I've finally tracked down the source of an annoying
problem with the Backup Exec application on my home PC. Although the
external SCSI-hosted VXA autochanger is
still working well, at some point over the last few months BE seemed to
become annoyed with the internal IDE-hosted VXA drive and refused to
initialise it. The logs show the message
"Event ID: 58053 - Backup Exec cannot use this tape device because it has
detected a mismatched tape device serial number", but until recently
there was no documentation on this message at the Veritas support site,
and much un-installing and re-installing of drivers has proved completely
fruitless. However, while searching for something else, today, I thought
to check for updates on that error, and fortunately there is now
a tech note
describing the issue. Unfortunately, there isn't actually a
solution as yet - the problem is caused by a bug in Hotfix 19 that affects
systems with both SCSI and IDE drives, and although Veritas have promised
a further hotfix at some point in the future, at present their only advice
is to remove the IDE drive from the system. Ah, well, it's some progress,
I have to admit to
significantly mixed feelings about Backup Exec Version 9, overall...
Although it is without a doubt the most powerful and flexible of the
long-running family, it is also the most fragile, pernickety, awkward and
downright annoying of applications, especially in the multi-server
enterprise environment I use at the office. I can't say that I'd change to
anything else, as from what I've seen the competition is no better (and
often significantly worse!), but sometimes it really makes me want to
stamp my foot in frustration!
Exotic PSUs at FrozenCPU - the latest hi-tech modular power supplies
have sockets on the casing to allow tails with different combinations of
Molex connectors to be added and removed as required. it's a very neat
idea, and the units are beautifully put together... Frozen have an
incredible range of power supplies and accessories, actually, including a
lot that I haven't seen elsewhere. Recommended.
the way we use language- the WORDCOUNT online application uses a
clever graphical representation to illustrate the relationship between
words the their frequency of use. I have to admit that I don't quite
understand what it's telling me, yet, but it bears some closer
War of the iPod cases - two competing manufacturers of rubber iPod
cases are locked in a heated battle for market share, and are using every
dirty trick in the book to gain the upper hand, including threatening
their distributors and trading tirades of personal abuse in public forums.
Etherkiller and friends - classic BOFHware, various innocent looking
data connectors fiendishly mated to mains power cables. Probably the best
collection I've seen, so far, including a network hub wired for Power Over
Ethernet in a way that the end-users won't soon forget...
Dan's Data letters #120 - more letters from the perennially wonderful
Dan... This time he covers hard drive cooling, dead modems and dead
Roombas, more scams, and a disagreement with someone who is presumably a
representative of a manufacturer whose product has received a less than
The next big thing?
Skype permits P2P telephone calls over TCP/IP, and seems to be gaining
significant support in the few weeks it has been available. The
latest addition is the ability to call an overseas landline or cellphone
at a local call rate, using the Internet to provide the long-distance
component of the call. It's not an especially new or revolutionary idea,
but it seems to have captured the public's imagination and it will be
interesting to see how the product develops.
And, finally, Microsoft have released
the long-awaited patch for the IE browser vulnerabilities discovered
last month, including the ADODB issue that caused so much fuss when it was
exploited by the
Install it now or rue the day...
Friday at last, and this week it couldn't come soon
enough for me - especially as for the first time this month, I don't have
to work at the weekend! Here's a bumper bundle of fun-packed links to
Court order blocks decoder chips - video processing hardware from
semiconductor giant ESS has been used in some kind of DVD-copying
hardware, and apparently the manufacturer isn't on the Hollywood Kombine's
voting completely fails to live up to promises - as has been
elsewhere over the last few years, it's clear to anyone who is paying
attention that not only is the current state of the art in electronic
voting systems completely inadequate, but that the various problems that
exist are being manipulated by the right-wing to fix, fake and falsify as
many elections as they can manage. It's a damn shame.
Privacy policies not binding - A Minnesota federal court has just
ruled that website privacy policies aren't binding, because nobody
actually reads them! The fall-out from this could be huge - I can actually
feel my personal details being sold even as I type...
land" satire under fire - the current holders of Woody Guthrie's
copyright seem to have forgotten that he was staunchly left-wing and
in no way a
supporter of the kind of repressive legislation that is being used in
his name. The
EFF are advising the beleaguered satirists, and as always they're an
excellent organisation to have on your side.
PayPal class action - PayPal has reached a preliminary settlement with
customers who accused the eBay subsidiary of illegally freezing their
funds. Claims can be made online - although as I write this,
the site is
Microsoft delays... everything - As well as the notorious delay in
Windows XP's SP2, the Service Pack 1 for Server 2003 and the 64bit server
and desktop OS versions have all been delayed until the first half of
2005. And as for Longhorn - well, I'm not holding my breath...
Intel CEO slams... everyone - in the wake of falling production and
falling morale, Craig Barrett has decided that being "blunt and direct"
with the company's 80,000 workforce will somehow help matters. However,
given that profits doubled in the last quarter and forecasts suggest
record revenue for the current quarter, I think this approach is a very
Lycos sold at a $12 billion loss - Once a major player amongst portals
and search engines, now a lame duck to be disposed of in any way possible.
How the mighty have fallen - and in only four years, too.
Worms, worms, worms - the latest flavour of the MyDoom worm left a
back door in infected systems that can be exploited by further malware -
and the first few exploits are already with us.
on advertising kingpins DoubleClick - another victim of the MyDoom.O
worm, their DNS servers were flooded off the net for several hours earlier
on this week. I guess I shouldn't laugh, but - Har-de-har-har...
contact within two years? - according to the senior astronomer at the
SETI Institute, advances in processing power and radio telescope
technology will allow us to detect any extraterrestrial transmissions that
exist within two decades. Personally, I think that's a wildly
And, finally - I've only just noticed that today is
System Administrator Appreciation
Day. As usual, I forgot it - and presumably so did everybody else, as
my users were no less demanding, ungrateful and annoying than they are for
the other 364 days of the year. Bah, humbug!
Hot, hot, hot! Work kept me at my desk, today, rather
in the cool of the computer room, and I feel at least half-baked tonight.
Here's a handful of links...
bucks trend and lengthens hard disk warranty period - after all the
big manufacturers cut their warranty period from the usual three years to
a paltry one year, Seagate is attempting to claw back sales in an
increasingly cut-throat market by extending the warranty period to an
impressive five years. It seems likely that the other companies will
follow suit sooner or later.
stock price set, all ready for Dutch auction IPO - the initial price
will be in the order of $108-$135 per share, and in spite of the unusual
form of the launch, I'm sure most people will be hoping for a quick
killing rather than a long-term investment.
Stan, portrait of a serial spammer - at The Register, how
humble beginnings are no barrier to success in the global spam industry.
Words fail me... Bah!
