This site has now moved to a new
server, and although the domain URL
http://www.epicycle.org.uk will work
as before, any direct links to the old
address will cease to function once I wind up my dealings with that
provider. If possible, I'll continue to update both pages until I've
finished what is actually rather a complex migration of domain names, but
in the meantime please change any direct links as soon as possible.
There is nothing wrong with your web browser
Do not attempt to adjust the MTU
We are controlling the bandwidth...
Preparations for the house move are getting into high
gear, at last, so updates here are likely to be few and far between for
the next few weeks - if at all.
As the saying has it, normal service will be resumed as
soon as possible.
I have been using the same UK ISP - Compulink
Information Exchange, better known as Cix - for my email and bandwidth
ever since 1992 (Cix itself dates back to 1987), when I first moved from
using standalone BBSes and the FidoNet network to the wonders of the
embryonic Internet. However, although my first ten years with the service
were marked by innovation, growth and continued development of the system,
the last few have seen the service repeatedly changing ownership and
direction, with each new incarnation apparently bringing nothing but
unnecessary change, loss of functionality, service disruption and overall
It began early in 2001 when IT support company
bought Cix as part of a programme of expansion, running it under the
name of one of its subsidiaries, Nextra - which itself was a subsidiary of
Telenor. The Nextra name didn't last very long, however, and was soon
dropped in favour of Telenor - this was the first sign of the shape of
events to come.
At about this time ex-staff members of Cix proposed to
Telenor that they run the core service of the Cix portfolio, the online
conferencing service, on their behalf - and to do this they formed a new
company, Parkglobe. This coincided with asset stripping within the Norsk
Data group, with Cix and other parts of Telenor
being unloaded to the successful but relatively unknown business
bandwidth provider GX Networks.
In another phase of rapid expansion, GXN then
proceeded to buy Pipex, one of the larger and more widely recognised
of UK ISPs. The Pipex name was far better known in the industry, and so
the parent company was renamed to take advantage of the branding.
The new Pipex then amalgamated its rather
ill-matched assortment of ISP services and began rationalising them. It's
not exactly clear what they actually found desirable about Cix, but it's
quite obvious that the flagship conferencing system was not it -
development languished completely, and this year they actually decided to
withdraw from using conferencing as a support tool. This was a landmark
decision in the history of Cix, and one which caused more than a few
eyebrows to be raised - especially when doing so brutally exposed the many
flaws in the company's email and telephone support services.
So, in only a few short years, the elements of the Cix
service have changed hands three or four times, been re-branded five or
six times, and are now confusingly split between two different companies -
one of whom seems to treat the long-time Cix users as second class
citizens compared to their regular ISP customers. To make matters worse,
the aging and rather under-powered hardware that runs the Cix web and
email systems is starved of maintenance and investment, leading to
frequent glitches and even complete failures.
These changes have left me in an extremely undesirable
position - I'm paying what can only be described as an extortionate
amount for a regular 512Kb ADSL connection,
the most expensive of its class in the UK, and which comes with a
positively miserly 50Mb of web space and an email system that has filled
up it's disks completely, bouncing incoming messages and losing outgoing
ones, over both of the last two weekends.
Obviously it is time (long past time, actually!) for a
change - and to start with I've already moved this web site to my backup
server on Fasthosts, which until now
has been languishing under my other domain, chthon.org.uk. This has
brought noticeably faster performance, and an increase in available web
space from 50Mb to a generous 2Gb. The next step is to transfer my email
address to Parkglobe, formed from the remnants of the old Cix Ltd and
still dedicated to running the Cix
Conferencing service - they provide an email service as well, and
unlike the Pipex offering they do actually seem to be able to send and
receive email messages! Best of all, for various complex legacy reasons, I
can retain my existing email address, and as it is the one I have been
using for the last twelve years that is no small incentive in itself...
To complete my divorce from Pipex I will cancel the DSL
contract as part of the imminent house move, and although I haven't quite
decided who I will replace them with I can be sure of getting a
significantly faster pipe for significantly less money. Given that I'm
changing web host, bandwidth provider and email service all at the same
time, I do expect some disruption - and as I can't think of a way of
avoiding the complete loss of my hard-earned Google indexing, I'll have to
absorb the dreadful blow to my stats that will result. Even so, I think it
will be worth it.
I'm going to be moving house within the next couple of
weeks, now, and so I'll soon be putting this 'blog on hold for a while
until I'm settled in - and hopefully by then everything online will have
settled in just as well. Watch this space for updates...
I was over in Wokingham, yesterday, providing technical
backup while my IT director talked business with a manager of an
organisation who will be providing some support services to my company,
and as usual the techies gravitated to the other end of the conference
table and started talking shop. I found myself opposite their web
designer-cum-network admin, who mentioned that he was having trouble
tracking down the source of some rogue AppleTalk packets that he's noticed
on his local network - in spite of not having any Mac systems installed!
Now, I've run into this myself, as it happens, and the problem often seems
to lead back to obsolete HP JetDirect print servers - annoyingly, one
can't disable unwanted protocol stacks on the very oldest examples, so
unless you replace them completely there are usually dribs and drabs of
all sorts of zombie network protocols floating around even the most
IP-centric LAN: Netware's IPX/SPX, the thoroughly obsolete IBM DLC, and of
course Apple's own sluggish, chatty, curse of the undead.
The discussion was dragging on a bit at the far end of
the table, and after a while we came up with the idea that actually this
is how Apple manages to break into otherwise Microsoft or Novell-based
networks - they bribe hardware appliance manufacturers to enable the
AppleTalk stack by default, and this infuriates the network's sysadmins as
they try to track down the source of the rogue packets. Eventually, driven
completely mad by the torment, they start to think "well if I already
have the AppleTalk protocol running on my LAN, why don't I just buy some
Apple hardware to go with it?" It's the fast lane down from that point
on, of course, and before you know it you have Macs and Xserves and find
yourself wearing brightly-coloured braces and thinking about growing one
of those little pointy beards... It's dangerous stuff, indeed.
So remember, children: AppleTalk - Just Say No!
Spamusement - as the creator himself describes it, "poorly-drawn
cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines." Poorly-drawn they may be,
but they're also rather funny. I especially liked
this one, and
this one, and
Register - earlier this week, just hours before the Queen's Speech
was due to reveal details of Herr Blunkett's new, upgraded War On (Some)
Terror, news emerged of a thwarted 911-style attack on the UK. Details are
so vague as to be non-existent, though, with even the source of the story
apparently a complete mystery - and It's interesting to note that the
timing of the announcement was so implausibly convenient that the source
actually felt compelled to insist that the threat had not been
deliberately exaggerated for political purposes. I have to say that I am
Dan Rutter has been extremely prolific, recently, with
letters column #132
(featuring lighting, vapourware, magnets and a contribution from someone
who seems to lack even the most rudimentary clue) and
smoke, dubious security software and yet more magnets), some christmas
present ideas for geeks, and also a review of the
Barix Exstreamer, a
device designed to deliver music from a network to a hi-fi - it sounds
interesting, but unfortunately turns out to have some serious issues.
