As usual when I've had a few days away from the office,
my first day back at the silicon face was a crazed whirl as I tried to
catch up. Work really is crushingly busy at the moment, and
unfortunately with a complete refurbishment of the computer room due next
month and an upcoming SAP/Siebel implementation starting shortly
afterwards, it's likely to become worse rather than better as the year
While I still have the time and energy, then, a few
in spaaaaace! - the wonderfully-named Estes Simian Space Transport
Rocket Kit contains a special chamber that allows you to shoot
innocent "sea monkeys" up into the blue yonder. Bizarre...
Cory Doctorow on Grokster - everybody and their dog has already had
their say on the Supreme Court ruling, but Cory's viewpoint is often more
insightful than that of the other
FTC restrains “anti-spyware” company - claims that PCs were infected
with malware were false, and in any case the viciously marketed software
was incapable of removing some malware that did exist!
The poor man's RAID array - a recipe for building a SCSI array from a
surplus rack mount chassis and a batch of second-hand drives sourced from
eBay. Definitely a geek after my own heart. :-)
your Mac - get ready for the year 10,000 by adding a fifth digit to
the date field... It's best to be on the safe side, in case your
fluorescent orange iMac remains sufficiently fashionable!
Reminiscing isn't what it used to be - scans of the Ladybird "How
It Works" book on computers, with the original 1971 and the revised
1979 edition side by side to for comparison. Marvellous stuff.
Paper-based encryption - at Boing Boing, a link to a papercraft Enigma
machine kit, and a reference to the largely unknown Polish mathematicians
who did much of the early decryption work.
No sense of proportion - Pennsylvania high school students who
bypassed the web censoring filters on school-owned laptops are being
charged with a federal offence for doing so. Sad times...
Raising the dead - Novell (anyone remember them?) is releasing a new
version of the venerable Groupwise email and collaboration server, now
hosted on SuSE Linux rather than Netware itself.
I'm intending to take the day off from computer
hardware, today, so unless my PC actually catches fire I don't
intend to open the case at all - and, for that matter, even if it does
catch fire I expect the water cooling to take care of it! It's extremely
hard to stay away from computers completely, though, so here are a few
random snippets of news:
Hilary Rosen spinning like a top - the former CEO of the RIAA seems to
have abandoned what was a rigid party line since leaving the organisation,
and in this comment on the recent
Grokster decision she even admits that Napster was "a great service",
and that all the additional legislation she insisted on hasn't actually
lead to greater control of the downloadable music industry. Bizarre... [More
The art of
science - the entries in a contest held at Princeton University to
find visually appealing imagery produced in the course of research are
online, and many of them are extremely striking. Evidently science is in
the eye of the beholder, though, as the first prize winner (a tiny plasma
cloud floating above a charged electrode) is not actually that notable in
comparison to some of the others.
Tube disruptions highlighted graphically - this frustrated London
traveller captured the online disruption maps appearing at the LUL
website, and cleverly animated them in a way that clearly illustrate how
bad the service really is. His figures show that the network is free from
problems only 22% of the time, which needless to say is not quite what the
gaming" gallery - all the loos depicted in computer games, collected
for your edification and delight... It just goes to prove (as if it
needed further proof!) the old adage that some people have far too
much time on their hands - but given that they evidently do, I suppose
it's preferable that they use it on projects like this rather than on
poking their nose into other peoples' business...
Disassociated body parts - from the culture that
brought you the girlfriend's lap and the boyfriend's arm pillows,
mentioned in Epicycle passim,
comes a new pair of cushions allegedly modelled on the
lap of tennis
star Maria Sharapova. I am curious to know how Maria, or for that matter
her high-powered corporate sponsors, feel about her anatomy being co-opted
in this way. :-)
Play windows games on Linspire - the Cedega system allows a growing
list of current games to be played on the Linspire distribution, and if it
works as well as is claimed that's an impressive achievement - but every
time the subject of Linux gaming (or application software in general, for
that matter!) comes up, the fanboys fall over themselves to insist that
there are plenty of native offerings... which begs the question of why
everyone is working so very hard to create emulators, middleware layers,
binary interfaces etc etc so that Linux users can run Windows software
This disk will
self-destruct - Ensconce Data Technology brings a new approach to data
security in the shape of their “Dead on Demand” hard drive. Any attempt to
remove or tamper with the drive, a change in the pre-set location as
detected by built-in GPS, a manual telephone call, or even a change in
temperature will trigger the release a chemical mist into the drive that
completely destroys the magnetic surface and so erases the data held on
it. The potential for honest mistakes or malicious damage from a
disaffected employee is marvellous.
And finally, Penny Arcade on
overdoing things for summer.
I spent a while fiddling with the new PC case today, of
course, hooking up another pair of blue lights and fixing the floppy drive
- it needed to be slid backwards slightly in the aluminium bezel's
mounting frame to give clearance for the button to come all the way out
when a disk was inserted. It still doesn't actually work, though,
so either I've done something butt-headed like connecting the cable
upside-down again or it's chosen an annoying moment to die... Either seems
equally likely, but I've spent enough time inside that case for the moment
and further investigation can wait until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, some random news links...
thin end of the wedge -
Microsoft is "encouraging" use of their Sender ID system by flagging any
unsigned mail that reaches Hotmail as spam. This is not going to be
Opera vs Firefox - the war of words escalates, with the CEO of the
former claiming that the usage stats of the latter are inflated, and
this his own product's figures are widely under-reported.
And talking of Firefox, an article in the
Real World Computing
section of the current PC Pro magazine suggests that it has a
fairly ferocious memory handling problem - opening twenty-something tabs
used twice as much memory as all the other mainstream browsers, and the
peak usage didn't fall until every one of the tabs had been closed again!
Not very elegant programming, by the sound of it...
house that Bob built - courtesy of The Heinlein Society, a
photo tour round Bonny Doon, the house where Robert and Ginny Heinlein
lived from 1967 until shortly before his death in 1988.
Identified flying objects - at the aptly-named Strange Military
site, some photos of unusual space hardware in the "Misc" gallery, mixed
in with everything else. Beware the annoying popups, though...
to be prepared - casting your own silver bullets is in danger of
becoming a lost art, and with the every-present threat of werewolf attack
it's just as well that Real tech News is here to help out.
[Aside: The author seems to be under the misconception that hand-loading
of more conventional ammunition is a dying art as well, which is certainly
not the case.]
from the past - thanks to the highly worthy Internet Archive,
preserved video of the classic Computer Bowl quiz challenges from the
golden age of computing. Bill Gates vs. Mitch Kapor. :-)
ID card costs
could soar - a report from the London School Of Economics suggests
that the cost of implementing the card could be as much as 19 billion
pounds, triple the official estimate.
Two more contestants in the ongoing pointless IT
innovations stakes are the
and the USB
lava lamp, the latter joining a growing array of thoroughly silly
things to connect to a USB port.
And talking of pointless technology, gadget 'blog
Gizmodo has a quick review of the pseudo-science
e-Meters beloved of Ron Hubbard's Scientologists. I'd really like to
see Dan Rutter take a look at these
- they're basically just a Wheatstone bridge resistance meter, and I'm
sure he'd have something to say about the wisdom of shelling out up to
$4500 for the top-of-the-range Quantum Super VII...