SpaceShipOne is go for 29th September - and just to prove that
they're not afraid of the X Prize, they're planning for three flights in
two weeks rather than just the required two! Just to add some extra
tension, though, one of Rutan's competitors has emerged from the woodwork
in the form of the Da Vinci Project's balloon-launched vehicle
Wild Fire. It's going to be an interesting autumn in low earth orbit!
And talking of space, while looking for something else
I came across a page on the classic
keyboard, designed for the MIT LISP machines back around the computing
dawn of time. With no less than seven different shift keys, someone with
enough hands could produce
over 8000 different characters. Many of the user-interface concepts
behind certain key combinations never actually materialised in the
software, though, and so it's a wonderful monument to technical design
And finally -
a souped-up off-road Segway. I have to admit that the mindset of
someone who would do this is beyond me... Scary...
Well, I've found a house... It's not quite what I was
originally looking for, but for reasons I can't quite put my finger on I
liked it from the moment I walked into the front room. I'm not quite sure
where the servers will live, as yet, but a quick look suggests that the
space between the kitchen and the staircase seems plausible. Everything
else will be easy to find a home for in the rather more conventional
places, I'd say. :-)
I've been in this position before, of course, only to
have someone else sneak in and offer a higher price and steal the property
out from underneath my offer - but I have a good feeling about this one,
and the vendors and I seemed to hit it off, so we'll just have to see what
The 23' lounge, part of the kitchen, and one of the two
bedrooms. The decor is immaculate, and although it's not the kind of thing
that usually appeals to me, there was something about it. It will
be interesting to see what it looks like with all my modern furniture and
a van-load of computers, of course!
There's a garden, too. As
BIll and Ted would say, it was
most tranquil. It will take rather more routine maintenance than I was
expecting, of course, but the beautiful environment that all those the
plants create will be worth it - and I can always hire a gardener in every
so often to keep it looking neat and tidy.
The next step is a whole raft of form-filling, letters,
telephone calls, waiting, and chewed fingernails - but at least (with
luck!) I'm making progress at last. Watch this space...
|Aaaaaargh! One of those days, at the office, so just another handful
Ars.Technica has published the
part of their history of the Pentium microprocessor, covering the
original Pentium 4, the Prescott and Pentium M, and explaining some of the
design compromises made in the name of marketing. It's just as interesting
and informative as the
part, and is well worth reading.
RealNetworks has unlocked the iTunes / iPod digital rights management,
following a failure to agree terms with Apple. This would seem to be
extremely dubious (if not downright illegal) under the terms of the DMCA
et al, as well as being expressly forbidden by the iPod's license,
so it will be very interesting to see how Apple reacts.
The title of the upcoming Star Wars movie has been
announced, and it turns out to be "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith".
There are a few teasers
at the official Star Wars web site.
The future of data storage - molten silicon, designer molecules, cow
protein globules, and other equally unlikely systems are all being
examined as potential replacements for hard disks and conventional
solid-state flash memory.
Want a job at Microsoft? Following the news that
they're planning to recruit around 7000 staff this year, here are direct
links to their vacancies pages in
England. I think I could be an "evangelist" , definitely - although I
seem to do enough of that for free that I'm not sure why they'd actually
want to pay me for it!
Keeping cables tidy - via The Gadget Store,
a clever little rack thing that attaches to the back of a desk and
prevents cables from escaping. I want about a dozen of these, I think,
although I'll probably wait until I've moved, now.
Ooh, a Lego
guitar! - and it actually works, too, although I suppose it would be
extremely embarrassing for it to come apart in a shower of loose bricks
mid-way through a Pete
Finally, and thanks to Ros for the pointer, something
for the geek who has everything - well, everything except fashion sense,
that is... The
Rosner MP3Blue is a jacket with a built-in MP3 player, microphone,
headphones, Bluetooth interface, battery, special pockets for a cellphone
and PDA, and the instructions printed on the lining... it even comes with
pre-installed "lounge songs", whatever they are. Oh, and it has a hood,
too, which some people might think makes it an anorak. I'm sure
Rosner would disagree...
Ars.Technica says that the relationship between SCO and vulture
capitalist group BayStar is on the rocks. Revenue from the SCOsource UNIX
licensing has barely reached $30,000 so far this year, and this has not
even started to repay BayStar's investment of $50 million last
year, and BayStar claims that SCO has not lived up to its end of the deal
- an allegation that they are prepared to take to court. With last week's
bombshell in the DaimlerChrysler suit, and an increasingly uphill
struggle in the suits against Novell, IBM and AutoZone, it really does
look grim for SCO. As usual, though, the various legal firms involved are
raking it in all round...
hub very neatly built-into a Gundam robot model - this guy obviously
has far too much time on his hands, but I guess there are worse things he
could be doing with it...
bi-annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur has passed with an unusually low
level of acrimony and an unusually high level of productivity. The
Register isn't very complimentary about Vint Cerf, though...
has been collecting the odd phrases that turn up in the lists of words
used to pad-out spam email. I started doing this myself, at one point,
although I was only looking for pairs of words - my favourites were
incendiary braille, sagebrush dialysis, nylon immodesty, bastard
cellophane, armadillo floss, and protoplasmic database. It's
nice that spam is good for something, at least.
Another hot, sticky and ultimately fruitless day
looking at houses. At this rate
I'm going to be sleeping in the computer room at the office by this time
next month... :-( Just a few random links, then, as it has
definitely been one of those weeks.
In the wake of
an announcement of healthy earnings last quarter,
Microsoft are going on a recruitment spree - they expect to hire an
additional 7000 staff worldwide, of which around 3000 will be at the
headquarters in Seattle, Washington.
Ring - courtesy of The Tech Report, a giant list of all
contemporary CPUs, detailing their FSB speed, form factor, cache size,
voltage and other useful values.
Hear your plants sing - while still in a legal state of mind.
A cunning device hidden in the vase or pot and
vibrates at just the right frequency to cause the stems and leaves to
resonate, turning the entire plant into a loudspeaker. Cool!
From waaaaaay back in 1998,
original list of haiku error messages from the Salon
Snopes has an entry with some variations, too:
Close all that you have worked on
You ask far too much
|The code was willing
It considered your request
But the chips were weak
|With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence
"My Novel" not found
|Out of memory
We wish to hold the whole sky
But we never will
I wish I could find the link, but it seems to have
disappeared into that mysterious place where URLs go to hide when people
are looking for them... I saw something a few days ago about street gangs
in Northern India, I think, who are terrorising the populace by
flaunting their big, bristling moustaches at them... Now, I'm just
about to move to the Becontree / Dagenham area of East London, not famed
for its peaceful and well behaved inhabitants, and if the most I had to
worry about there were men wit bristling moustaches I would be a happy
bunny indeed. Maybe I should consider moving to The Punjab instead, as the
daily commute from there to Romford couldn't be much more awkward than
perpetual A13 road works at present...