And, finally - from the dawn of time to Superbowl
XXXVIII, the complete history
of boobs. Indeed.
I'm re-reading Terry Pratchett's SF novel "Strata",
at the moment, and I've never read, never heard of, and never even
imagined a book that is so hopelessly derivative of another, in this
case the Larry Niven
classic "Ringworld". Don't get me wrong - "Strata" is an enjoyable story,
and as with most of Pratchett's work the punnish humour never strays too
far towards making one cringe... But, oh, boy, it really is "Ringworld" in
different clothes! I would love to have seen the look on Niven's face
when, prompted by what were doubtless rather shrill exclamations
from fandom, he first sat down to read a copy. :-)
The Sideshow is now secure at
its new home on a dedicated server, courtesy of
FastHosts, so here's a big
RAAAAASP! to Free-Online, surely one of the more weasely of UK ISPs -
they've sneakily introduced all sorts of bandwidth caps and download
limits without apparently taking much trouble to let their customers know,
which led to the sudden suspension of the 'blog last
week without any warning whatsoever! I had been planning to move some of
my own services to them after the imminent house move, but there's no way
I'll touch them now, even with an antistatic barge-pole...
The migration of The Sideshow went very smoothly
yesterday, though, and it's business as usual again. Courtesy of the first
posting at the new home, then, a pair of links:
The 213 Things Skippy
is no longer allowed to do in the US Army (which made me stuff my hand
in my mouth to prevent explosive laughter while I was reading it in a
snatched moment at work, today) and
Internet porn - worse than crack cocaine, which made me grit my teeth
to prevent muttering and swearing at the stupidity and bigotry of the
"clinicians" and "researchers" who testified before the Senate Commerce
Committee last week. Grrrrrr....
Nanotech golf balls - exactly how it works is a closely-guarded
industrial secret, of course, but the ball is somehow capable of subtly
re-distributing its weight in flight to provide a degree of course
correction. Remarkable stuff, and just one of a number of recent products
to employ a primitive form of nanotechnology.
Slate, how to steal Wi-Fi - an extremely irresponsible article,
in my opinion, which encourages people to piggyback on unencrypted
wireless connections on the grounds that nobody is really harmed and that,
in any case, if you don't want people using your WLAN you should lock it
up... Given the increasingly stingy bandwidth caps now in use by ISPs and
the relative difficulty of securing an access point if you're not an
expert, though, I think that argument is thoroughly specious. The author
even links to a list of
default passwords for common network hardware, which in this context
is only a few millimetres away from hacking... In the UK, certainly, this
kind of behaviour would be illegal under the computer Misuse Act. To
compensate a touch, therefore, here are
a few basic tips on securing a home wireless network.
And talking of malicious use of computers, in a follow
up to their discussion of
spyware problem, Ars.Technica has reviewed the popular
removal tools - and apparently they were not all created
Also at Ars:
sue and be sued. In the same week that they mounted their own legal
case against a blatant click-through advertising fraud, Google have found
themselves on the opposite end of the legal spectrum following allegations
of copyright infringement from a porn web site. The latter does sound like
rather a tenuous case, though, certainly...
of the VCR? - This story was all over the news yesterday morning as I
was getting ready for work: UK electronics retailer Dixons will be
stopping sales of video recorders before christmas. Out-sold 40:1 by DVD
players, evidently Dixons no longer feel that it's worth devoting their
limited shelf-space to the humble VCR - but that's a marketing decision
and I'm convinced that it's far too soon to announce the death of the
engines may become viable again - almost unknown since petrol and
diesel engines became practical at the start of the 20th century, the
Stirling or "heat
engine" was actually invented around a hundred years earlier. Interest
burgeoned a couple of years ago following Dean 'Segway'
Kamen's application for patents related to the technology, and since then
there has been a significant revival - culminating recently in a
large-scale project funded by the US Department Of Energy. Fascinating!
Since getting my beloved BMW back from having the
crash damage repaired, a few weeks ago, I've
had a couple of minor but nevertheless annoying problems... I wasn't
convinced that they were caused by the work that was carried out, but then
again I wasn't sure that they were coincidental either.
The first was to do with the interior light, which is
supposed to turn on when you open the door, stay on while the door remains
open, then give you another ten seconds or so to provide some light as you
move away from the car before turning off again. Unfortunately in my case
it was firmly in the off mode, although flipping the switch to the
always on setting, or indeed pressing it in a little more firmly in
the regular on-when-open position, showed that there was nothing
basically wrong with either the bulbs or the electrical circuit.
On the whole I find vehicle electrics baffling and
annoying - I cut my teeth on classic Triumph and BSA motorcycles, which
have about three wires for the entire electrical system, and even
imagining the 20 kilometre wiring loom of BMW's E34 525i is enough to
make me break out in a cold sweat. However, it seemed fairly clear that
this particular issue was probably down to worn or bent contacts and I
thought I could probably do something about that - and with this in mind I
ventured out yesterday for the traditional English Sunday afternoon
activity of poking dubiously at a car.
The second problem was a complete failure of the
heating for the rear windscreen and door mirrors, which given the sudden
onset of a London winter has been more than a little problematic over the
last week. My first inclination was a blown or loose fuse, but a quick
check of the fuse box under the bonnet earlier in the week showed that all
was present and correct. Driving along the A13 in rush hour without being
able to see behind you is not to be recommended, though, and I decided to
have another look before the trauma of dealing with a local garage - the
East London area invented cowboy mechanics, I think, so that really
is a last resort.
A quick look around the
however, revealed an interesting fact - the BMW 525 has a second fuse box
under the back seat, together with the battery (I was sure there had to be
a battery somewhere!) and that box also had a fuse for the rear
window heating circuits. A quick bout of fruitless tugging suggested that
I would need further information before removing the seat, though, so I
put that on the back burner and turned my attention to the interior light.
Prising the light fitting out of its socket was
relatively easy, as was prising the switch itself out of its mountings,
and in short order I was gently teasing up one set of spring contacts with
a pair of needle-nose pliers. This seemed to work very well, and a few
minutes later I was testing it out: open door... on... close door...
pause... off again. Perfect! Feeling distinctly smug I turned back to the
online forums, and unearthed a couple of pointers to removing the back
seat. Neither were quite accurate for my particular model, but
reassured by the knowledge that I was on roughly the right lines I put my
back into it (and my side, too, as a twinging muscle is now informing me)
and up it popped.