Well, that went exceedingly smoothly! Apart from much
pondering and head-scratching over the water cooling and (as always) the
difficulty of neatly routing the dozens of cables that such a complex
system contains, there were very few real problems. The first
difficulty emerged when I discovered that rather than the
Xeon/Prestonia-type brackets needed to mount the Koolance water blocks
onto the CPUs, the usually reliable
Tekheads had actually sent two
of the Xeon/Nocona style brackets instead. They are very similar,
so I can see how the mistake was made, but the differences become
extremely clear when one tries to attach them to a Prestonia
motherboard... In the end I re-used the existing brackets from my previous
heat sinks, and thankfully they all seem to be pretty much a standard
As far as mistakes during the build, for such a long
project I made remarkably few - I managed to connect the floppy drive
cable upside-down, which is one of the classic errors, and also
misconnected the power switch cable to the motherboard jumper at the start
of the first live test, puzzling me somewhat when the system stubbornly
refused to turn on. Both were easily rectified once I noticed, and given
the fact that I spent around eighteen hours working on it this weekend I
think I got off very lightly! The only outstanding problem is that the
aforementioned floppy drive seems to have taken a dislike to the rather
elegant aluminium bezel that ships with the case, and will need adjusting
the next time I open the system up again - which is likely to be fairly
soon, as I need to tidy the cables a little more and then mount a bunch of
those the little 4" cathode tubes to make the case even
more blue than it is already. :-)
The cooling system seems to be working extremely well.
The CPU temperatures are holding at between 40°
and 45° under regular load, and at that
temperature the Koolance subsystem is so quiet that I can hear my hard
disks for the first time ever - and so quiet that I've realised that my new
PCP&C power supply is actually quite noisy! I
may have to do something about that, as it's by far the loudest component
in the entire system. The two 120mm fans on the radiator Koolance vary
between 720 and 2400 rpm in ten stages, and on the second or third level
they're operating at as I write this they're completely silent. I can't
monitor the Radeon GPU temperature directly, but I'll run a long artefact
test later and that will highlight any issues.
In the event, installing the water cooling hardware was
actually quite straight-forward. Mounting the cooling blocks was no harder
than installing any other kind of heatsink, and considerably easier
than squeezing the damn retention clips onto the
Akasa units of the previous
air cooling solution - or getting them off again this time, for that
matter! Installing the tubing onto the blocks was a touch fiddly, but
softening the last half centimetre by dipping it in boiling water for a
few seconds really helped there. It took a while to flush all the air out
of the system, but lying the chassis onto its side and back again as the
work progressed seemed to help fill the disk coolers, apparently the most
prone to trapped air, and given the length and relative complexity of the
loop (two CPU coolers, the GPU, and four disk coolers) it was actually
considerably better than I was expecting. I certainly didn't have any of
the persistent problems with trapped air mentioned by one reviewer of the
similarly designed Exos-2 system.
I'm not particular fond of the half-sized side panel
that ships with the Lian-Li chassis, and I'm currently talking with
Kustom PCs about full-panel
windows for both sides in either Perspex or a fine aluminium mesh. For the
moment, though, I'm extremely pleased with both the cosmetics and the
functionality of the setup, and after I've tidied up the mess of tools,
unused components, and remnants of the old system I'm going to spend the
evening admiring it from the settee. It was a tiring couple of days!
I'm taking Infinity3
offline tomorrow morning to transplant its internals into the new Koolance
case, and although I have FrontPage on the laptop I don't know yet whether
I'll have the inclination to post updates on progress as I go along, or
whether I'll just take a bunch of photos and write it all up at the end.
The only question left to answer is the name of the new system,
which I keep forgetting to think about. Mike has suggested a couple of
suitable geeky options, ∑Infinity
and √Infinity, which are certainly both
possibilities - but if anyone else has a bright idea,
In the meantime, I shall leave you with a picture of
about ten yards of assorted cables and coolant tubes unkinking ready to be
installed. Normal service, as the old saying has it, will be resumed as
soon as possible. Wish me luck!
I've just spent an hour dialled into the office
upgrading our main email server from Exchange Standard to
Enterprise Edition, and it was certainly a smooth enough procedure -
which was exactly as it should be considering that the difference between
the two versions is a registry key or two and some buffer settings, being
as it is a purely marketing-based product separation rather than anything
technical. The end result, however, is impressive - rather than a pair of
16Gb databases per server (one for private mailboxes, one for public
folders), Enterprise Edition can support four separate storage groups,
each of which can contain five databases of effectively unlimited capacity
- up to a total of 8 terabytes, which I think is beyond the ability even
of my users, who apparently don't know the meaning of the word
"delete", to fill up in anything less than a few decades. Cool!
Meanwhile, the usual midweek links...
rides again - the carrier plane used to launch Scaled Composites'
SpaceShipOne towards orbit has been re-used in a captive-carry test of the
new Boeing X-37 ALTV, one year after the prize winning flight. The Mohave
Airport Weblog that hosts those photos is a fascinating site, by the way,
if you're interested in unusual aviation.
Hope expires for solar sail - The Planetary Society, the
Pasadena-based privately-funded space research group that launched the
Cosmos 1 spacecraft from
a Russian submarine earlier this week, has admitted that it is
unlikely that the project can be salvaged at this stage. The rocket engine
seems to have failed at a fairly critical point in the ascent, leaving it
in an unstable suborbital trajectory.
Eddies in the space-time continuum
(again) - for the first time, density fluctuations have been observed
in the background flux of neutrinos, some of which were formed in the
first few seconds after the big bang. The ripples are the final nail in
the coffin for various discredited theories of neutrino interaction, and
add even more support to the classical Big Bang theory.
Future of DVD
mired in confusion - talks between Sony, backer of the Blu-ray
standard, and Toshiba, a leading supporter of HD-DVD, have ended in
stalemate. Estimated capacities range from the 45Gb of HD-DVD, to 50Gb
from double-layer Blu-ray disks with 100Gb in the lab and 200Gb promised
next year. As usual, though, the final decision is more likely to be
political than technical...
Lies, damn lies, and the MPAA - at Boing Boing, some official
figures on illicit music downloads and DVD piracy are weighed in the
balance and found wanting - and it is becoming increasingly clear that the
RIAA, MPAA et al are resorting to desperate tactics in order to
perpetuate the claim that draconian laws are required to persecute anyone
who doesn't conform to their world view.
Microsoft vs. Sony in a the cool war - when Sony opened a showroom in
Paris to publicise the PSP console, Microsoft paid the laundry across the
road to display giant advertising posters for the forthcoming Xbox 360 in
their windows... But after only one day, it seems that Sony paid the
laundry owner even more money to take the posters down again.
Inside Applied Minds - at Wired, a fascinating interview with
Danny Hillis from technology think tank Applied Minds, complete with a
tour round the offices. I'm seeing a surprising amount of Hillis in the
media, recently, which makes me think that he's probably up to
something - but I really wouldn't have recognised him with that beard
and the extra pounds... I guess it comes to us all eventually.
Dumpster-diving rescues classic game - hardcore fans of Castle
Infinity, one of the original graphical online multiplayer games, have
salvaged the server hardware from a skip almost eight years after the game
was taken offline. Their web site is dying under the attention from
Slashdot readers, right now, but as soon as the first wave of interest
passes the client software can be downloaded for free.