Who made your
laptop? - most big-name laptops are actually made by a small handful
of no-name Pacific Rim companies: Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta, for
example, makes hardware for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, and
Backlash against web site registration - in the face of the increasing
number of news sites that demand registration including various personal
details, there is also a growing array of tools and services intended to
spoof or circumvent the login process.
BBspot on Motherboard Feng Shui - "We didn't rely on reference
boards or schematics from chip manufacturers. Those designs had too many
straight lines and sharp corners, which are unnatural and direct poison
arrows at our soul. Instead, we tilted the memory slots and added an extra
expansion slot at an angle to direct those negative energies away from the
MS staff's 'foggy' blogging hoax - an alcohol-inspired spoof press
release created by a group of senior developers (who should probably know
better!) seems to have largely failed to fool the tech journalist they
were hoping to embarrass. What a lot of fuss about very little...
SCO vs. DaimlerChrysler suit evaporates - in what may be the beginning
of the end for the reborn SCO's litigation-based business model, one of
their major suits against UNIX end users has been mostly dismissed by the
Circuit Court judge. I think that SCO have gone much too far to back down
now, though, and I'm expecting them to fight until the bitter end.
music pirates - in spite of the RIAA's obsession with file sharing, a
recent report from the International Federation for the Phonographic
Industry claims that 1 billion commercially pirated CDs were sold during
2003, one third of the total worldwide sales figure, to a total of around
$4.5 billion. Suing grandmothers in Massachusetts and preteens in
California seems rather trivial by comparison...
Rude power cables - apparently an advert from a now defunct Brazilian
company. The host site, HappyScrappy, has some other amusing oddments too
- another 419 scammer
auction for influence over US government policy, and some appallingly
drawn but actually quite
And, finally -
Friendly on Stephen Hawking's Bet. Introducing: the Lucasian
Professor of Sour Grapes? :-)
|Nothing to see here... Move along, move along...
Microsoft to share wealth with investors - as of March, Microsoft had
$56.4 billion in cash and short-term investments. and have been under
pressure from financial analysts to redistribute a portion of these
holdings. In response, they announced yesterday that it will boost its
dividend, buy back shares, and offer a $3-per-share one-time payout as
part of a plan to return up to $75 billion to shareholders over the next
four years. I think I'll hang on to my token share, though - when it
comes to Microsoft, I like to be able to put my money where my mouth
On a related note,
Chairman Bill has announced that he will donate the $3 billion
windfall that he'll earn from the dividend payment to charitable causes,
via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This news initially generated
some smart comments amongst my PFYs, today, but when I suggested that they
look at the
Foundation's web site, which provides details of the $7.2 billion
distributed so far, they both went quiet... That is a lot of money,
and makes the contributions of major Western governments look thoroughly
paltry in comparison.
detector designed by school children - Created as part of a school
project, the device can detect the pulses of radio frequency generated
when a handset makes a phone call and sends or receives SMS messages. It
has a range of around 30 metres, and can also measure the RF energy level
to determine the distance of the mobile from the detector. The idea itself
isn't particularly new, but the design is far less complex than the other
devices on the market and so is proportionally cheaper to manufacture and
And talking of monitoring and surveillance, yesterday
power-crazed Home Secretary David Blunkett announced his latest plans
to turn England into the setting for a dystopian science fiction story. As
well as the
much-discussed biometric ID cards, other measures to be introduced
include GPS satellite tracking of petty criminals, increased use of
electronic lie detectors in monitoring ex-offenders, massive links between
previously separate government networks (for example between the DVLA and
the Police National Computer), a scheme to reduce crime levels in
residential neighbourhoods involving wide-spread use of smart video
surveillance systems, and extensive monitoring of passenger lists
collected from airlines and ferry companies to identify people who
might intend to immigrate illegally. It's
horrifying document, I'm afraid...
I've been a regular reader of the hardware geek web
for several years, now, and have always been impressed with the site - the
news is timely and interesting, the reviews written by people who really
do know what they're talking about, and the editorial fair and free from
apparent bias. Because of these high standards, though, I was
rather less than impressed to read something in
one of their regular news updates a few days ago, under the headline
Al Gore Knighted?, that definitely didn't measure up:
Apparently there's some confusion as to who
actually invented the World Wide Web. In Al Gore's mind, it was him. To
the rest of the world, it was Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the
interface we all use to surf the internet. The Queen has now honored the
man responsible for all of this by awarding him the title of "Sir."
I'm thoroughly fed up with this myth about Gore, by
now, especially from someone who should know better, and after some fuming
to myself I was moved to complain to the author...
Subject: Al Gore and the Big Lie
I was peeved to see your crack at Al Gore in your 2nd
edition news segment today. Like so many other techies and online
pundits, I'm afraid that you've been conned - Gore never claimed
that he had invented the Internet (let alone the World Wide Web, as you
said!), but following an interview he did for CNN a few years back,
during the run-up to the 2000 presidential election, what he did
actually say was picked up and mutilated by his political opponents as
another cheap way of racking some muck. Unfortunately you're simply
perpetuating the sleazy personal attacks that characterised the 2000
campaign, and it's a shame to see this kind of thing at a normally
balanced and well-informed site like HardOCP.
Gore's actual words were "During my service in the
United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet",
and this claim seems to be reasonable. He consistently voted significant
budgetary appropriations for the organisations who were trying to hook
the various networks together, strongly opposed moves to keep the whole
thing classified and restricted as a military resource, and generally
did the entire PR thing that made the public, commercial Internet as we
know it today possible.
But don't take my word for it - listen to Vint Cerf,
a man who really can claim to have invented the Internet - when
asked about the issue,
he had this to say:
Last year the Vice President made a
straightforward statement on his role. He said: “During my service
in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the
Internet.” We don’t think, as some people have argued, that Gore
intended to claim he “invented” the Internet. Moreover, there
is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore’s
initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the
Or, if Cerf is a bit too kooky and left wing for you,
try someone at the absolute opposite ends of the technical and political
spectra, Newt Gingrich,
who contributed this:
In all fairness, it’s something Gore had worked
on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all
fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically
worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is - and
I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were
both part of a “futures group” - the fact is, in the Clinton
administration, the world we had talked about in the ’80s began to
Or, for the peer-review version, there's
a long thread here at Slashdot, where the grudging consensus after
several thousand posts is that Gore's statement was not only perfectly
reasonable, but that he is the only politician who could ever
actually make that claim.
The author of the segment in question, a certain Tim,
sent me a nice reply explaining his point of view:
The Gore crack was nothing more than me taking an
existing internet joke and coming up with a news title that was
attention catching. I've heard the stories before, heard the quote, and
read all of the background information. I just thought it was funny to
put it that way. I in no way meant to offend anyone.
Unfortunately, I think that actually makes it worse!
I'd assumed that he simply didn't know that the meme he was recycling was
just campaign propaganda, which was why I felt it was worth the effort to
point him towards the real facts. If he really had "read all of the
background information" though, and was aware of the truth, then it's a
damn shame that he felt that it was appropriate to write what he did.