Sure enough, there was the fuse - and it was quite
obviously blown. The fuse box under the bonnet has slots in the lid for a
handful of spares, and to my delight the only one there was actually just
the right sort. In it slipped and, after another short wrestling match
with the seat base, a few minutes later the screen was showing definite
signs of demisting. By this time you could actually see the smugness
seeping out of my pores, but of course pride goes before a fall and when,
after collecting my tools and tidying everything up, I closed the doors
again and realised that the interior light wasn't actually turning itself
off any more I was distinctly crestfallen.
Given that it was working perfectly ten minutes
earlier, I started to wonder if repairing the electrical circuit for the
rear window heater had somehow affected the circuit for the interior
light. That sounds a little kooky, on first examination, but when you
think that the heated door mirrors are on the same circuit as the window
heater, and that the light is triggered by switches in the doors, and that
one door was removed and replaced to repair the crash damage... Well, I
put two and two together, and formed the theory that a short circuit or
similar in the wiring inside the door had affected both the interior lamp
relay and the heater circuits. I didn't really know if that was actually a
sensible idea, but I intended to ask on the forums and see what emerged -
and if it sounded plausible I intended to be quite firm with the
garage that did the repairs. I'm not especially pleased with the quality
of their work, anyway, as the repaired door doesn't close as smoothly as
it used to and the surface of the door handle has been marked by whatever
they used to mask it out for re-spraying - and this would definitely have
been the last straw.
And then I went out to start the car for the drive to
work, this morning, I realised that I hadn't closed the rear door properly
after putting the seat back in - and that was why the interior light was
staying on. So, everything seems to be working perfectly, and it's odd to
feel such relief and yet simultaneously to feel like such a complete
dingbat. Ah, well - it just goes to show what happens when a techie
wanders outside of his own particular specialty... And at least I can see
out of the rear window again!
So, security group
Secunia says that
it is "perplexed" by the motives of people who are revealing details
of vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer on the web, often complete with
sample exploit code, instead of informing Microsoft through the usual
channels to allow a fix to be released before the weakness is made public.
Well, it's no mystery, really - these are Unix users
(probably Linux evangelists, to be specific!) with an irrational fear and
hatred of Microsoft, and who would rather see Microsoft and its users
discredited and inconvenienced in any way possible no matter what harm is
caused. I suspect they suffer from the delusion that if a user's life is
made miserable by constant virus infections and security leaks, he or she
will eventually give up on Microsoft and switch to Linux en masse.
This is a pipe dream, of course, as we already know what a Windows user
plagued by viruses does - on the whole, nothing at all! The recent article
the state of computing in China clearly shows how tolerant (or
resigned, at least) computer users can be when they don't realise that
there is any alternative to the crashes and poor performance that an
extensive malware infection can cause.
The sad thing is that these people probably imagine
that they're performing some kind of public service, helping to bring down
the "Beast of Redmond" and so save the world for humanity and open source.
In reality, nothing is further from the truth - by helping the hackers and
virus writers to break into home PCs, the usual victims of these kind of
vulnerabilities, they're actually causing real damage to real people. And
that's not just hyperbole - a few days ago someone at my company came to
me for advice, having fallen victim to an online identity theft that had
left her with bills for hardware and services she hadn't ordered, and
threatening phone calls from the hacker in the middle of the night. As
could be imagined, she was extremely upset and anxious, not really
understanding what had happened or how, and not knowing how much worse it
would get. My advice was to contact her ISP and the police immediately, of
course, and fortunately the process of changing her bank account numbers
and passwords, and of refunding the fraudulent credit card deductions, is
now well underway. Aside from having a nasty scare, and all the fuss of
changing her financial details, she'll live to be hacked again another
However, I wish that the people who
released details of the most recent IE flaw direct to the web, and so
were instrumental in the creation of the Bofra worm that followed
only a few days later, could have been there to see her the anxiety on
her face... Would they have had the heart to inform a middle-aged office
worker with no real understanding of computers that the crisis she was
going through was all her own fault for choosing the wrong operating
system, and that she ought to switch to something called Linux instead?
Unfortunately, having talked to altogether too many evangelists in my
time, I strongly suspect that the answer would be yes... Shame on them
On a lighter note...
Bill Gates is the
world's most spammed person, apparently, receiving something like 4
million e-mails a day - but he's also the world's
most respected business leader among chief executives, for the third
time in a row, which may offer some small compensation! The
vast stacks of money
can't hurt, either.
Human PacMan in
Singapore - players wear immersive VR hardware which superimposes the
3D maze and contents on top of the city's streets and architecture, and
their movements are tracked using GPS and inertial location with wireless
links back to the central computer system. Wild stuff, especially as I've
just finished reading "Down and Out
in The Magic Kingdom", a science fiction novel by
EFF luminary and
BoingBoing co-editor Cory Doctorow.
The story's characters are all wired with the just sort of personal
information processing hardware that could be the logical descendent of
that used in the Human PacMan project, and in that respect it's a
thoroughly plausible, believable future. Well worth a read...
robot shows off its moves - ATRON is composed of identical spherical
modules 11cm in diameter; each module is split down the middle and can
rotate one hemisphere using an onboard motor, as well as latching onto
another module using connectors at either end, through which they exchange
both power and data. This enables the robot to change its overall shape to
perform different types of movement, and apparently gives a hitherto
unparalleled degree of flexibility.
And, finally, Penny Arcade on
most of gaming forums.
Well, my PFYs are in the office doing a full network
shutdown so that we can have some electrical work done in the computer
room (we keep bringing in more servers, and they're all hungry for power!)
and I'm revelling in not being there with them. This is the first time
that I haven't been directly involved in something of this scale, and it's
extremely nice to be able to delegate the work in the knowledge that
they'll handle everything just as well as I could.
Meanwhile, some links for the weekend:
Subservient Chicken is one of a new breed of online promotional
gimmicks - created for fast food chain Burger King, it's an interactive
video of a man in a room, wearing a chicken suit (and, for some reason,
what appears to be a suspender belt). One can type commands, and the
"chicken" will attempt, much of the time rather ineffectually, to carry
them out. There's
range of key words that can be entered, but somehow the seedy, scruffy
air of the whole thing left me cold...
Less bizarre and more lascivious, but otherwise along
much the same lines, is the
Bartender from online promoter Beer.Com. Instead of the chicken this
has a scantily clad girlie and her colleagues, and the
repertoire of commands
and the resulting video clips seems to have been assembled with rather
more wit and humour, as well as a distinctly titillating result. We're
going to be seeing a lot of these interactive videos over the next year, I
Elsewhere, from the people who brought you the
Boyfriend's Arm pillow,
comes the new
Girlfriend's Lap pillow. I have nothing to say about either of these,
except that by Western standards Japanese culture is often very, very odd.