Open letter to
Kansas School Board - it seems that the universe was created by a
Flying Spaghetti Monster whose doctrine must only be spread by those
wearing full pirate regalia, a claim I find easily as plausible as the
"Intelligent Design" claptrap currently in vogue among creationists trying
to wrap their bigotry and ignorance in a pseudo-scientific disguise.
a severed thumbdrive
- I was unlucky enough to own the original Trek ThumbDrive, before the
term became as generic as "hoover", and suffered through several years of
appalling drivers and horrendous compatibility problems before finally
abandoning it in favour of a freebie from the MS Office 2003 launch - but
it looked nothing at all like this grisly article, which in fact is
probably a little too realistic for those of a squeamish
disposition. You have been warned...
I do not approve of having excess material in the path
of the airstream from a fan, even when it's as skinny as this mounting
frame at the front of the Lian-Li chassis - but that's why Dremels were
invented, after all... I've been taking care of a few minor but
time-consuming oddments, this week, so that when I come to transplant the
internals at the weekend I'll only have to cope with the dozen or so
things I haven't thought of yet. I suspect that the majority of the
project is going to be fairly routine (I can't quite install a
motherboard in my sleep, but possibly during a quick nap), but the
plumbing of the water cooling subsystem is a challenge and as it's my
first time I'm expecting to pretty much make it up as I go along. It's
going to be "interesting", and I'm looking forward to it with a certain
Linus holds forth - the future of open source and the future of
Microsoft, but it's all a bit vague and woolly and frankly he doesn't seem
to have any particular insight into the computer industry right now
More holding forth - Michael L. Robertson of Linspire pontificates on
Apple's missed opportunity in keeping the OS tied to their own hardware. I
have to admit that Robertson is growing on me...
more - this time it's Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent, tearing a
strip off Microsoft's Avalanche P2P project. Not really fair, considering
it's still very in the design concept stage!
Secunia announces another flaw in IE - and what's that, wait a minute,
the same flaw in Firefox and Safari too? So much for the much-vaunted
infallibility of the open source development model.
Integrated circuit pioneer dies - Jack Kilby created the first IC in
1958 at Texas Instruments, working during the company's two week vacation
period. He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2000.
BBSpot, news that Microsoft will port Windows to Intel hardware -"Moving
from one processor to another is easy", he said, "Moving from one
processor to that same processor, well, that's difficult."
A well made cable is truly a thing of beauty. The last
batch of hardware for the new PC chassis turned up today, after a long
Performance-PCs in Florida, and they're definitely worth the wait. The
top two are Antec's "Cobra"
rounded floppy and IDE cables, the latter being shielded in an earthed
foil screen to keep out all that nasty high frequency noise from the cold
cathode lighting inverters. Well, to be honest, I'm unconvinced of how
necessary the extra shielding actually is (although once a cable is
rounded the effect of the 40 extra grounding wires in
modern UDMA cable is probably drastically reduced) but they
certainly do look sleek and sexy. To complete the effect I ordered a set
of SATA power leads in a similar braiding, one of which can be seen at the
bottom of the picture, and the contrast between the red and black of the
power and data cabling and the bright blue of the coolant tubing should be
striking to say the least.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch - or, in this case, the
office - the recent arrival of summer has brutally exposed the weaknesses
in our creaky old computer room air conditioning system. The planned
refurbishment of the entire suite has been delayed while the company
directors gripe about the cost, and despite the best efforts of my
management to speed things along the sudden heat wave rendered the system
incapable of bringing the temperature down below around 30°C.
Fortunately the building services manager and his general factotum
responded to my anguished call with a marvellous piece of emergency
engineering, rigging up a set of portable coolers in various unlikely
Heath Robinson ways and bringing the room down to an almost workable 25°C.
The refurbishment is due to start in a couple of weeks, and as long as we
keep emptying the buckets that catch the condensed water it will be
business as usual. It certainly provides for an interesting life!
And finally, at
Ars.Technica, the news that Apple are being sued for patent
infringement over the fundamentals of the iTunes to iPod interface. The
claim looks somewhat spurious to me, given that the patent actually covers
the connection of computer systems to playback devices such as MIDI
keyboards, but I was struck by one of the comments on the resulting
thread: "I hate when people who can't make money by honest work try to
steal from people who can"... except when the victim is Microsoft and
the perp is Eolas, apparently, in which case everyone cheers and eggs them
When geeks go bad...
In 1952, at the Nevada test site, Ted Taylor added
to his already considerable reputation by holding up a small parabolic
mirror and lighting a cigarette with an atomic bomb. The fireball was
twelve miles away. "I carefully extinguished the cigarette and saved it
for a while in my desk drawer at Los Alamos", he says. "Sometime,
probably in a state of excitement about some new kind of bomb, I must
have smoked it by mistake."
- George Dyson,
One of the many intriguing snippets of information to
emerge from this fascinating book is that the level of destruction even
very close to a nuclear explosion is considerably less than is generally
expected. Small structures made of certain materials, especially those
which are both flexible and non-metallic, can actually survive virtually
unscathed even a few tens of feet away from the centre of a multi-kiloton
blast - where temperatures might briefly reach 150,000 Kelvin. This
factor, along with an equally unexpected level of propulsive effect (some
of the test objects
were hurled far further away than scientists at the time could account
for) was what provided the first germ of the idea of propelling a
spacecraft by a series of
nuclear explosions, and although the project was cancelled in the mid
sixties there's no doubt that the physics of the idea are perfectly
feasible. Less feasible, perhaps, is the idea of convincing world
governments to allow the detonation of hundreds of atomic bombs on the way
up to orbit and back, as even though they would be extremely small and
clean by the standards of conventional nuclear weapons, there would
doubtless still be a certain amount of... ah...
planning e-payments service - a rival to PayPal is long overdue, some
would say, as they've been dominating the market virtually since
inception... possibly to the detriment
of the consumer.
tool for Big Brother - by examining the writing style of dubious email
messages, law enforcement agencies and suspicious employers hope to be
able to detect signs of illegal activity.
Desktop threat changing - the number of conventional worms and viruses
is down, according to a report from the CompTIA, but the incidence of
browser-based attacks has increased to compensate.
screens the new gas guzzlers? - an article at the Christian Science
Monitor suggests that the new generation of televisions has not been as
well optimised for energy use as it should have been.
BBC to release
open source codec - to go with the imminent launch of the BBC's online
video archive, they're working on a wavelet-based codec which stacks up
very well against the competition.
Change proposed EU Microsoft case - the senior judge of the EU's
second-highest court has proposed changing judges in the antitrust case
after controversial comments on the legal system.
It's the old story, I'm afraid. These days I just can't go near the
inside of a PC case without seizing every bare wire in site and wrapping
it in black braided sleeving. I'm planning to do the build itself next
weekend, now, and ahead of that I'm taking care of some little odds and
ends - drilling extra holes to mount the rather eccentrically perforated
Vantec fan controller in an equally eccentric Lian-Li 5¼ to 3½ bay
adaptor, pondering the fine details of what is going to go where (which is
changing on a pretty much daily basis, right now) and of course sleeving
every wire that isn't already decently clothed.