I was running cabling in the computer room with one of
my PFYs, today, and ended up crawling halfway under the false floor to
un-snag a tangle buried deep under the biggest, heaviest cabinet. The PFY
told me afterwards that he was very tempted to push me in the rest of the
way, pop the tiles back down and deny ever having seen me - in a small
department like ours, "dead man's shoes" is often the only prospect of
promotion, but the term isn't usually taken literally.
The last laugh would have
been on him, though - there's an escape route up under one of the router
cabinets, and I'd have rewired his laptop's network wallport to the mains
before he had time to get back to his desk...
more letters from Dan
- deodorising light bulbs, annoying transformers, and yet more wildly
expensive audio products. The articles have come thick and fast recently,
too, with a second
letters update a few days later as well as a fascinating review of the
state of the art in robotic
New milestones in artificial stupidity - Palo Alto-based company
Artificial Development reckon they're making real progress in
understanding and modelling the cortex of the human brain.
Amazon.com Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game - examination of the reviews of
acknowledged classics in literature, music and film prove that there's
just no pleasing some people...
rides again - can you change the trajectory of an asteroid by crashing
a small, aptly-named space probe into it? There's only one way to find
Google browser - a graphical method of visualising the relationship
between web sites indexed by Google. I'm not sure how it actually works,
yet, but it's certainly very interesting to play with.
True tales from Microsoft - via TechNet, Microsoft's own contribution
to the ever-growing canon of IT lore. I liked "Personal
recording Industry under fire - P2P old-timers Sharman Networks have
already been given permission to file their own ant-trust suit against the
RIAA, and other lawsuits are likely to follow. Neat!
Disk drives have been on my mind over the last few
days, so today I finally bit the bullet and extended my disk partitions to
make full use of the 160Gb Maxtor drives. Support for the 48bit LBA
required for Windows XP to manage disk partitions greater than 137Gb was
rather a grey area last year when I built the PC, and with so much space
available there didn't seem to be any rush. However, I noticed the
unallocated space in the Disk Manager today while I was double-checking
that flakey disc drive, and on a whim I decided to do something about it.
A rather confusing technote from Microsoft has all the details, but it
took me a while of
cross-checking elsewhere before I was actually happy that I understood
the prerequisites. The Microsoft technote definitely implies that the
EnableBigLBA registry key that enables 48bit LBA is not actually
required for systems with SP1 installed, but almost every other reference
seems to disagree. However, the technote does say that the setting
will be ignored in SP1 or later, so I don't see that it can do any harm.
If the disks in question are connected to a standard
motherboard IDE controller then the native ATAPI.SYS disk controller
driver must be updated to version 5.1.2600.1135 by installing
appropriate patch. If however, as in my case, the disks are on an
additional controller card such as the popular Promise FastTrak series or
my ICP Vortex S-ATA controller, support for 48bit LBA is almost certainly
included in the 3rd party drivers already. To play safe I upgraded
ATAPI.SYS anyway, and after a reboot used the old favourite Partition
Magic (strange to see it in
rebranded as a
Symantec product after all these years of PowerQuest!) to extend the
logical drives onto the rest of the volume. Everything seems to have been
perfectly smooth so far.
Elsewhere, a must-see -
the movie Alien, condensed
into 30 seconds and re-enacted by bunnies. Honestly, I'm not making this
How frustrating! A few nights ago some urgent beeping
announced that one of the four
disk drives in my main PC had gone west, probably as a result of the
stuffy heat in the house this week. Initially this didn't really seem to
be a problem, as I've seen enough dead disk drives during my long career
in IT that I no longer trust my data to non-redundant volumes, and the ICP
Vortex S-ATA RAID card meant that the drive volume carried on happily
without even breaking into a sweat. An email to the supplier,
Scan, produced an RMA number and I
resigned myself to the awkward task of prying the drive cage out of the
chassis to extract the failed drive.
Today, however, just before I powered down to open the
case I rebooted into the firmware array management utility to double-check
exactly which drive had failed - and to my surprise and annoyance all four
drives now appeared present and correct, with the damaged mirror
re-syncing onto the mysteriously resurrected drive. This is the worst
possible scenario, as if I send the drive back to Scan and they don't find
a fault, they'll charge me for it in about three different ways - but
experience suggests that once a drive has started to fail intermittently
like this it's usually all downhill from there, and I can probably look
forward to increasingly frequent problems until it finally decides to give
up the ghost some weeks or months later. Bah!
first virus targeted at handheld PCs running Windows CE / Pocket PC /
Windows Mobile (or whatever it's called this month) has finally appeared,
if considerably later than most of us were expecting. The code is only a
proof of concept, at this stage, and appears to have been created by the
same group who last month released the
Cabir virus for Symbian-based smartphones. Neither worm is actually a
significant issue at present, but the time is obviously nigh for PDA worms
and I'd probably better check out
McAfee's handheld anti-virus offering for my work systems before the
Elsewhere, fashion house Oakley has announced their
plans for sunglasses with a built-in audio player. The oddly-named
"Thump" will have flip-up
speakers over the ears to match the flip-up lenses over the eyes (boy,
will that look nerdy!) and will come with either 128Mb or 256Mb of memory.
Although there are a few images on the announcement page, they're all the
arty, extreme close-up conceptual sort of thing that doesn't actually give
any idea of what the final product will look like - but given that
they'll have to find room for the electronics, battery, controls, USB
interface and status LEDs, my bet is that it will look fairly monstrous -
something suitable for one of
Neal Stephenson's gargoyles.
Finally, Microsoft have won another of their series of
lawsuits against large-scale spammers, this time nailing Daniel
Khoshnood of Pointcom Inc for $3.95 million, bringing the total of their
recent awards to a cool $54 million. In the last eighteen months Microsoft
has filed 60 lawsuits against spammers - six of those cases have so far
resulted in judgments, with one dismissal, and Microsoft have settled with
four defendants and forced two others into bankruptcy. Hah!
Just links, tonight... But at least there are
enough of them for everyone. Help yourself!
Nintendo charges $20 for repackaged classics - and not everybody
is happy about paying so much for Game Boy versions of games that
are now almost twenty years old.
Google IPO imminent? - According to the Financial Times,
the long-awaited IPO may actually happen sometime this month. Shares
will be available via an online Dutch auction, and competition is
expected to be cut-throat to say the least.
Internet Explorer market share declines - although I think this
may have less to do with the
highly publicised CERT advice than the increasingly common
alternative browsers based on
IE's core DLLs.
discourage copy protection - the various flavours of CD copy
protection continue to annoy the consumers, but the massive
popularity of the iPod may give them some clout for the first time.
Use of geolocation growing on the web - what you can see and
what you are allowed to do can depend greatly on where and even who
you are. Some of the implications of this trend are a touch
worrying, I'd say.
