ground
underfoot is soon littered with spent "brass" it really is the closest
thing one can get to a firearm in this country without a comprehensive and
annoying set of licenses.
The rate of fire is wonderful, too, and as the
magazines only hold an equally realistic twenty-something rounds the
full-auto experience tends to be remarkably brief - so to prevent insanity
caused by endless loading of BBs into shell cases, in between mags I filed
down the mounting clamp on my
ex-Soviet Cobra holosight (a wonderful piece of hardware that
regrettably seems to be made with a different sort of millimetre than that
used in the West) and after some work it now fits nicely onto the top rail
in place of the removable carry handle. Unfortunately the camera is in
Lincolnshire this evening, so you'll just have to use your imagination -
but it looks great. :-)
Further developments in the world of the peer-to-peer
file sharing - news of
a raid on the offices of Sharman Networks, owner of the much-abused
Kazaa software; the Distributed Computing Industry Association has
recommended that file-sharers are
paid to distribute DRM-enabled media; and the US Appeals Court are
considering last year's judgement that the owners of file-sharing
software are not responsible for the data exchanged on the networks.
Interesting times, indeed!
A bad week for RealNetworks -
security flaws, another
bad quarter financially, and a whole bunch of criticism from
long-established Real users... As primo geek site Ars.Technica
puts it, For
RealNetworks, when it rains, it pours.
IBM's WebFountain gathers 250 million new Web pages a week, and
analyses the resulting 512,000 gigabytes to see who is saying what about
Researchers at the University of Michigan create a
chemical structure that is
bigger on the inside
than the outside - a lot bigger...
Toronto police have broken up a gang who have stolen
millions of dollars worth of airline luggage and fenced most of it on
And, talking of eBay - the
Disturbing Auctions site
showcases the really, truly tacky items found for sale on the big
auction sites. Not for those of a nervous disposition...
wolf in sheep's clothing - software which claims to protect users from
intrusive programs - but brings it's own adware and spyware along with it!
And finally - in advance of the upcoming movie
I, Robot, creator
Fox have put together a
rather neat advertising site. It's really quite slick and convincing,
and I can see a number of the more gullible being thoroughly taken in.
Starring Will Smith, and obviously based on
Asimov's Robot stories, I think the movie will be one to look out for
- but it remains to be seen how the real robot company
iRobot (creator of
the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner and a strange military device
called PackBot) will feel about the similarity of names...
I'm thoroughly demoralised today, as my
shiny new tape library arrived in many pieces. The supplier had
packaged it far too flimsily for something so heavy and so fragile, and as
the courier had obviously given it a good kicking en route I'm afraid it's
beyond any practical repair. They're happy to refund my money, but that's
not the point - it was a real bargain and I'm not at all hopeful of
finding another for such a reasonable price. :-(
Meanwhile - last week, hardcore modding site
an article describing how one of their staffers ripped the guts out of
a Mac G5 and replaced them with a low-end PC motherboard. It has since
emerged that this was a hoax intended as a gentle dig at the Apple
evangelist community, involving a surplus G5 case rather than an entire
working computer - but before this became common knowledge the article
a truly unbelievable reaction from the Mac fanboys:
Andy said his e-mail inbox quickly filled to
capacity, with more than 1,300 messages, and an unknown number bounced.
The mail he did receive was full of nice, kind thoughts like death
threats, insults and all kinds of colorful invective.
"I hope your PC blows up and leaves your miserable
face disfigured forever," read one. "You will surely burn in hell for an
eternity for this one."
Another said Andy should be hung by his testicles
and set on fire.
"Turning a perfectly good dual G5 into a crappy PC
was the ticket that got you to hell," wrote another, citing the common
eternal damnation theme. "And if you were in front of me I'd pop a
corn-born Teflon bullet from my Glock in your fucking face."
Bog protect us from Mac fans with guns...
I do think there are more important things to get so
upset about, these days, than something someone does to a computer... It
really is rather sad - and I can't imagine anyone defending PCs in such
violent and abusive terms.
Arnie's Airsoft has published the circular sent to chief police
officers recently, concerning the implementation of the new Anti-Social
Behaviour Act 2003 as it relates to firearms and replica weapons. There
are no real surprises, but I have to admit that considering we already
have the law in place, the recommendations for enforcement are
reasonable at present. I wish I could be more confident that future
governments or police forces won't re-interpret the wording to ban
replicas altogether - unfortunately it's happened before...
And finally, the long-sought after secret of how homing
pigeons navigate turns out to be far more prosaic than anyone suspected -
just follow the roads. What a scam!