Actually, having said that, braided sleeving is becoming
fairly normal even for off-the-shelf components - the HT wires of the
AC Ryan mini cathode lights I mentioned the other day are sleeved as
standard, and all of the fans, adaptors and cables I've bought from
Frozen CPU and
Performance-PCs (motto: "Sleeve it and they will come") can be
wrapped and heatshrunk in a wide variety of colours for only a token
increase in the cost. In contrast to
where I had to do every damn wire myself, in the new incarnation it's
likely to be only the temperature sensors and control connections from the
Koolance hardware, as seen above, that needed attention. What luxury!
Meanwhile, a few odd links...
10 big myths about
copyright - Brad Templeton, founder of ClariNet and EFF chairman,
shows that most people (including the RIAA et al, apparently!) don't
really understand copyright very well.
Linux is for losers - Theo de Raadt, the man behind OpenBSD, has
slammed the Linux OS as amateurish, poorly written, slapdash and generally
cobbled together! Fighting words, indeed... :-)
"Firefox" not trademarked - the Mozilla Foundation is facing legal and
commercial difficulties in a number of countries, especially the UK and
Germany where other companies already use the name.
AOL sets new record - perpetually troubled ISP America Online hosts
more zombie PCs than any other provider, it seems, although actually the
company seems largely unconcerned by this statistic.
Leading by example - Apple co-founder Steve Jobs gave an unusual
commencement speech at Stanford University, claiming that dropping out of
college was one of the best decisions he made!
Sesame! - Dan Rutter is discussing smart fasteners, and these witty
and informative little snapshots are one of the things that raises him
above the majority of independent IT journalists.
Technical field day - the US military's Coalition Warrior
Interoperability Demonstration evaluates newly released technology to
assess its value and suitability for use by the armed services.
tight - now that Apple is switching to i386 hardware, speculation is
rife that they will use Intel's LaGrande integrated DRM technology to
prevent their OS being run on regular PC hardware.
like a Fusion - BT have launched their combined cellular/landline
phone, but to nobody's great surprise it seems to be a real lemon, with a
number of significant flaws and missed opportunities.
revisited - I've seen a couple of these before, but the cubicle filled
with polystyrene chips is not only new, but also an instant classic. Some
people have waaaay too much time on their hands...
Warning of orchestrated attacks - the UK government has warned of an
"industrial scale" series of malware-bearing email messages aimed at the
country's infrastructure and public services.
clever! - run DittyBot on your Mac, then send an SMS containing a song
title from your phone to a mailbox it monitors automatically. The software
then phones you and plays the appropriate MP3!
And finally, the
kidnapped Dalek has been found abandoned on Glastonbury Tor, just in
time for the climactic final episode of the revitalised series. It appears
that the thieves had been rather taken aback by an unexpected level of
attention from both the media and the police, and decided to call it a day
before they felt obliged to detach any more of its limbs. Everybody
concerned is denying that it was a publicity stunt, but given the timing
one has to wonder...
With both PFYs out of the office and the helpdesk still
coping with the aftermath of our company's first ever enforced global
password change, it has been another rather trying day. The latter is
proving to be an education, though - our users have been so pampered by a
lax password policy (a result of a legacy application that enforced
non-expiring short numeric passwords! Eeek!) that they don't
appreciate the harsh realities of
the way most other corporates manage logins, and there is a great deal of
resentment coming our way from users who feel that we're making stupid
rules just to annoy them.
In spite of six months of increasingly informative
email messages (ranging from an initial announcement explaining the
reasons for the change sent out to department managers and team leaders at
the start of the year, to a detailed set of instructions, with
screenshots, sent to everyone the day before the change itself) a
proportion of our users have found themselves completely unable to cope.
Many complained that they were "too busy to read things that IT sends
out", a viewpoint for which I have little sympathy; some, it emerged,
were unable to remember their old password, their new password, or, in
some cases, even their own name... Others had been routinely logging in
with a colleague's ID instead of or as well as their own, which caused no
end of head-scratching all round when they changed one password and then
proceeded to use a different account - a fact which of course they omitted
to mention for the first twenty or thirty minutes of the support calls!
All-in-all, it's been a complete pain in the neck, and
by the end of yesterday I think the helpdesk staff were about ready to
burn me in effigy. I'm hoping that the worst is over now, though, and if
it isn't then at least the coming weekend will give them chance to unwind
a little - I'm sure I saw one of them knotting a hangman's noose, earlier
Meanwhile, more PC bits:
This little gizmo is a
NXP-305, capable of supporting three fan channels of up to 18W each,
and a pair of cold-cathode tubes. I already have its sibling, the four
channel fan-only NXP-205, and although it's nestling in the front of the
current flavour of Infinity
I never actually got around to hooking it up to anything! In this almost
fanless incarnation, though, I'm intending to retire the DigiDoc and
downsize to something with rather less wires, and as the 305 combines both
fan control and the CC inverter in one neat little 3½" device it fits the
bill rather well. Both the CC tubes and the illuminations on the knobs are
blue, of course - this is going to be a very blue case...
Adding to the overall blue feel will be one or two
pairs of 4" mini-CC tubes - I picked these up for a song from my old
Kustom PCs (who are currently working out how to replace one side
panel of the case with
fine steel mesh), although in the end they are likely to be installed
in rather a stripped-down form - as standard they come with a clunky PCI
slot-mounted controller including a switch and a microphone for
sound-sensitivity, which is not something I'm especially interested in.
Although I don't know exactly how I'm going to arrange the lighting as yet
(a lot will depend on how the mesh side panel turns out), but I'm sure
tubes this teeny will come in handy for something...
I'm starting to get an itchy modding finger, now - all
I need is a long weekend to make a start on it all!
I discovered today that the local server in two of our
regional offices actually shared the same MAC address, which was allowing
them to over-write each other's entry in the
ePolicy Orchestrator anti-virus server's database and so causing all
sorts of unexpected behaviour. Unfortunately this only emerged after
around two hours on the phone with a Network Associates support bod, and
was the last thing he checked before escalating the case to the ePO
developers themselves - imagine my surprise when I checked and discovered
them to be identical, and imagine his long, enthusiastic laughter when I
was forced to admit that to him... I was not very pleased!
Both servers are using a pair of
fault-tolerant network cards, and in these systems the teaming driver
over-rides the real MAC address of each card with a single shared address,
which we assume is the original address of one of the two cards -
but this is not something that we can figure out how to test remotely, so
at the moment for all we know it may even pull one out of thin air! The
solution to the problem is simply to change this over-riding address by a
byte (having checked that the new value is currently un-used on our
network, there's every chance that it's likely to stay that way) - but
when attempting that remotely the teaming driver disappeared up its own
behind and we've now completely lost contact with the server. Fortunately
one of my PFYs was willing (if not overjoyed at the idea) to travel
several hundred miles to the regional office to perform what is likely to
be a ten minute repair, and after that all should be well again.
The mystery of how this actually happened remains,
though, even if the problem itself now has a solution. The network
interfaces in these servers are integrated onto the motherboard, so
there's no chance of them having been swapped around at some point and
carrying their over-ridden address with them, and even if the driver
does make up an address in an appropriate range at the creation of the
team (and that would be a very dubious idea, if so!) the chances of two
instances of the driver choosing the same value is pretty slim. I'll
investigate further when time permits, but right now it's all thoroughly
opaque to me!