A strange interview with the CEO of Infinium - avoiding some
questions, ignoring others, and thoroughly spinning his answers to
the rest. No real surprises there, I guess...
Japanese school to RFID-tag children - the tags will be attached
to schoolbags, name tags or clothing, and read by readers installed
in school gates and other key locations to track their movements.
The Mexican Attorney General is going one stage further, though
- together with a number of key staff, he has had a microchip
inserted under the skin of his arm to give secure access to a
national database for crime investigators, and assist with tracking
in the event of abductions.
Apple not to participate at MacWorld! - although formerly held
in Boston, for the last few years the venue has been New York, but
this year's move back to Boston seems to have deterred Apple
from participating. Some exhibitors and attendees are less than
Bill Gates say that open source development costs jobs - I can
see what he means, but as you can imagine the response from the
anti-Microsoft camp has been acerbic, to put it mildly!
Intuit loses personal data on 47,000 customers - a PC was stolen
from the company's Omaha office, which contained customer data
including credit card and bank account details. Oops!
Underwater robotics competition - the Marine Advanced Technology
Education Center (what a mouth-full!) is organising a series of
competitions to design and build Remote Operated Vehicles in the
hope of promoting interest in maritime applications of technology.
Stephen Hawking's U-turn on black holes - in spite of insisting
for almost thirty years that even information can't escape
from a black hole, Hawking is now suggesting that the event horizon
is not as well-defined as has previously been thought, and may allow
considerable information about the inner state of the black hole to
IBM detects a single electron - if you ask me, some corporates
have far too much time (and money) on their hands...
Run, don't walk, to the pitch drop experiment - in 1927
Professor Thomas Parnell began an experiment at the University of
Queensland to illustrate that pitch has the properties of a liquid.
For the last 72 years a blob of pitch has been slowly dripping from
a funnel, and the eighth drop is just about to fall. Nobody actually
saw the first seven drops, but thanks to
modern webcam technology maybe somebody will catch this one
User Friendly presents three different takes on
Fahrenheit 9/11. The film is long, by the way, but I'm told that
it is definitely worth seeing if you're at all politically aware.
My friend Mike saw my segment about
flashing lights and pointed me to
cunning little widget, intended for use in the burgeoning market for
PC flight simulator hardware but easily applicable to pure eye-candy
instead. Controlled via a USB interface, it can address 64 LEDS
independently, and the sockets look close enough together that square LEDS
of the right size would provide a solid panel of lights. All I'd need then
would be software to make them do something not unlike like the scrolling
effect from the ubiquitous Matrix screensavers, for example - and
Mike has already volunteered to write that for me if required. The module
looks closer to my idea than anything else I've seen, so far, and at a
reasonable $56 it's certainly very tempting...
Meanwhile, in the car this week I've been listening to
the audiobook of Larry
Niven's classic SF novel "Protector", and I've been impressed
by the unusual willingness of the reader, Mark Sherman, to embrace the
oddities of an alien language. The aliens in question are named the Pak,
and in the book Niven describes that sound as that of their tough,
leathery beaks snapping together - so rather than taking the easy way out
and saying "Pak", as I have done for the last twenty years or so,
Sherman actually makes a dry snapping noise that sounds just like Niven's
description. The main alien protagonist is named Phssthpok, and again
Sherman actually makes the sound, rather than just saying the word
- or trying to, at least, as I never actually worked out how to say "Phssthpok",
Most impressive of all, though, is the way he copes
with the speech of a human who is turned into a Pak by an alien virus -
the human species is simply the mutated but immature breeder stage of the
Pak, and the first human to encounter the Pak is infected with the virus
that triggers the
change to the adult form. Niven describes how this unfortunate's
speech is interspersed with the snapping, clicking sounds of the Pak beak,
and how some English syllables are impossible to a creature without any
lips, and to my delight Sherman manages to achieve this with an ease and
fluidity that is utterly convincing. It's a marvellous performance, and
I've been enjoying every minute. Bravo!
Incidentally, while tracking down some links for this
segment, I discovered that Niven has just published
the fourth part of his momentous Ringworld series. Reviews are mixed,
it seems, but it's certainly not one I'm going to miss - I am a big
fan of Larry Niven's "Known Space" stories. Some of the
are almost enough to make me change my mind, though!
Meetings, training, more meetings, many telephone
calls... And a few odd moments of managing the network in the occasional
spare time in between. Just links, tonight, then...
history of the Pentium microprocessor - courtesy of Ars.Technica,
part one covers the original Pentium to the Pentium III. Very
SP2 still not quite ready - another release candidate is expected
imminently, following further issues on the beta program. Confusingly, the
third release candidate may actually be called RC2, just like the last
Oh, and a word of warning, too, while I think of it -
following a mention of the new Windows Update V5 in that news article, I
decided to take a look. Getting there was simply a case of substituting
"V5" for the "V4" in the URL of the current version of Windows Update, but
having downloaded the new support software (itself still in beta) the PC
in question now seems irrevocably wedded to the beta site and will no
longer go to the conventional service. It's not really a big deal, as
everything seems to work perfectly well, but it's not really expected
behaviour either - so make sure you know what you're getting into...
motherboard, two PCs - Jetway's new TwinMagic motherboard allows two
users to share a single PC. Hmmm... After some investigation, though, I
can't see anything very special about the hardware at all, and I suspect
that the multiplexing software would run happily on any PC with a
dual-head graphics card - assuming that it isn't artificially locked to
only that model of motherboard, that is!
Vapochill evaporative cooler - in spite of complete dominating the
high-end PC refrigeration market, Asetek are not content to rest on their
laurels and their new stand-alone model looks very impressive.
And, finally - Oooh,
a pretty blue external disk
drive housing! How cute!
Regular readers of Epicycle will have noticed my
fondness for flashing lights
on computers, but I've always been disappointed that I've never found
anything to simulate that old-time look... My first job, back in the early
eighties, was as junior operator of an ICL 2900 series mainframe, and in
common with most of its contemporaries back then the main cabinet had a
small panel of red status LEDs that reflected the state of various
critical registers and system stacks - if the system underwent a
catastrophic failure, the lights would freeze in their last position,
hopefully revealing some telling insight to the engineer who would follow
to pick up the pieces. I spent many hours during the graveyard shift
watching these ever-changing lights and wondering what they meant - but
ending up none the wiser.
Apart from the baroque mock-ups seen in sixties and
seventies science fiction movies, some real computer systems had banks of
lights that made the ICL's look thoroughly trivial. Foremost among them
was the wonderful
Machine supercomputers spawned by the equally wonderful
Hillis, and it is really the drifting, smoky red glow of the CM
hardware that has captured my imagination. I would love to reproduce
something even a fraction as fascinating and elegant on a desktop PC, but
it's quite important to me that, just as on the mainframes, the lights
actually mean something. Now, even a random flashing circuit is
beyond my meagre electronics skills, but logic that would interface with
the PCI bus, for example, is completely and utterly beyond my
I was encouraged, therefore, to see
this design for sale at auction on eBay - it's not what I want, and in
fact is not even close, but at least it shows that someone is
thinking along roughly the same lines - and I hope that in the fullness of
time some clever tweaker will come out with just what I want. I'm
absolutely positive that I'm not alone in my fascination with blinking
lights, after all. It's a classic geek thing....