In spite of what I said about
Real's MP3 player for the Palm, yesterday (so I guess I get to eat my
own tongue, yes?) I ended up trying to use it a couple of times after all
- and I damn well should have known better, as each time it blue-screened
my PC with some kind of USB device driver issue during transfers to the
handheld. As that entire subsystem has been completely stable during
extensive use by other applications, one doesn't have to be a rocket
scientist to point the finger of blame squarely at the door of Real's own
software - again. <long sigh> Right, off to find
Following La Jackson's
carefully choreographed boob (video
during yesterday's Super Bowl half-time show,
AOL wants its
money back... However, the
unprecedented TiVo statistics suggest that maybe all publicity
really is good publicity.
there's no labels - Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno are launching a
direct-to-audience music publishing service... watch the RIAA sweat,
Email virus outbreaks caused by 'The clueless users
who refuse to upgrade' -
tells it like it is, but I hope he's wearing his asbestos
Array of Idle Disks. Now there's an interesting idea... And
much as I hate to admit it, I do feel that the days of conventional
tape-based backup devices are definitely numbered.
They say that books
Are the way that the dead
Speak to the living
- Laurie Anderson
Having had a few days to play with it, now, I'm
becoming more and more impressed with the
Palm Tungsten T3 I picked up last week. Apart from the fact that I
can't seem to write the letter "t" in the new Graffiti 2 input language,
so far it's proving to be a very powerful, flexible PDA, and a far greater
leap forward in all respects than my previous M515 was from the Vx before
One of the main selling points is the generous 320 x
480 LCD screen, absolutely vast by the standards of competing PDAs. In
use, this really does make a massive difference, and although at present
it can take a few clicks to switch in and out of the landscape and
full-screen modes, we're promised that future applications will be capable
of setting the desired mode automatically on launch, which should make the
whole process completely smooth and painless.
Browsing the Web with the bundled WebPro application is
actually a rather appealing experience (even if the application itself is
eccentric), and the first time I've ever seen workable web
access on a PDA. In full-screen landscape mode the handful of sites I
tried are quite readable, and although a lot of up-and-down scrolling is
involved the majority of an average web page fits into the width of the
screen. I'm rather limited by the paltry 9600bps GSM connection of my
antique Timeport T250 phone, but that could be solved simply by throwing
money at the problem and buying a GPRS or 3rd Gen handset to replace it -
and that would bring the added benefit of a Bluetooth radio connection
between the two, as well, instead of the rather limiting line-of-site
infra-red link I'm using at present.
Also of note is another bundled application,
Documents To Go, which allows synchronisation of Microsoft Office data
between the Palm and a desktop PC. Again, this seems to be an extremely
workable solution, carrying most of the format and style over to the
handheld and displaying it very neatly. One drawback is that for the data
transfer process to work the files on the desktop system mustn't be open
in Word or Excel, but for my purposes I don't really need two-way
synchronisation so I've copied them over once and then disabled the
updates until anything significant changes. I'd like to find a way around
this if possible, though, and it bears further examination.
Elsewhere, in my occasional free minutes I've always
been a fan of the strategy games genre pioneered by the Command & Conquer
series, and to my delight the high resolution screen coupled with the
powerful 400 MHz ARM processor makes an equivalent on the T3 extremely
Warfare Incorporated is as faithful a reproduction as could be
expected on a handheld platform, and although the sheer scope of
the game is of necessity somewhat reduced, it's not half bad... The
graphics are smooth and pretty, the maps adequately large and interesting,
the number of different unit types reasonable if not generous, and the
sound effects (including voices!) surprisingly high-quality. I registered
it on the spot, and expect to get a lot of fun from it.
Equally entertaining is the support for the
audiobook standard, providing a useful and timely replacement for my
in-car MP3 player - the latter fell victim to a badly thought-out firmware
upgrade program which killed it stone dead, and the manufacturer demanded
a thoroughly unreasonable 75% of the replacement cost to repair it. When
equipped with a 512Mb Secure Digital card, the T3 can hold dozens of hours
of spoken word, and the built-in speaker is remarkably clear and
loud - easily good enough for listening without headphones under normal
circumstances, although for use in the car I'll pick up one of those neat
little cassette-shaped adaptors for playback through the car stereo.
As well as Audible support, the T3 also ships with the
ability to play MP3s via the
RealOne player. I haven't actually tested this yet, partly due to
oddities with my PC's card reader (the CF slot works, the MMC/SD slot
apparently doesn't!) and partly because I would rather eat my own tongue
than use Real's software to play an open format data file. A number of
3rd-party players are available, though, and I'll experiment with them as
soon as I can find a way of getting bulk data on and off the Palm.
All in all, I'm extremely pleased with the T3 so far -
it's very different from the previous generation Palm PDAs, and the
learning curve has been steep in places, but it's also extremely flexible
and powerful, and has the brightest, sharpest, and just plain biggest
screen I've ever seen on a handheld computer. Money well spent, I think...
This month's stats were a pleasant surprise, reaching a
new record of 6000 page hits just when I thought that I'd found my level...
And, very briefly, I was even at the top of the
Tweakers Top 50,
too, when they reset the stats in an attempt to work out what was happening
with the forged votes. That didn't last long,
of course (especially not with Elite Guides faking hits at a high rate), but
it was nice to see my banner there even if fleetingly! :-)
As always, though, there's no excuse not to
vote to keep me hovering at my usual home around number thirty - but as
the ice weasels are on winter vacation I will have to resort to threatening
to post a screenshot of my brief stay at the top of the charts. Look out!
He's got a bitmap!