Meanwhile, elsewhere, a few random snippets of news...
From Applied Minds, the off-the-wall R&D company
co-founded by the equally off-the-wall Danny Hillis, comes
marvellous new gadget that keeps your conversations private by hiding
them behind a veil of sampled and re-processed background noise. It makes
me think of
The Cone Of Silence from the old "Get Smart" TV show. :-)
Vendors snub EU
Windows - the cut-down version imposed on Microsoft as part of the EU
anti-trust case has completely failed to attract interest from the major
vendors, with Dell, HP, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens revealing that they
have no plans to pre-install the new OS because of a perceived lack of
consumer demand. Is anyone outside of Brussels actually surprised?
The EFF on
law for bloggers - I'm seeing an increasing number of stories about
bloggers falling foul of their employers, the courts, a company they're
having some kind of dispute with, or even a private individual who feels
impugned (in fact, I've had a few problems along these lines myself) so
advice from the premier online rights organisation is worth far more than
most of what you'll find elsewhere.
paid for this? - ISPA, the UK Internet trade association, has
warned consumers that there are better ways to choose a broadband supplier
than solely by the cost. As someone who pays about four times the going
rate for my 2Mbit DSL pipe in the hope of better-than-average reliability
and performance I feel somewhat validated to hear that, but really it's
nothing very insightful.
phisher arrested - an Osaka man who created a scam based around
the popular Yahoo auction site has been charged with infringing their
copyright, but he evidently isn't a criminal mastermind as the fraud seems
to have hooked less than thirty victims! Apparently this kind of scam is
very new to Japan, and only around sixty five such sites have been
discovered in the last year.
Interior violence - enfant terrible designer Philippe Starck's
line of lamps made from firearms (an M16 standard, an AK-47 table lamp,
and what looks like a Sig Sauer bedside lamp) are certainly elegant and
appealing, but being gold plated I'm sure they have a price tag to match -
this homage based on a 1950s cap gun is worth checking out
instead. $50 on eBay as I write this...
Necessity is the mother of prohibition - Hong Kong police
investigating a shipment of printer cartridges inbound from Malaysia
discovered that the ink sponges inside had been removed and replaced by
ketamine. It's not clear how well an inkjet cartridge performs on Special
K instead of micro-particulate ink, but my gut feeling is that it wouldn't
work very well...
radio shows - I think I'm going to scream if I read the word "podcast"
one more time today, so I'm only going to refer to this collection of
classic radio programs as an MP3 archive (I don't own and iPod and don't
plan to, so that's what it is, dammit). Detective serials, cowboy shows,
big band, comedy, you name it. I'm always really pleased to see this kind
of thing springing up on the Web.
It was a very long day today, thanks to an early start
to baby-sit an engineer rewiring a couple of our backbone strands before
the users arrived, so I only have the energy to show off a couple of
components for the new PC build. There's a steady stream of parcels
winging their way across the Atlantic to me this week (as usual, most of
what I want is either too new or too rare to be bought from UK suppliers)
and the first two arrived today.
This is a 120mm illuminated fan from
Aerocool, a relatively new entrant onto the modding market. As 120mm
fans go, it's a real wimp - rated at around 37 CFM, a figure easily
matched by many 80mm fans, but to compensate the noise level is less than
20 dBA, so if the figures are accurate it should be inaudible in regular
use. I have to admit that its main appeal is cosmetic - the little
transparent inserts in each corner are high-intensity blue LEDs, and
together with the brightly chromed turbine blades the overall result is
extremely attractive. If the Koolance water cooling system works as
well as I hope, the pair of Aerocools I'll be installing into the case in
the place of the stock fans will either be running at a very low speed or
even switched off altogether except for special occasions, so I can look
upon them more as eye candy than anything functional. That's quite a
luxurious change for one of my PCs!
Not quite so new, but equally exotic, is the
Koolance CPU-300-V10 water block, one of a pair destined to suck up
the 80 watts of heat generated by each of my Xeon 3.06 GHz processors.
These are designed for Koolance's new standard 10mm 3/8" tubing, and have
a copper base with a mirror-finished 21k gold-plating. No wonder the damn
things are so expensive! In the reviews it's
extremely well for both ease of installation and thermal performance,
and as all the elements of the cooling subsystem are from the same
manufacturer I have a reassuring glow from the thought that at least
they've all been tested with each other - there may well be enough nasty
surprises involved in my first foray into water cooling without the added
excitement of mixing and matching...
I don't plan on carrying out the transplant from the
existing case for another week or so, but I doubt I'll be able to resist
showing off the various other components as they arrive. Watch this space!
Now that the Star Wars series is complete, and being
watched in sequence by a new
generation of viewers, the die-hard fans are spinning in small circles
trying to explain the various inconsistencies between the first three
movies and the prequels. One of the biggest difficulties, apparently, is
Obi-Wan's complete failure to recognise R2D2 at the start of the original
Episode IV, and this particular balloon head is
jumping through some
marvellous hoops in order to rationalise something into the film that
wasn't ever actually there:
Look at Obi-Wan's eyes... there's recognition
there, followed by a quick assembly of the puzzle.
Really? I know Alec Guinness was an extremely good
actor, but I don't think that even he was good enough to anticipate
a movie that wasn't to come for another twenty five years and put a
twinkle into his eye in readiness... Like the mystery of
the Klingon forehead, these plot glitches are usually better just
Elsewhere - as mentioned previously in Epicycle,
legendary folk singer and political activist
Country Joe McDonald has an
excellent web site that includes a fair number of his songs as Real Media
streams. I've always been rather tickled by the science fiction folk
ballads of the "Country
Joe In Space" album, with my favourite being the anti-war epic
"Picks And Lasers" - unfortunately the recording quality of the studio
version is too low to really appreciate the song, but today I stumbled
across a live version elsewhere on the site which is not only somewhat
more accessible but also an interesting variation musically as well:
Well, the first time that I heard the sound I thought it was the
Of weather drones orbiting above the frozen sea.
The next time that I heard the sound I also heard the voices
In a hundred different languages calling out to me:
"Come put away your laser-pick and soar the galaxy."
And working on my K-jet in the heat of Martian summer
I felt a strange vibration coming from the distant stars.
Old Charlie only laughed at me, he said it was space fever
He thought that I had lost my mind when I told him that I saw
The warships of a thousand worlds slicing through the stars.
Check out the
lyrics pages for
Finally, some quickies:
For sale on eBay, a unique racing car powered by a hydrogen peroxide
Collaborating to hack a disposable drugstore camcorder.
Telecom shows its true colours (again) by cutting off a charity
Arcade on the best use for all that disk space.
It's that link again!
Doonesbury on Dubya - the collected wit and wisdom of George Bush (Ok,
it's rather a small collection) immortalised in Gary Trudeau's
Smarter than the average 'toon - a pair of web sites
featuring the maths and science in TV cartoons
The Simpsons and
the latter, especially, is full of extremely geeky throwaway humour.
Backlash against blue - the height of fashion last year, but
apparently blue LEDs in electronics and computer hardware are becoming
less popular, and there may be good scientific reasons for that...
your tinfoil hat - for those of a nervous disposition, software that
jams any attempt by aliens, the government, or the Illuminati to read your
mind and control your thoughts.