Meanwhile (and thanks to Ros for the pointer) there
seems to be something of a fuss in the media over a garment care label, of
all things. Certain products from Tom
Bihn Designs, an American manufacturer of laptop cases and travel bags
with strong exports to France, include on the French part of the bilingual
label, alongside the washing instructions, the immortal lines "We are
sorry that our president is an idiot. We didn't vote for him".
(Image courtesy of
Such is the attention given to the label since the
story broke that the company is now manufacturing
bearing the controversial text.
on the company's own web site claims that the label refers to the
company's own president, founder Tom Bihn himself - but frankly I don't
buy that for a moment. Do you...?
IE not the
only browser with flaws - looks like all versions based on the
open-source Mozilla project have a nasty remote-execute vulnerability, and
need to be patched as a matter of priority. Now that the Mozilla family is
gaining in popularity, I expect to see more vulnerabilities being
An open letter to Steve Jobs, from Alex Salkever at Business Week.
The success of the iPod is not being matched elsewhere in the company's
range, says Alex, and something needs to be done. Fortunately for Steve,
it appears that Alex can provide the answers too...
After a few months of keeping a relatively low profile,
SCO's legal department have started banging their drum again. Last
week they filed a renewed motion to compel IBM to release more memos from
executives, source code underlying IBM's flavours of Unix, and details
about programmers involved with their Unix and Linux implementations. This
one shows every sign of running and running...
- apart from all the legal fuss over the keyword-triggered advertising in
their GMail service, they are now being sued by a Maryland-based
children's entertainment company named
"Googles", who have had a
registered copyright and trademark on their name since 1997. With
a massive IPO in the offing, I
imagine Google will just pay them to shut up and go away - presumably
exactly what Googles is hoping for.
space funeral launch begins - after a three year pause, unique funeral
company Celestis are to resume
burials in space. A mere $1000 will enable a gram of cremated ashes to be
placed in low Earth orbit, or $5300 for a more generous 7 grams - and the
company offers a second launch for free if, as on the last attempt, a
launch fails to achieve orbit. Apparently more ambitious options for lunar
orbit or even beyond will also be available...
Alleyway to hell - veteran rock group
AC/DC are to have a road in Melbourne named after them, to commemorate
their thirty year contribution to musical mayhem. Oddly, the group already
has a street named after them in Madrid!
Finally, Army Times has
of the new
Heckler & Koch XM8 Lightweight Modular Carbine System in action. It's
an impressive weapon, certainly, and even its futuristic composite design
doesn't seem so outlandish these days - although seeing an assault rifle
being fired at arm's length like a pistol, one long, continuous burst of
full auto from a 100 round drum magazine, certainly shows that this is
Still not the end of the week, dammit, as I have to be
in the office on Saturday to take care of some housekeeping chores that
can only be done out-of-hours. Evidently Friday night is anti-corporation
night at Epicycle, though, so here goes...
Primo geek site Ars.Technica is
doubt on the BSA's claims that one-third of the software installed on
computers worldwide is pirated, representing a loss of nearly $29 billion
in revenue for the industry. As usual, there are some basic fallacies in
the assumptions made (not all pirated software actually represents a loss
of income for the manufacturer) and just to muddy the waters the way that
the data has been collected has changed this year. Given the size of the
axe that the BSA are trying to grind, their statements have to be taken
with a considerable pinch of salt...
Also at Ars, an article on
implications of the INDUCE act, the latest attempt by despicable
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (relentless lobbyist and mouthpiece for the
RIAA and the MPAA) to introduce legislation that champions the interests
of large corporations over the long-established rights of "fair use" that
used to be enjoyed by consumers. Bah!
DuPont Failed to Report Teflon Health Risks - The EPA has stated that
the chemicals giant has consistently violated the Toxic Substances Control
Act between June 1981 and March 2001, by not reporting known health risks
associated with a by-product of the Teflon manufacturing process. DuPont
completely denies the accusation, but as far as I'm concerned
their long record speaks for itself.
And, talking of corrupt, immoral corporates... the
ex-Chairman and CEO of Enron, Ken Lay, has been
eleven counts of fraud concerning the company's financial collapse in
2001. Lay is playing the plausible deniability card so beloved of
fat cats caught with their fingers in the corporate cookie jar, and is
insisting that he was duped by his underlings. Do I believe him? Hell, no!
Finally, IT trainer Matt Basham's suggestions for
improving Cisco's official training manuals were ignored by the company
for years, so he
has decided to publish it himself, for free! The manual can be
from Basham's own web site, and has also been made available at
Lulu.com, an alternative
publishing company run by Bob Young, one of the founders of Linux
stalwarts Red Hat. I bet Cisco is fuming... :-)
The spirit of
Admiral Grace Hopper is alive and well in my computer room, this week,
following the discovery of a very large, very dead, moth inside one of the
old Compaq ProLiant servers that I've been decommissioning. Although
entry in the system journal shows that when she found her own bug in
1945 the term was already in common use among engineers (in fact the
modern meaning can be dated back to
least 1896), as she said her find was definitely the first documented
case of a real bug being found in a system.
At about an inch and a half long I think my bug is
bigger than Hopper's, but I'm certainly glad that it hasn't followed
Moore's law as well as the computer itself has. Even a thoroughly obsolete
ProLiant 1600 is literally millions of times more powerful than the
Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator at Harvard, and that would leave the bug on
the scale of Mothra
from the classic Japanese monster movies (although even
the experts can't seem to agree how large that actually is) - and
there probably wouldn't be room for both of us in the computer room at the
Ah, the good old days... back when Pentium II CPUs were
the state of the art, 9.1Gb disk drives seemed impossibly huge, and Compaq
gave away a free moth with every server.
Elsewhere, a new craze seems to be spreading through my
office... MinnoKubes are little
fish tanks, about six inches square and eight inches high. Each one comes
complete with a plant, a handful of pretty gravel and stone chips, and
four little fishes. Apparently the entire system is designed to be low
maintenance and hardy enough to cope with office life (although the
accuracy of those claims will remain to be seen over the next few months)
and they certainly are both fascinating and relaxing to watch. On the
whole I'm inclined to stick with my favourite
screensaver, but I have to admit that they're extremely neat
Fish heads! Fish heads! Get your lovely fish heads
Oh, no, wait - I mean links. Sorry.
Two disgruntled users are suing eBay after being overcharged by about
$20. However, although the actual amounts involved are trivial, the basis
of the case certainly isn't - eBay has been rounding up its charges
without telling anyone, it seems, so that a transaction of $30.78, say, is
actually billed as $30.80. Given the huge number of transactions eBay
processes, this obviously represents a nice little earner - and in my
opinion is an extremely dubious practice.