I'm signed up for the mailing list from
J-List, a supplier of strange and wonderful Japanese things,
for this very reason, and it usually provides excellent exercise for my
Equally Japanese, but rather less whimsical, the
seminal Classic Airsoft site has a
chronology of the earlier
airsoft replicas. I was surprised to discover that my Youth
Engineering MP5 is newer than I realised, dating from 1998, while my
Sheriff SPAS-12 is considerably older, dating as it does from 1991.
Interestingly, the YE MP5 is back in production, now, in limited runs
hand-made by the original designer - and with a price tag to match!
And talking of militaria,
Russian Combat Gear joins
the growing list of suppliers of, well, Russian combat gear. They have all
the standards, but one thing that caught my eye was an
chronometer. I have the popular
Combro CB-625, which I
can certainly recommend, but this new one has the unusual feature of being
able to record data on rapid fire bursts of up to eighty shots at once,
which would certainly be of interest for checking overall consistency.
Finally, the thought for today:
Lenny: "There's nothing like
revenge for getting back at people"
Carl: "Oh, I don't know...
vengeance is pretty good, too"
- The Simpsons
A colleague pointed out this afternoon that I'd
date-stamped the last few entries as December instead of November, and the
only excuse I can offer is that it has been one of those months.
I'm slightly boggled at how many of the people in my department seem to be
reading these pages, though - evidently the cat is now well and truly out
of the bag...
Meanwhile, Ros sent me a pointer to a story in
Time magazine's "Skeptical Eye" column, bemoaning the
continuing encroachment of religious fundamentalism into education and
public services in America. Aside from the damage being done to the school
curriculum, frequently mentioned in Epicycle passim, it
seems that parks managed by the federal government National Parks Service
are also becoming infected with creationist doctrine. Examples include
Dinosaur Adventure Land near Pensacola, Florida, where visitors are
informed that man coexisted with dinosaurs, and the Grand Canyon national
park where books on sale in the souvenir shop claim that the canyon was
formed 4500 years ago by Noah's flood and bronze plaques bearing bible
verses have been placed at the popular overlooks.
Amazingly, a large-scale organised protest campaign
(involving senior university professors, the American Geological Institute
and related societies, the pressure group Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility, and the Geologic Resources Division of the
Park Service itself) has met with a complete lack of response from the
government. Promised high-level reviews of NPS policy have not occurred
and, indeed, there is strong evidence that the Bush administration itself
is encouraging the spread of creationism within the Parks Service and
directly supporting the so-called "faith-based parks" that are emerging as
The damage that this creationist gibberish is doing
both to the standard of education experienced by American children, and to
the way in which the rest of the civilised world views American culture,
cannot be underestimated.
Elsewhere, in best tradition it seems that
recent rumours of Winamp's demise are greatly exaggerated.
An article on
their news page claims that everything is still very much business as
speculation at Slashdot suggests that maybe the entire story was
manufactured in order to attract attention to the product - and, if so, it
has certainly been a massive success as apparently downloads of the
various Winamp versions are now at record levels. Marvellous...
Blunkett completely clueless on weapons scanners - when asked about
the health risk of zapping all and sundry with radar, x-rays and assorted
other ionising radiation, the Home Secretary responded with the
parliamentary equivalent of a shrug and a "huh?". Given that his
department is actively encouraging use of the scanners at schools and
airports, and on city streets, it would be very nice if he was able to
provide safety data. <bitter laugh> Not that I'd actually
believe anything he said, necessarily, after all the other lies he's told
in the course of his career.
And, finally, as I don't seem to have posted any
pictures of kittens with guns, recently, here's
The Infinite Cat Project in an
attempt to compensate. Not guns, but definitely a surfeit of cats.
A friend of mine writes
a rather successful political
'blog, and to her surprise the entire web site was removed earlier
today by her ISP, UK provider
Free-Online, apparently for exceeding her bandwidth allocation. On the
face of it this seems highly unlikely - her account permits a maximum of
250Mb per day, and as the page is almost completely composed of text it
would take a far higher traffic rate than she usually gets to achieve that
kind of usage. Indeed, her external stats service doesn't show any sudden
increase in visits to the site, and given the left-wing content and the
current political climate, it actually seems most likely that she has been
the victim of some kind of denial of service attack. It wouldn't take long
for a 'bot net making dummy HTTP connections to the virtual server to use
all 250Mb, I'm sure, and those wouldn't show up in the page hit counter -
but if that is the case I would have expected even a vaguely competent
techy to spot it and over-rule the automated bandwidth limits... A DoS
attack against a web site held on a shared server should start alarm bells
However, while reading through her ISP's procedures to
have a blocked site re-instated, I came across something that has annoyed
me more than a little. This is the clause in question, reproduced from
web site FAQ:
I have had my account closed/website removed due to
excessive bandwidth, what do I need to do?
You will need to confirm that you understand why
your website has been removed and agree take action to prevent this
happening in future. You can do this by completing the form below and
copying it into a new Contact Us query. Please replace all information
within '(brackets)' with appropriate information.
++ MESSAGE FOR ABUSE MASTER ++
I, (ENTER YOUR NAME HERE), confirm that I
understand why my site had access removed. I would like to request that
my site is reactivated as soon as possible. I propose to prevent this
action reoccurring by (ACTIONS TO TAKE).
I also understand that if this problem persists,
then Free-Online may restrict my site further, and if necessary, remove
the site permanently.
Once this request has been processed, your webspace
will be reactivated. You can monitor the progress of your request by
checking "Contact Us" at regular intervals.
I have to say that I find their overall tone
patronising and insulting. When I move house imminently I had been
planning to transfer my DSL pipe to PlusNet,
the same ISP's more business-oriented brand, but this has totally changed
my mind. I refuse to deal with any company that expects its customers to
grovel in order to regain a service for which they are paying a not
inconsiderable amount (the Free-Online name is definitely a misnomer,
these days!), especially when exceeding a bandwidth allocation may be
completely outside of the control of the account holder - you can't
restrict who visits your web site, after all, and it only takes a
reference on some widely-read site elsewhere (the infamous "Slashdot
Effect" has overloaded a number of small geek sites) to cause a
massive but temporary bump in traffic. Presumably under those
circumstances, one would have to propose creating less interesting content
in order to placate Free-Online and have the site re-instated?
Well, they've thoroughly alienated me with that
attitude, and as well as voting with my own feet I will be suggesting to
my friend that she considers transferring her weblog to a company that
doesn't treat its customers like naughty school children. It's a buyer's
market for UK service providers, right now, and there's no need to put up
with shoddy service and insulting attitudes.
Microsoft released the long-awaited
Management Feature Pack for their SMS 2003 client management system,
today, and I've spent most of the afternoon wrestling with it. We're about
to start issuing several hundred
handhelds to our sales and service staff, with connectivity via
wireless GPRS to service provider O2 and then a
dedicated leased line right into our network, and so centralised
management, inventory and configuration is absolutely vital.