Inside MSRC - Microsoft's Security Response Centre tracks discussions
on dubious hacking sites and white hat security lists, and then analyses
and responds to anything that needs following up.
Creepy-crawlies - Symantec have released a new version of their Worm
Simulator, which illustrates graphically how malware such as Blaster and
NetSky spread through local and wide-area networks.
evil that lurks within - security site SpywareInfo has provided a list
of the P2P file-sharing apps that come bundled with spyware and adware -
and actually, that turns out to be a lot of them...
the scenes - what really caused Apple to forsake IBM's PowerPC CPUs?
Was the break up for technical reasons, or were there political issues as
well? Caesar at Ars.Technica speculates...
The first instalment of my new case hardware arrived
today - a
Koolance PC3-736BK, which is the
PC-V2000 full tower case with Koolance's new 700W Exos 2-type cooling
system pre-installed. Given that this model only launched a couple of
weeks ago and that there's a three month lead time from either of the two
UK dealers, this is probably the only one in the country right now. I do
like being ahead of the curve. :-)
I'm voting the straight party ticket, with the full
complement of water blocks, tubing and assorted hardware also from
Koolance - a pair of the
CPU-300-V10 blocks for my Xeon CPUs, and an assortment of others for
the ATI Radeon graphics card and the motherboard's Northbridge chipset.
I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing there, as yet, so I bought one each
V06 blocks to make sure that all the bases are covered. I also ordered
four of the new style
HD-50 hard disk coolers to keep my drive array as chilly as the rest
of the components.
If I decide to use the full set of coolers, I can
dispense with all the fans except for the pair of 120mm units on the
radiator itself and the PSU fan - and given that my current setup has four
80mm and two 120mm case fans, a pair of CPU fans, and the GPU and PSU
fans, I think that should bring a noticeable decrease in the noise
I won't be starting the transplant until the rest of my
hardware has arrived in a week or two (there's a huge assortment of long
SATA cables, drive bay adaptors and extra bezels, cable management
oddments, blue cold cathode lights etc. still on its way to me) but when I
do I'll be putting together something of a project log alongside the other
Until then, here's a teaser:
Meanwhile, some links...
Yoda - it's a neat little model, but with sixty steps (illustrated
with those obscure little arrows that only make sense if you already
understand what to do) it does look somewhat non-trivial...
Try-before-you-buy gaming - rent a ready-made, experienced character
in one of the popular online role-playing games, play it for a while to
get the feel of it, then buy it if you like it.
kidnapped - one of Daleks from the original series has been kidnapped
from an exhibition at the Wookey Hole Caves - and the abductors left
a neatly severed plunger arm as a warning...
A salutary lesson - a Baltimore man who maliciously subscribed his
manager to various spam lists, dating services and job sites has been
convicted of harassment and sentenced to community service.
Feudin' and fightin' - Opera's claim that they won an award for best
browser has provoked fierce argument from the Mozilla Foundation, creator
of the Firefox and Thunderbird browsers.
Just a few quick links tonight, as I'm running a little
late... <yawns decorously>
Microsoft finally ships EU's crippled Windows - although how providing
an OS without the bundled Media Player app is beneficial to European
consumers completely escapes me. Are Apple going to be obliged to do the
same in the interests of fairness and competition? I rather think not...
The history of the BBS - at Wired, an article on the BBS
documentary I mentioned a few weeks ago. The film looks really
interesting, but I was greatly amused that the article fails to mention
that a significant number of the 105,000 BBSes listed were devoted to
pictures of naked women!
Hovering an inch
above the desktop - a PC case made entirely from fans (seventy of
them!) fastened to Dexian racking by cable ties, and all whirring away
happily to themselves, I am full of admiration for his inventiveness, but
have absolutely no desire to be sitting in front of his computer.
monster - a radio controlled model of the infamous Scottish beastie,
complete with that gliding motion and a bobbing head on the end of the
trademarked long, snake-like neck. It's not clear how large it is, and for
that matter all other details are rather sparse, but it looks rather neat.
"In case of sonic attack on your district" - several steps up from the
rock music used to
annoy Noreiga during the invasion of Panama, the Israeli government is
considering using a new directed sound weapon against Jewish settlers who
resist the planned evacuation of the Gaza Strip.
So I was trying to track down a particular PC somewhere
that was raising some errors in our domain controller logs, and as it
didn't follow our usual informative naming convention, I decided to use
the old NET SEND command to pop-up a message asking the user to contact
the helpdesk. Unfortunately it's been a while since I've used the command
and I inadvertently added the /DOMAIN flag, resulting in the message being
sent out to the entire network, eight offices spread around the country.
Under normal circumstances my users completely ignore most announcements
we send out, but evidently something about the urgent nature of a pop-up
message attracted their attention and the next ten minutes were extremely
busy as what felt like all seven hundred of them called the helpdesk at
once. It's going to be a while before I live this one down...
Meanwhile, while I wait for the ground to open and
swallow me up, a few random links:
Annoying action at a distance - use a Bluetooth-enabled Palm to
identify unsecured cellphones, PDAs and the like with BlueSpam,
then automatically send a text file or image to them.
Wright at Google - to mark the birthday of the
architect and designer, yesterday, Google rolled out another of their
neat little logos.
Refugee from the Skunk Works - inspired by the F117A Stealth Fighter,
Project Nighthawk is an ambitious custom PC project. Looks like
there's still a long way to go, though...
Vulnerabilty from beyond the grave - both Firefox and Mozilla are
prone to a frame injection exploit that was first identified and patched
seven years ago. Surely some mistake...?
end to rumours - speculation about a feature-length movie of The
Simpsons has been rife for years, but it wasn't generally expected
until after the series itself had ended.
The news that the government intends to ban replica
firearms wasn't the best start to my day, but unfortunately the
Violent Crime Reduction Bill, announced this morning in a blaze of
publicity, is likely to achieve just that if it passes intact into law. As
so often with recent legislation, this bears all the hallmarks of a
knee-jerk reaction based more on
playing to the media and appeasing public hysteria (largely generated
by that media), than on either the facts of the issue or a genuine belief
that the proposals will actually achieve anything.
Given that the last two major
changes in the law
concerning real firearms (first a ban on semi-automatic rifles and
magazine-fed shotguns after the Hungerford shootings in 1987, and then
what amounted to a ban of handguns following Dunblane in 1997) have been
completely and utterly ineffective in not only in reducing gun crime, but
even in slowing its growth, it is difficult to see how restricting
imitation guns can possibly help in any way.
In fact, there are already
laws in place concerning all the measures proposed in the bill - the
only two designs of replica that stand even a chance of being
converted to fire live ammunition (the PAK blank firers and the Brocock
air cartridge replicas) have already been made illegal, carrying any kind
of replica in a public place is already covered under last year's
Anti-Social Behaviour Act, and anyone who uses an imitation firearm in the
commission of a crime is already tried as if it was a real firearm. There
is no benefit to be gained from extending these already comprehensive
measures any further, and as before the only people who will be
significantly affected by the new proposals are the
enthusiast collectors such as
competition target shooters relegated to imitations by the previous
bans on firearms, and the airsoft skirmishers who use the replicas for
sport. As always, criminals are not only decidedly more interested in
fully functioning guns than BB-firing replicas, but in any case would no
more be deterred by the proposed legislation than they are by the mass of
The new bill appears to have been
carefully worded to avoid the difficulties in defining a replica that
seem to have deterred the government from acting in previous crackdowns.