Elsewhere in court, so far this session at least seven
US states have proposed bills that would
restrict the sale of violent video games. So far, all of the measures
that passed have been overturned at appeal on the grounds of First
Amendment protection, but legislators and activists are convinced that
some titles must be kept out of the hands of children - or, ideally it
seems, everyone else as well.
In video games these days, you can strangle
someone with a garrotte, pop off an enemy's head in a shower of gore
with a sniper shot, and direct a teenage girl to shotgun a demon dog.
Not to mention beat up prostitutes, run down pedestrians, bathe in the
blood of your enemies and curse like a lobster boat captain who's
stubbed his toe.
Curse like a lobster boat captain? Cool! Where do I
Closer to home, an
upcoming gun control
conference seems to have brought hope of some common ground at last,
as it is being jointly organised by BASC, the British Association of
Shooting and Conservation, and the Mothers Against Guns
pressure group. Both have revealed that they have been under considerable
pressure not to associate with what hardliners on both sides view as the
enemy, but they are hoping that working together will uncover new ways of
tackling the issues. I will be watching this with interest.
Meanwhile, the beleaguered hobby of
airsoft seems to have received
some rare (perhaps unique?) favourable publicity in the Scottish Sun, with
article covering a recent weekend game at Fife skirmish site
The Fort. Congratulations to
all those involved...
Elsewhere... the current version of the archetypal
Motherboard Monitor PC hardware
monitoring utility will be the last, according to creator Alex Van Kaam.
After seven and a half years, it seems, he's just had enough - and given
how thankless the shareware industry can be, I don't blame him one
variants! Now with source code! - the sneaky little bastard behind the
Bagle virus has released the assembly language source to the net along
with two new
versions, thus guaranteeing a bazillion new variants - and at the same
time covering his tracks somewhat if he happens to get caught with the
source code on his own PC. With the threat of
on his head, is he starting to feel the pressure?
letters from Dan - the early days of PCI Express, pontificating on
Moore's Law, Iomega's "Click of Death", and yet another dumb add-on for
audiophiles with more money than sense... if, admittedly, in this case not
that much more.
Microsoft's official statement - "Regarding Configuration Change
to Windows in Response to Download.Ject Security Issue". What a
mouthful to describe a security patch - especially one that may not
very well, anyway!
The customer is always right? - Not any more, it seems, at least
according to US chain Best Buy, who are starting to differentiate between
profitable customers and shoppers they lose money on. This is becoming
increasingly common in many sectors, according to the article, which also
mentions that the phone queuing system at the Royal Bank Of Canada sends
certain customers to the front of the line, based on factors such as the
balance of their account... I am definitely not impressed with
And, finally, Vogon
Heavy Industries - an online version of the Hitch Hiker's Guide To The
Galaxy; although at the moment it's long on technical hype and short on
actually working... Check back in a few weeks, perhaps?
Tuesday Tuesday... Probably not a good idea to trust
that day, either, now I come to think of it. In fact, all seven of
them look pretty dubious to me - best to give the whole damn lot of 'em a
Another urban legend debunked, thanks to the
ever-useful Snopes reference
site. This time it is the
Barbie myth, seen before but forgotten until I ran into it
presented as fact again a few days ago.
Register has a guide to the government's plans for ID cards,
contrasting David Blunkett's lies and hype with the reality that the
current state of the art will permit - specially prepared using short,
simple sentences for technically-challenged politicians.
Oh, dear! It looks as if
Microsoft's work-around for the infamous Internet Explorer
vulnerability may not be up to scratch after all - according to
postings on the Full Disclosure mailing list at Insecure.org a
slightly modified form of the existing exploit will work on patched
systems. This news comes hot on the heels of
another as-yet unpatched weakness - and the word is that Microsoft is
now intending a ground-up re-write of IE itself in an attempt to make the
damn thing a little more secure.
Microsoft have merged their previously proprietary Caller ID For Email
specification with the independent SPF
Sender Policy Framework specification that is rapidly gaining support
amongst ISPs and sysadmins. While I don't believe that SPF will be a
miracle cure-all, it will certainly help in certain circumstances and I
intend to implement it in the office domain as soon as the current upgrade
cycle is complete.
Finally, the creator of the
jailed for two years last week, after a Spanish court heard that the
worm had infected at least 100,000 systems, harvesting personal details
and turning them into zombies controllable over the IRC networks.
Identifying the author was presumably made a little easier by the fact
that he appears to have put his mugshot into
later versions of the user interface. I've said it before and I'll say
it again - these people are not, on the whole, very clever...
"Monday Monday, can't trust that day"...
Productive, but busy - so just linkage tonight.
Dissention in the ranks of physicists -
fundamental constants been changing? A lot of people are going to be
rather annoyed if this turns out to be the case but, in spite of earlier
reports, right now the smart money seems to think that a constant is a
constant after all.
and Australia sign anti-spam act - a "memorandum of understanding"
intended to promote joint enforcement and investigation of spammers across
the three countries... But will it amount to anything?
Water cooling for
servers coming soon - although the author of the article seems
completely unaware that liquid cooling has been common in the hobbyist set
for several years now!
An Innovative flash-hosted NAS add-on -
review at Tom's Hardware examines the new product from
Open-e, with further details
at their UK distributor, TMC.
Tech Girl - is it phone sex or technical support? At $29.50 for
ten minutes chat, their business model seems to be similar to both...
Michael Moore on the unprecedented response to the first few days of
Fahrenheit 9/11 - and the
unprecedented surge on some of the file-sharing networks since Moore
invited people to download a copy for themselves.
Ultra-wideband radar sees through walls - remember the sequence in
Eraser with the rail gun armed baddies shooting through the walls of a
And talking of movies... an article in Wired,
gaming moves to the next level of reality, really makes me think of a
scene from the classic
Hedley Lamarr: Qualifications?
Outlaw: Rape, murder, arson, and rape.
Hedley Lamarr: You said rape twice!
Outlaw: I like rape!
Microsoft has finally
released a work-around for the rather nasty Internet Explorer
vulnerabilities that have been
headlines in recent weeks. It has to be said that it is a fairly crude
solution, simply preventing the ADODB.Stream function that allows
files to be created on the local hard drive from being executed within IE.
This is not ideal, as there are legitimate uses of this function in
certain web-based transactions, and presumably a subsequent patch for the
vulnerability itself will have to enable the facility again - but given
the potential seriousness of the exploit right now anything is better than
Wireless cola gives USAF target practice - Coke cans with
embedded cellphones and GPS positioning receivers are being used as
marketing ploys in the manufacturer's summer promotional campaign. As
The Register notes, though, Coke is popular in areas of the world
where having guerrilla marketing teams descending from the skies in
helicopters may be met with a distinctly hostile response...