I have to say that it's far less polished than previous
feature packs and add-ons for SMS, and configuring the infrastructure has
been a real challenge - after several hours intensive head-scratching,
though, I've managed to remotely install the client to a couple of test
PDAs and persuaded it to report back to the central management server. The
next step is to install an application or two, and then to test the fabled
remote control facility. The feature pack shows great promise in spite of
the difficulty of the installation, though, and if it lives up to
expectations it should make the entire PDA project manageable instead of
nightmarish... Watch this space for updates.
Meanwhile, elsewhere... More from Dan at Dan's Data
- this time on the many
shortcomings of surge-protection products.
The Home Secretary has
blamed the philosopher Immanuel Kant for the UK's concerns about
identity cards. Apart from swearing and shrieking at the arrogant
stupidity of the man, I don't know quite what to say about that...
bizarre state of Chinese IT - At The Register, a letter from an
anonymous Westerner lecturing at a Chinese university provides the inside
story. Software piracy is the norm instead of the exception, and "every
virus you can imagine is still alive and well". With 80 million computer
users in the country, a number that is growing all the time, it's an
extremely scary prospect.
The Guardian should know better - part of their new digital
curriculum service for schools covers the topic of multimedia copyright
violation, and among the arguments against it is the statement that DVD
piracy is used to fund organised crime and terrorism. We've heard this
from the RIAA et al, on occasion, but even they seem to have
back-pedalled over such wild allegations, recently. To have The
Guardian apparently distributing green ink propaganda on their behalf
is really too much, but fortunately The Register takes a very close
look at the facts of the issue.
And, finally, a new candidate for the biggest digital
photograph in the world. Beating the previous record holder, a picture of
National Park with dimensions of 40,784 x 26,800 pixels or about 1.09
gigapixels, the new image, of the considerably less photogenic
weighs in at a remarkable 78,797 by 31,565 pixels - about 2.5 gigapixels.
Links! Links! Get 'em while they're fresh!
19" server racks
that look like expensive furniture - and almost have certainly have a
price tag to match. Oh, but they're beautiful, though...
Voting records and
parliamentary activity of British MP's - another invaluable resource
from the people who brought us the "Fax
Your MP" web site.
are getting all snitty about P2P advertising - everything that happens
on P2P network is illegal, they say, so companies shouldn't support them
with advertising revenue.
More letters to Dan - including a long traetise on regenerative
braking, and why although it's a great idea on paper, in practice it's
rarely worth bothering to implement.
Ars.Technica, a new edition of Science.Ars - interesting snippets,
such as the use of plants to clean depleted uranium from the soil of
Unix for Dummies - I'm resisting the temptation to make wisecracks
about the title, as the article is actually extremely informative and
useful. It covers the fundamentals of the Unix operating system itself,
some common shell commands, and the basics of the structure and security
of the filesystem.
a new grid computing project - sponsored by IBM, excess CPU cycles on
home PCs worldwide will be used in various biochemical research projects,
the first of which will be another protein folding simulation. There is no
shortage of competing distributed processing groups, though, and I would
have thought that everybody who wants to participate in something like
this is already doing so... You can only run a single grid client on any
one PC, so unless they launch a massive advertising campaign and poach
users from the other projects, it's hard to see how they will be able to
compete. [Thanks to Ros for the link]
The end of the weekend, and the prospect of the silicon
face again in the morning. <groans>
The end of Winamp? The last members of the original Winamp development
team have resigned from AOL, the software's current owner, leaving the
fate of the program in considerable doubt. It was obvious right from the
start that corporate AOL's acquisition of trendy little Nullsoft would
lead to friction sooner or later, and sure enough the unauthorised
development of the Gnutella peer-to-peer app less than a year later
started to raise blood pressures on both sides. It will be interesting to
see what the ex-Nullsoft programmers turn their hands to next, though.
Firmly in the too much time on their hands
an article at AnandTech investigates the possible applications
of putting Linux on an XBox games console - including running eight of the
things as a Beowolf cluster for distributed processing. Well, it's all
very clever, I grant you, but I can't help but wonder if the whole
Linux-on-an-XBox thing is so popular simply because Microsoft doesn't
actually want people to do it...
And talking of Microsoft, apparently they
forgot to register the trademark for Excel, back in 1985 when the
application was first launched (gosh, was it really that long ago?)
and although the name has been protected semi-officially under common law,
the company only got around to registering it officially earlier this
it seems that the trademarks for certain other major apps, including
Office and Word, still remain unregistered.
I guess the fluffy, cosy, all-for-one-against-Microsoft
era of Open Source is over, though, with major web application firms JBoss
bickering over allegations that one has re-used the other's code
without following the licensing terms. Excuse me while I snigger behind my
Space.Com has the
first of four background articles that lead towards a proposal for an
as-yet undisclosed development of the SETI project. The first one explains
the classic double slit experiment that formed one of the foundations of
quantum physics, revealing as it did that a photon is not the discrete
particle that it had previously appeared to be, but instead a smear of
probabilities propagating through spacetime rather like a wave in water.
It's an excellent little article.
U.S. airborne laser fires test shot - I've been watching the
development of this project since [pauses to think back] the early
eighties, even before Reagan's SDI programme brought it out of the back
rooms of Bell Labs and into the rather dubious, raised-eyebrow gaze of the
assembled geeks... and I remember the original live tests, where even a
specially red painted drone, flying slow and level in perfectly clear
skies, barely got hot under the collar. One has to assume that the current
incarnation, "First Light", will do a little better...
Still on weaponry, if on rather a smaller scale... At
the somewhat controversial
site, a fascinating and informative article on the various firearms used
in the Matrix movies. I'm currently restraining myself from
a pair of HK MP5Ks in a
And, finally - via [H]ard|OCP,
built into a microwave oven. It's a great idea, and looks like a
really nice piece of work, to boot.
I'm feeling very lazy today, so rather than doing all
my chores I've been playing
Warzone 2100 in
preparation for a head-to-head with my IT Director some weekend soon. I'm
already quite confident of my chances at the other game we share an
Generals, as I've played several dozen of games over the last month or
two - but I'm extremely rusty at Warzone and definitely need the practice.
Although at first glance it seems comparable to C&C, in fact the
unprecedented size of the research tree and the flexibility of the
vehicles that can be built from that research makes it a very different
game to play. Ros and I battled it out on a number of occasions a few
years ago, and we were pretty evenly matched - I would usually win in a
blitzkrieg-style conflict over open ground, but her lateral thinking and
innate sneakiness (well, she is a business accountant, after all)
were very hard to overcome when the terrain was twisty and unsuited to a
massed armour attack. I still shudder at a memory from one game of her air
force repeatedly smashing my carefully constructed base to rubble
as fast as I could build it up again.