In summary, if it takes an expert examining the gun at close range to tell
the difference, then it counts as a "Realistic Imitation Firearm" and so
will fall under the provision of the Act - and if the bill passes it will
be illegal to manufacture, import or sell any item that fit this
definition. At this stage mere ownership of a replica is not
covered, so apparently I won't be criminalised overnight, but given the
current social and political climate it's very difficult to believe that
the law won't be extended to prohibit possession at some later date.
Unfortunately, replica gun enthusiasts are pretty much
out on our own in the face of the growing tide of government and media
opprobrium. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation,
representing the old guard huntin' shootin' and fishin' types, has
spoken out against a minor element of the bill, a proposal to increase
the age limit for owning an air weapon from 17 to 18, while declaring
their support for the other clauses as "sensible and well
Sportsman's Association, while considerably less aloof in their
outlook than the BASC, is mainly focussed on re-legalising target pistols
for competition shooting (not without justification - the British Olympic
shooting teams are obliged to train in France!) and although they have
extended the olive branch to airsoft little actually came of it. That
only leaves the airsofters themselves, and unfortunately as a group they
seem so thoroughly argumentative, abusive and dogmatic that even after
several years of wrangling they have yet to form a stable player's
association, or even come close to it. A trade association exists for the
skirmishing sites themselves, the UKASGB,
but unfortunately they have managed to arouse just as much ill feeling as
the proponents of the various abortive players' associations and I'm
unconvinced that they have either weight, drive or credibility.
All we can really do, at this stage, is to
write to our MPs and to anyone
else in government who seems involved but not yet
but I can sense the prevailing mood, here, and I'm very much afraid that
this is already a lost cause. Just as with the legislation covering real
firearms, time will doubtless prove that it was a foolish and pointless
piece of legislation, but by then it will be much too late.
It's a damn shame.
[As always, news and updates can be found at the
excellent Arnie's Airsoft.
Welcome back, Arn...]
I'm busy this evening, so here's a picture of one of the rose bushes in my
garden. See? It's not all politics and computers, at Epicycle!
I worked my self to a frazzle, today, as both PFYs were
off on holiday and there were a lot of small but annoying loose ends from
the weekend's department move to tidy up. I'm not quite sure what happened
to the helpdesk staff who usually worry about this kind of thing, but I
ended up trapped in the HR department for three hours moving printers from
one end of a desk to another and helping people plug their laptops into
their laptop power supplies... Times like this remind me of why I was so
glad to move away from desktop support in the first place!
Meanwhile, all the news that's fit to link:
At airsoft site Element Concepts, some extremely
useful advice on upgrading an AEG - components that are actually
a waste of money,
and the best buys for enhancing the
Tokyo Marui M16/M4
A wonderful case mod based around
Wars TIE Fighter - although as the structure actually includes a desk,
as well, it's rather more than most PC mods. Spectacular!
Tom's Hardware reviews two leading voice-over-IP
Skype and Vonage. and finds that although their approach is somewhat
different there's actually very little to choose between them.
Also at Tom's,
interesting article on the techniques used by data recovery firms to
restore data from failed hard disks. This used to involve giant machines,
but now seems to be mostly software.
A newly-discovered sketch appears to
weight to the claim that the Nazis were closer to nuclear weaponry
that usually thought, and may actually have detonated a number of small
today confirmed that it it will switch from IBM's PowerPC to Intel
processors. The new systems will be released next year, and by 2007 the
entire range will be Intel-powered.
The aptly-named Shagster.net is hoping to
prove the old "six degrees" adage by compiling a database of linked
sexual partners, although it remains to be seen how many people will kiss
More progress on very tiny things, including
nano-motors made from coiled gold wires 0.6 nm wide by 5 nm long, and
molecular transistors that can be switched by moving a single hydrogen
geeks and nerds are worth it" - the meme circles around the Internet
every year or two, but this particular version is one of the better ones.
It probably wasn't actually written by a woman, though...
Dan's pet obsession is
keyboards, as found on IBM hardware back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
They're not my cup of tea, but it's nice to know that they're still available.
Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin has written a book, "Reaching
For The Moon", intended to introduce children to the realities of
space exploration as opposed to the Hollywood movie versions.
Via Boing Boing, a wonderfully
high tech way of cheating at cards - using a high res camera to
analyse the scattered light that is reflected from the face of a card to
fall on nearby objects.
And finally the spam email subject line of the week, advertising a porn site -
"Part angels, part
algae". I'm not sure what the author intended to say, but I don't think
it was that... At least, I hope it wasn't.
It seems to me that the Islamic peoples are playing
into the hands of the Bush government by allowing them to keep the issue
of alleged mistreatment of the Koran at the forefront of the world media's
attention. Even though the
original Newsweek story was withdrawn, it's obvious from subsequent
reports that at best the camp guards are extremely casual about
respecting the basics of Islamic law and custom, and at worst are
deliberately infringing these customs as part of an ongoing programme of
intimidation and psychological torture. However, there has been something
of a change in focus over the last year, and I think that maybe a point is
I know that, unlike most other religions (I don't
remember Catholic riots with a dozen deaths when Sinead O'Connor tore up a
picture of the Pope a few years ago) the physical symbols of Islam are
considered just as important as the religious tenets they embody, but
surely they realise that there is a bigger issue at stake - the fact that
more than five hundred Moslems are being held illegally in a foreign
prison camp without charge, without legal advice, without trial, and
without the protection of the Geneva Convention.
By allowing the arguments to rage over a book, or even
wider issue of the general treatment of the prisoners, they are
tacitly agreeing that there is nothing that can be done except to improve
the conditions in which they are held, and while this is obviously
necessary it really isn't the most important thing - if they must
resort to violence in the streets (and unfortunately this seems to be the
only way the extremists know of expressing themselves) they really ought
to forget the book for the moment, and simply concentrate on the people
themselves. If by doing so they can force the US to release the prisoners,
or at the very least to try them in an open court, then whether a copy of
the Koran was ever flushed down a toilet becomes not only somewhat moot,
but also something they can enthusiastically protest about for years to
come, smug in the knowledge that they've already won the bigger battle.
So... on one hand we have the Bushistas, happy to
absorb the minor
political damage that the allegations surrounding the Koran bring them
in the US, as long as the wider issue of the questionable legality of the
detention camp itself stays firmly out of the mainstream media - and it
does indeed seem to be working out like that. On the other hand, we have
the Islamic fundamentalists, who by behaving in this way are not only
helping the White House to construct its smokescreen, but who may actually
be glad to have the prisoners still in custody so that they can
provide a strong focus as martyrs to the cause. If the latter does indeed
have even an element of truth, then unfortunately think the outlook
for the Guantánamo detainees is bleak indeed...