Daleks boycott Dr Who - plans to include the perennial favourites in
the upcoming new series have met with insurmountable licensing
difficulties, thanks to the estate of the late programme creator Terry
Nation, which has accused the BBC of attempting to "ruin the brand of the
Daleks". Whatever that means...
Legal bills push up cost of Queen - the annual cost of funding the
Queen rose by a penny per person to 61p this year, a total of £36.8
million. Additional state visits, overseas tours and ceremonial costs are
blamed, together with the cost of new contracts intended to prevent royal
staff leaking private details to the press. However, as she is the
second richest woman in England, and (at last count) the 19th richest
in the world, it's a complete mystery to me why I have to pay anything
towards her upkeep at all! Hhmph!
in hospitals are safe, say doctors - In spite of long-standing bans by
the Department of Health, healthcare professionals insist that there is no
justification for banning mobile phones, and claim that radios used by the
emergency services (which are allowed into resuscitation units and
intensive care rooms) have a much greater risk of interfering with
essential equipment. The source of the conflict is clear, though - most
hospitals charge patients a daily fee to have a phone by their beds, and
also charge premium rates for friends and family to dial in to them...
And, finally, a warning about a French supplier of
replica guns and survival equipment, Guns2U.
Their web site is aimed largely at the English retail market, it seems,
but as some of their products
specifically state "cannot be sold to the UK" this may leave
the inexperienced with the impression that all the others are safe to buy
and own in this country. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the
truth - their range includes pepper sprays, electric stun guns, automatic
knives and black powder revolvers, all of which are either heavily
restricted or completely and utterly illegal to own.
Perhaps worst of all, their blank firers are the
variety that vent the discharge gasses forward through the barrel, and as
in general this type of replica is deemed to be "readily convertible" by
the police and courts, they will be treated as live firearms - with all
the unpleasantness that implies. In fact, there already seems to have been
some fall-out of this nature...
Be aware - the UK's legislation on firearms is
extremely strict, and the axiom "innocence of the law is no excuse" has
rarely been applied more enthusiastically... Given the potentially serious
problems that may arise, when it comes to grey areas and dubious imports
it is far better to be safe than sorry.
Two large Compaq servers relocated, one nasty scratch
on a techie's arm and one PFY with a slightly crushed finger. So far, I
think the servers are ahead on points... It's been one of those days, so
here are some random links in lieu of actual entertainment:
The Evils of Q-Tips, via Joel Stein at Time Magazine - an
oldie, it seems, but if not a goldie then at least a gold-platie. Joel has
a number of other rants,
too, on subjects ranging from how not to spice up your marriage, to being
let down by the latest fashionable computer viruses. Take a look.
A neat little software utility,
CallerIP, which identifies the geographical location of the web site
you're viewing. It's similar to the excellent NeoTrace utility I
use (now apparently swallowed up by McAfee), but aimed at regular users
rather than network geeks. The manufacturer,
has a number of other interesting online tools, including the
MailWasher email filter that seems to come highly recommended.
A sneak preview of
Microsoft's new search engine
- and to my considerable surprise
Epicycle is already indexed there at least as well as at
Google. They must have been secretly crawling the web for months and
months in preparation...
discovers overclocking - an optimist on the
is trying to sell a crystal oscillator used to overclock an IBM
PC-AT from 6Mhz to a staggering 8MHz. It may not sound like much, but when
you think of it that's a 33% overclock - which is actually rather
impressive by current standards. I really can't see anyone paying the $500
he's asking for it, though!
Microsoft patents skin - or, to be more accurate than most of the
posts complaining about it, patents the concept of transmitting electrical
power and data signals across the surface of the skin. Wearable computing,
here we come!
And, finally, courtesy of Something Awful,
a flamethrower made from DIY components. Don't try this at home... or
at work... or anywhere else, really, either...
I'm sure you'll be glad to hear that
John Cleese's kettle has been
mended, which paves the way for the official grand opening of his web site
"in the the autumn or the fall, whichever you prefer". Thanks to
for the heads-up.
Meanwhile, the second-hand disk arrays
I was watching have both sold, and as I
anticipated they went for the proverbial song: £390 for the little one,
and £870 for the 900Gb unit - rather more than I was expecting, I have to
admit, but still far from excessive. I'm glad that I had the excuse of the
upcoming house move to deter me, though - I was rather taken with the idea
of them, and it would have been impossible to avoid a bidding war,
especially on the larger capacity unit.
Oh, dear! Not a good month in the stats, in spite of some
unexpected but welcome attention from the less geeky segments of the
blogosphere - my segment on Reagan was linked by a
political blog, and then mirrored from there around the
usual little circle of Blogspot sites. After all that extra traffic
early on in the month I was hoping for another record, but evidently traffic
tapered off in the second half of the month in plenty of time to teach me a
lesson in hubris - not only did the total fail to reach last month's, but
also (by a narrow margin) that of the month before. Ah, well...
On the subject of Reagan, though, here's something that I
was hoping to find when I wrote my own obituary for him - an extensive list
of some of his more
fatuous, absurd and offensive soundbites. And don't forget, this is the
man they are calling "The Great Communicator". Well, I guess he's
great in comparison with Dubya!
This cartoon sums up Reagan's enduring myth rather neatly, as well...
Elsewhere - and quite a long way elsewhere, too - I
a reference to Epicycle on what turned out to be a Slovakian airsoft
site. As you might expect I don't speak a world of Slovak, but thanks to Ros
and the perennially informed and helpful members of the
Cix online community, a translation was
It starts off something like:
"I was delighted to be able to buy stuff successfully through WGC as it
allowed me to start experimenting again. I was able to browse through all
the companies that sell Airsoft guns via the Internet, including companies
I'd never heard of. And one, UN Company, had the Smith and Wesson M629 I'd
not been able to find anywhere else.
I'm a conservative type, naturally suspicious of new untried methods, but
shopping via WGC let me find out all sorts of stuff, even about this Hong
Kong company, UN Company, which no one had ever heard of."
He then goes on about how he had to get round the fact airguns are illegal
where he is and there were all sorts of problems, and some other company
Red Wolf mucked him about, kept saying the M629 was out of stock, but UN
Company obliged him immediately.
He then burbles on for several paragraphs about the problems he had with
invoices, couriers etc trying to get his mitts on the M629, and some other
bits and pieces to go with it, there were bank problems and all sorts of
other stuff, but UN Company were unfailingly helpful. He is no longer
afraid of ordering through the Internet thanks to the positive experiences
he had ordering through WGC and from UN Company.
He then quotes your weblog where you
complain about UN Company
in connection with the same gun and says "Well, that's not what I found,
but people probably ought to read this article to see that not everyone is
quite as happy as I am" or something along those lines.
There's an awful lot more than that but I hope that gives you the general
Yes, indeed. Thanks to Jeremy Harris for the translation.