I haven't played either game head-to-head for a long
time, though, and although I can crush the computer with a fair degree of
regularity at C&C, and expect the same at Warzone once I've found my feet
again, it will be very interesting to see how I fare against my director -
no matter how well written the AI routines are, playing against another
human is a whole different kettle of fish. Watch this space...
Meanwhile, some links:
Everybody - from the 49% of American's who didn't vote to re-elect
Dubya, an apology. It runs to 326 pages as I write this, and even aside
from the genuine sorrow expressed by the majority of the contributors, the
sheer bulk alone is quite touching. Well, well...
Bush a Brain game rewards you when you manage to drop a pulsing
green brain into Dubya's empty head by playing an assortment of his more
notable sound bites - "Too many good docs are getting out of the
business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women
all across this country."
At the sporadic but decidedly worthwhile Anne's Data,
how to snag yourself a nice nerdy boy. Well, it certainly worked for
her - boyfriend Dan is definitely
one of the finest nerds I've come across!
the current DNRC Newsletter, now available on the web:
House. It seems that Scott Adams has finally succumbed to the
temptation to spend a whole bunch of money on something really silly.
Well, more power to him, I say!
And, talking of Dilbert - here's
trivia page courtesy of the aptly named
Trivia Asylum. It hasn't helped
me acquire a JPEG of the second Mordac password policy cartoon, though,
unfortunately, although at least it provided a date for the sequence,
which started on the 6th April 1998. The first strip can be found on the
front page at the useful and highly informative
Center For Password Sanity, by
Oh, now this is marvellous -
Zoomquilt is a collaborative art project, and an extremely impressive
one at that. It's a huge picture, perhaps rather reminiscent of Escher and
Dali in overall style, that can be zoomed both into and out of in an
endless loop. The project's home page, with various offline
implementations, is here.
And, finally, what happens when one's
get out of hand. Fun...
I saw this pretty little doodle in a sig on Microsoft's
HIS support newsgroup, today. It's nice to see that, even in the
of the fruitbat, ASCII art is still alive and well:
history of the Hello Kitty vibrator - originally intended as an
innocent "shoulder massager", it was withdrawn from the market by the
outraged holder of the popular (in Japan, at least) Hello Kitty
license after it was thoroughly corrupted by the Japanese porn industry.
And talking of corruption... A new
sex advice show on the UK's Channel 4 features volunteer couples
making love on camera while the presenters advise on their performance. It
would be a neat idea if the UK's tough censorship laws didn't guarantee
that it will be sanitised to the point of sterility...
Elsewhere, in the wake of Janet Jackson's carefully
nipple slip at the Superbowl, McSweeney's offers their
Broadcasting Standards Concerning Upper-Torso Nudity. To avoid immense
FCC fines, follow their simple rules...
And, on the subject of immense fines,
a bear of very little brain has been arrested for trying to sell the
stolen Microsoft source code from his website. He was only asking for
$20 per copy, paid via the comprehensively monitored and audited PayPal
service - an amount which pales into insignificance in comparison to the
fine of up to $250,000 he is now facing, along with up to 10 years in
Immense fines may also be helping to discourage spam
emailers, too -
figures from Symantec suggest that the amount of spam is starting to
level-out for the first time, and it's safe to assume that the
recent highly successful lawsuits are mostly responsible for this.
It's also safe to assume that the spammers are merely pausing to regroup,
though, while moving their operations to less helpful and accountable ISPs
in China and South America.
As has been reported recently, the MPAA is about to
launch a RIAA-like series of lawsuits against people sharing movies
The Register reminds us that the parallels between the two
organisations, and the media they are trying to assert their control over,
are not nearly as clear as it might initially seem.
Inspired by the highly successful Ansari X prize
competition, the rules for a new $50 million award known as "America's
Space Prize" have been announced. Sponsored by Bigelow Aerospace, the
winners will have to launch a reusable craft capable of carrying five crew
members, and perform two orbits at a height of 400 kilometres. It's a
tough challenge, but definitely an exciting one as well...
customers - US retail chain Best Buy joins the growing number of
companies that have decided they can do without a certain subset of their
customers. It's a disturbing trend, I think.
Arch spammer bailed for $1 million - one of the top ten spammers in
the world, Jeremy Jaynes dealt in such high volumes that he allegedly sent
7.5 million spam messages on July 16 2004 alone!
MS shareholders approve plans for massive payout - the $3 per share
dividend will cost around $32 billion, around half of the company's
current cash reserves. Oh, and one of those votes was mine.
Novell's serial litigation strategy - I've said it before, and I'll
say it again: if you can't compete in the market by selling products or
services, it is not good form to keep your company afloat by suing
optical disc made of corn? - Yes, you heard me, corn. Weird science
indeed, courtesy of Pioneer...
Vibrating hard disks - the article itself is rather more trivial than
I would expect for a technical subject like this, but the central idea is
The case that
must not be named - not a new modding project, but rather nice piece
of work anyway... Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's "Cthulhu" mythos, it
comes complete with eyes and runes and twisty bits.
overclocking at BBspot - a 5.4% performance increase using only
simply, readily available ingredients? It has to be worth a try, but I'm
worried about all that blood in the server room...
somewhere to put your CDs - a review at Tom's Hardware of a neat
little rack gadget, the DiscHub. I've seen a whole bunch of these, over
the years, but this looks like one of the better ones.
I'm feeling clever, today, as together with one of my
PFYs I managed to fix a funny little routing problem that has been bugging
us for a few months. Without going into obsessive detail, some data
requests leaving our local network were taking a slightly different route
than that taken by the replies coming back in, which rather upset the
firewall. We put our heads together, though, and with 50% logic and 50%
inspired guesswork we managed to fix the problem neatly and elegantly.
Colour me smug...
documents, courtesy of old-school techie Bob Baumann - PDF versions of
some common RFCs, the classic Protocol Decodes poster in handy economy
size, and the infamous IEEE documents on the evils of wireless networking.
His whole site is a fascinating
and eclectic mixture, actually - well worth a browse around.
Another intelligent fan controller - like the mCubed T
Balancer (where did they get that name?) I mentioned a
few days ago, The
Zephyrus from VL
Systems is a USB-based device, but only has support for approximately
five fans. I say approximately, because
apparently one of
the main problems with the device is that the documentation is
appalling and the control software eccentric and obscure.
fined in eBay auction scam - this is an odd one... It's not clear from
the story whether they've been fined by eBay or by the courts, and
although bidding up the price on your own auctions is obviously against
eBay rules, nobody forced the "victims" to pay over the odds on the
auctions in question - I can't see why, when the price passed a realistic
level, they didn't just stop bidding! Peculiar, indeed...
Web site for complaints sparks lawsuit - customers of a spray-on
siding company in Georgia were unhappy with the service they had received,
and created a web site to air their complaints. However, this has lead to
a lawsuit from the company in question, who are claiming trademark
infringement and defamation. This is something close to my heart, given
my own griping pages, and it will
be interesting to see how it turns out.
Palm ponders turning coat - veteran PDA manufacturer PalmOne is
actually contemplating abandoning PalmSource (the software division that
split off from the main company last year) and using an alternative
operating system, either from Microsoft or something Linux-based. Boy,
that would be a kick in the teeth!
'See through clothes' scanner gets outing at Heathrow - hot on
the heels of spectacularly unsuccessful
deployment of a mobile weapons scanner by the London police, comes
news that London's Heathrow airport is about to deploy their own system.
The technology itself is impressive, I have to admit, but the handguns so
spectacularly detected in all the articles would have shown up just as
well in conventional metal detectors, without the massive cost to the
consumer and the highly dubious policy of bathing airline passengers in
assorted X-rays and radar frequencies.
And finally, it was announced a few days ago that the
two flights of the wonderfully successful
SpaceShipOne private spacecraft have officially met the
requirements for winning the Ansari X Prize, and the designer, Burt Rutan,
presented with a cheque for $10 million - along with a trophy weighing
a staggering (literally!) 150 pounds. This is a real milestone in the
revitalised space race, I think, and I'm looking forward to seeing what
the now annual X Prize Cup competitions will produce in future. I'm
celebrating, tonight, by wearing my
a new batch of letters
at Dan's Data, this time covering such diverse subjects as the
scarcity of big-screen CRT monitors, a bozo who seems to think that Bill
Gates has banned parallel port card readers, and a thorough bashing for
homeopathy - the latter with a fascinating (if bizarre) link to a guide to
homeopathic remedies specifically for left-wing political protestors...
And, on the subject of loons - the
school board of Granstburg, Wisconsin, has taken a giant leap back
into the dark ages by revising their science curriculum to mandate the
teaching of creationism as well as evolution. I can't even begin to
express my contempt for the people who made that decision.
Elsewhere - a utility that allows you to use Google's
GMail facility as a
file storage system, the accurately named
Ultimate Boot CD, the third
part of the
Rojak Pot virtual memory guide, and
a lawsuit against Microsoft over defective Xbox disk drives.
Also, a new animated movie from CG maestros Pixar,
Incredibles, portrays a family of superheroes who must come out of
seclusion (necessitated after a barrage of lawsuits!) to fight the
traditional evil nemesis. Definitely
one to watch out for, by the look of it.
Meanwhile, here's the result of my labours on Saturday.
It's not as neat as it will be in another few days, as a shortage of long
patch leads necessitated the bundle running vertically down the middle
(and a generous handful of ad-hoc revisions by my colleagues on Sunday
hasn't helped, either) but it's not bad for the first draft. I really love
the orderly layout and the pretty colours - but I'll have to do another
four of these over the next six months and I expect the appeal will have
faded a touch by then.
|Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
"Aedh Wishes For The
Cloths Of Heaven" - William Butler Yeats, 1899
I'd be expressing considerable relief over the end of
the week, having survived my first week back after sick leave, except that
I have to go into work again tomorrow to help with a department move. My
employer is refurbishing the entire office building, one floor at a time,
so the next six months or so are going to be punctuated by frantic
weekends moving and rewiring hundreds of PCs at a time. It's an annoying
job, for sure, but hopefully the end results will be worth it for all
Meanwhile, some links...
F-16 strafes New Jersey school - for reasons that are currently
unknown, a small intermediate school has been attacked by the US Air
Force. The school was empty apart from the caretaker, who was unhurt, and
it seems likely that the plane had drifted off course from the nearby
Music industry scorns downloads - veteran artist Robert Fripp was told
that digital downloads "were not important", and that he shouldn't concern
himself with the 6 cents per download royalty. EMI themselves receive
69 cents per download, though, and they don't seem to find that so
fink payment to £20K - The Business Software Alliance, responsible for
enforcement of software licensing in the UK, has increased the bounty
payable to an employee who informs on his company for using pirated
Hot on the heels of
Apple's shenanigans concerning iTunes and 3rd party software
utilities, comes news of
more dubious business practice. Any Apple products on their online
store are automatically given the maximum rating of five, whereas
competing products have a genuine customer-created rating and so have to
stand on their own merits!
Wired on the
loss of the ability to hold recounts after electronically tallied
elections - although I'm annoyed that they are presenting this as news,
when the left-wing 'bloggers have been bemoaning the situation for several
35% of the net's bandwidth? - I'm dubious about this, I have to admit,
as uptake of the utility doesn't seem particularly widespread in my neck
of the woods, and my own experiences don't seem to suggest that it's a
particularly efficient system, anyway.
over "international transactions handled over a computer" patent -
some no-name little company, possibly even created for this very purpose,
is suing Dell over something that on the face if it seems to be a
thoroughly frivolous claim. Eolas Mk 2, anyone?
Auto ported to the original NES console - this is one of those
things that really is very clever, but one has to wonder whether it was
actually worth doing in the first place. It sounds rather like a case of
having too many hands and too much time on them, to me...
Just a few quick links, tonight - it's been one of
those days... One of those weeks...
Apple's iPod shenanigans -
forced upgrades to iTunes software to prevent use of 3rd party
issues legal threats over a particular download utility.
CRT displays not
obsolete yet... New technology from Samsung will enable a 32"
television or monitor with a depth of only 13", around half that of
The MPAA have been inspired by RIAA's strategy of
frequent and voluminous lawsuits, and have decided
off a piece of that action for themselves.
Tabbed browsers contribute towards a massive rise in phishing scams -
so far 1.8 million web users have fallen for some kind of online scam, and
there's no sign of the situation improving.
Finally, this week marks the 16th anniversary of rtm's
worm - around midnight on November 2nd, 1988, an experiment conceived as
part of a research project got badly out of hand, infecting and
overloading many thousands of Unix-based systems around the world. As the
original worm author, Morris is pretty much the only person who could ever
reasonably use the "I didn't know that was going to happen"
defence... Everyone else since him should have known better - and probably
Oh, America, what have you done?
When Bush stole the election in 2000, I was shocked - I
hadn't realised that such blatant fraud could actually happen in a
civilised western country, and the sense of moral outrage that it
happened, and that the American people let it happen, is still with
me four years later.
This time, though, I'm just saddened. To realise that
what should be one of the world's great countries, one of the leaders of
civilisation, has allowed itself to be hoodwinked by an unprincipled crook
like Bush; that in spite of all the lies, and the bloody, unnecessary war,
the failed economic policy, the sleaze and corruption in Iraq, the bigotry
and intolerance at home... In spite of all that, around half of you voted
for him anyway.
And I'm disappointed that Kerry gave up so easily, too.
No, more than disappointed - I actually feel betrayed... And
if I do, two thousand miles away in a different country, then
surely the Democrats of Ohio, waiting anxiously to see if their votes
would be enough to tip the balance, must feel that in spades! Having said
only a few hours earlier that every vote would be counted, to cave like
that with a key state still undeclared, with issues over
with questions over
faulty voting machines - I just don't understand why he felt the need
to act so hastily. Even if the final outcome was in no real doubt, it was
the perfect time to challenge the disputed results, to investigate the
fraud, while the eye of the media was still focussed on the election.
It's too late now, I fear, and some of these issues may never get the
attention they deserve - which will set an extremely dangerous precedent
for all future elections.
I also worry for the UK election, next year - with
America voting its approval for the war in Iraq, this can't help but act
as an endorsement of Tony Blair's own stance on the conflict - and as this
is one of his major weak points, I am concerned that today's events will
help to shore up the gaps in his armour.
It really is a sad day for the whole world.
I mentioned last month
that after I installed Windows XP Service Pack 2, my BackupExec system
developed the bad habit of hanging at the start of backups. I logged this
with Veritas using their
utility, but for some unknown reason my call languished there without
receiving even a case ID. After several weeks and several frustrated
queries, I gave in and logged it again using the more conventional
web-based form, and this time it evidently attracted someone's attention.
As I had feared, their initial advice was alarmingly generic - evidently
the mention of XP SP2 triggered the standard response, as they suggested
disabling the firewall and trying again. Pointing out that the firewall
was already disabled, and that a problem involving a single isolated PC
was not typical of a firewall-related issue provoked the next
rubber-stamp response, so I spent half an hour earlier this evening
painstakingly collecting and organising a huge variety of log files,
diagnostic dumps, system, information etc - especially frustrating, as the
DirectAssist tool I tried initially was supposed to have done all
that for me! I hope that they come back with something worthwhile after
all this fuss...
Incidentally, Veritas seems to have released a flurry
of Hotfixes in the last couple of weeks, one of which,
Hotfix 30, purports
to be a cure for the annoying problem introduced by
Hotfix 19 where IDE
tape drives in a hybrid IDE/SCSI system like
mine go offline spontaneously. The logs display
ID: 58053 - Backup Exec cannot use this tape device because it has
detected a mismatched tape device serial number", and
the drive is permanently unusable. It will be interesting to see if the
new hotfix helps with this - and, indeed, whether it breaks anything else
while it's at it! <mutters>
Ah-ha - new, interesting technology at last! PC fan
controllers seem to have been in the doldrums over the last few years, as
although the number on the market has grown considerably, with large
variety in the degree of cosmetic snazzyness or otherwise, they're all
technically very bland, nondescript devices. The "mCubed T Balancer
SL4" seems like a breath of fresh air, though, apart from the somewhat
overblown name. I
at my favourite UK modding shop Kustom PCs, and jumped from there to a
at MadShrimps. A USB device that comes in two flavours, it uses a
combination of digital PWM and conventional analogue voltage regulation to
allow precise software control without losing the ability to read the
fan's rotation speed. With support for up to eight thermal probes, this is
the best thing I've seen since the venerable
that graces my current PC case.
Finally - what does
Linux distribution you use say about your character? Reading it in
reverse, I suppose that if I used Linux at all, I would probably be a
The last week has provided a powerful reminder of why I
was so glad when, around a decade ago, my career started moving me away
from the intensely customer-facing 1st and 2nd line telephone-based
technical support and into the safe seclusion of the computer room
instead. In the last few days alone, however, I've been asked to help
repair a problematic Windows 2000 installation and then upgrade it to
Windows XP, export application configuration data from the registry of one
OS to the other, install a tape drive and a wireless modem, configure AOL,
rescue a stalled Exchange email server, setup a DVD and VCR to work
together (just for a change from computers), and probably some other stuff
that I have already repressed the memory of... All this was done purely
over the telephone, with non-technical users at the far end, and I'd
forgotten how very tiring that could be when done in any quantity. I
certainly couldn't do it all day, for a living, now - and for that matter
I can't quite remember how I used to manage back then!
Meanwhile, in case you've been lying awake at night
wondering what kind of cheese you are, the
Online Cheese Comparator
is here to save the day. I am boursin or mozzarella, it seems - which just
goes to show how very arbitrary these little applets are... Thanks
to Ros (who, surprisingly, is also boursin or mozzarella, I gather)
for the link.
Better late than never,
of links at Slashdot showcase the current state of the art in pumpkin
carving. Needless to say, most of these are not whittled away with a
kitchen knife, but are the result of carefully designed patterns and the
use of that classic geek tool,
a link at Arnie's Airsoft, a pair of replicas of Deckard's
blaster from the movie Blade Runner. One, from movie prop
Monsters In Motion, is a functional plastic model kit, but the
other (once it has actually been released!) will apparently be
a working airsoft replica.
More letters at Dan's Data, and an excellent article on the use of
computers in space flight.
Dan has obviously done his homework, as usual, and it's a fascinating
read. It does remind me of something, though:
You see, I come from a time in the
nineteen-hundred-and-seventies when computers were used for two things -
to either go to the moon, or play Pong... nothing in between. Y'see, you
didn't need a fancy operating system to play Pong, and the men who went
to the moon - God Bless 'em - did it with no mouse, a plain text-only
black-and-white screen, and 32 kilobytes of RAM.
Three Dead Trolls In A Baggie, "Every OS Sucks"
And talking of spaceflight... NASA are
planning to resume shuttle flights in May 2005, in spite of the fact
that there is
significant work still to be done - not all of which actually has a
clear solution at this stage. They've also
retired the second and last "Vomit Comet", the aircraft used for
simulating weightless conditions for astronaut training and low gravity
experiments. A commercial variant of the Boeing 707 airliner, two of the
KC-135 aircraft have been in service since 1959 as
work-horses, as well as in their more infamous role.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency is considering a
classic science fiction idea,
researching how mammals
hibernate with a view to devising a technology to use on astronauts on
a future manned Mars mission. It's thought-provoking stuff, certainly...
Another good month in the stats, even if without the
meteoric rise that September brought. It looks as if I passed the 60,000
mark sometime in the last week or so, as well, although at my current rate
of around 5000 visits per month it's going to be halfway through next year
before I reach the next real milestone of 100,000.
Still, it looks as if the
kitten is safe for another month, at least. You should probably consider
voting with the button below, though - evidently my recent lack of threats
concerning ice weasels have lulled you into inactivity, as I've fallen from
my traditional place in the back-end of the twenties to the doldrums of
number 31. Shocking...