And while I'm on this subject, I really do think that
the US left wing
would be best served by kicking the habit of referring to the Guantánamo
Bay detention camp as "Gitmo". I don't know how old this nickname is, as
although I only started hearing it a few months ago for all I know it may
be long-standing US military slang for the base, but even if so I don't
think it's appropriate when they're talking about something so serious and
significant. I know I'm coming perilously close to
here, but imagine abbreviating the WWII German concentration camp
Bergen-Belsen to "Bergey"... Both people and liberty are slowly wasting
away at Guantánamo, and I think we owe them the
respect of not trivialising even the slightest part of the issue.
It's been a long week, and with the last of our
departmental relocations due tomorrow it's not quite over yet. At least
this is the smallest of the moves, though, which is just as well as both
of my PFYs are unavailable this time and I'm going to be doing the
infrastructure side on my own - although after four other floors it's all
fairly routine by now, and I'm not actually expecting too many stresses
and strains in spite of that.
A few quick links, then, while I still have the
Solid state disks coming round again - an idea who's time never quite
seems to come, but that doesn't prevent it from showing up every five
years or so as the next great white
elephant hope. This
time the offering is from motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte, and its four
standard DIMM slots can support up to 4Gb of DDR memory. I'm expecting it
to sink like a stone along with its predecessors...
The story behind the spam - at Slashdot, an interesting review of the
new book Spam Kings, documenting the rise (and hopefully the fall)
of spam magnates such as Sanford Wallace and Scott Richter, contrasted
with the people who have dedicated themselves to tracking them down and
prosecuting them. It looks like a fascinating book, and will definitely go
onto my Amazon wish list..
The Washingtonienne in print - notorious sex-blogger and
whistle-blower Jessica Cutler has written a novel, it seems, about a young
woman who trades her favours for attention, money and drugs from the
political elite of Capitol Hill before the exposure of her webblog brings
everything crashing down around her ears. However, we are assured that the
story is definitely not autobiographical... Indeed.
Archiving podcasts - the mark of the true obsessive is someone who
collects for the sake of it, rather than from any particular love for the
items being collected, and as Boston filmmaker Jason Scott has captured
and catalogued more than 340 GB of amateur broadcasts without listening to
more than a tiny fraction of them I think he probably fits the bill. It's
a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
Method in their madness - Microsoft have announced that XML will be
the native file format of future MS Office versions, so their
recent patent covering the conversion of objects into XML is probably
no coincidence. Needless to say, the latter is raising hackles in the
anti-MS camp. XML seems to be assuming the almost cult status that Java
achieved in the nineties, though, which I do find bizarre...
the original use for the
Internet - StripDir is a new online service that extracts the
images from a web page and presents them in a format both easy to scan and
to save. It also allows visitors to retrieve the recent and most popular
request to view themselves, and needless to say the majority of these are
decidedly rude. As usual, this ubiquitous perversion of technology makes
me think of the Three Dead Trolls
line about how the Internet was created "so that in the event of a
nuclear attack American military leaders would still have access to
I find it ironic and more than a little irritating that
having managed to keep my company's leased mainframe firmly at arm's
length for almost six years, now that the proverbial writing is on the
computer room wall and it's due to be replaced by the aforementioned SAP
system in the next year or so, I now seem obliged to cozy up to it in
various increasingly intimate ways. Today has been spent waist deep in the
intricacies of Microsoft's Host Integration Server and the deeply
disturbing FormScape print processor, and although our efforts have
ultimately been fairly successful and productive, I finished the day
feeling an almost overwhelming need for a long, hot shower. SNA makes me
feel so dirty... and not in a nice way.
Elsewhere, the Internet
jour is that Yahoo has been placing adverts commissioned by major
household brand names such as Pepsi and T-Mobile in the entrances to chat
forums apparently intended to help paedophiles attract child victims. The
implication of the $10 million lawsuit that has resulted is that Yahoo
deliberately placed these adverts in the groups in question, but of course
the reality is that adverts are displayed indiscriminately in the gateway
to every forum, and in practical terms their only culpability
is in not finding and closing the less savoury areas faster than they
apparently did - and considering how many groups there are, these days,
it's not actually surprising that some are overlooked for a while.
In spite of the suggestive names, however, the exact
nature of the discussion in the groups in question is unclear, and I have
significant doubts about the scale of the risks alleged - I can't imagine
many real children joining groups with names such as "5 To 13-Year-Old
Kiddies Who Love Sex" or "Girls 5 To 13 For Older Men",
especially when the groups were buried in the Education section of the
listings - trying to persuade my step-offspring to go near anything even
slightly educational, at that age or any other, was an almost impossible
task, and between the names and the location they don't seem likely to
attract anyone very much at all! In fact, the meme is that whatever they
purport to be, the majority of participants in chat areas like this
are actually male law enforcement agents in their forties...
The whole issue is another flash in the pan, of course,
and although Yahoo will doubtless lose some advertising revenue in the
short term, in fact Internet-based advertising is so cheap in comparison
to any other medium that the sponsors will quiet drift back again as soon
as the fuss has died down.
Meanwhile, the case of the two Metropolitan Police
officers who shot
and killed an unarmed man in the belief that the table leg he was
carrying was a firearm has been re-opened. The shooting occurred in 1999,
and although the initial inquest returned an open verdict in 2002, this
was quashed by the High Court in 2003 and a second hearing returned a
verdict of unlawful killing that has resulted in a review of the entire
case. Bizarrely, one of the two won a High Court bid only last month to
overturn the unlawful killing verdict on grounds of insufficient evidence,
and as both have now been arrested on charges of murder, gross negligence,
manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, whatever new
evidence has emerged must be significant indeed. I will be watching this
one with great interest.
And, finally, the thought for the day is from Scott
Dogbert’s New Ruling Class newsletter, "A Little Ray of Bitter
Lots of people write blogs, but I’ve never heard of anyone who actually
reads them. What’s up with that?
Blogs exist to fill the important market niche of writing that is so
dull that your eyes will burrow out of the back of your head to escape.
People do read blogs, usually by accident, sometimes on a dare, but
those readers are later mistaken for Mafia victims with what appears to
be two holes in the back of their heads. On closer inspection, you might
find their eyeballs clinging to the drapes directly behind them. Unless
the cat gets them first.
Life seems to have revolved around my company's
upcoming SAP implementation, so far this week, and whenever possible I'm
making sure that I refer to it as "SAP" rather than spelling the letters
out as "S-A-P" - partly from habit, as it always used to be that way, but
partly because it seems to annoy the consultants and that brings the only
small moments of pleasure that this otherwise benighted project offers.
Still, at least the implementation means that my PFYs and I will be
getting a whole raft of shiny new hardware to fondle, including some quite
respectably-sized EMC SAN arrays and a bunch of new clustered Dell
servers. It could be worse!
launches MG Rover investigation - following the discovery of certain
irregularities in the accounts of the failed car maker, the DTI is
to hold a full-scale enquiry. The actual numbers involved are instructive
to say the least - when the company filed for bankruptcy its debts stood
at 1.4 billion pounds, including a 415 million pounds pension shortfall,
and yet apparently the directors have awarded themselves 40 million
pounds in salaries and bonuses since buying the company for a nominal
£10 in 2000. There have been suggestions that this money will be returned
to the company to help towards redundancy payments, but it is still
unclear whether this will actually happen.
conversion - following in the footsteps of the ill-fated
Area 51 Airsoft, a new company,
SoftRAM, is marketing components designed to convert the shell-ejecting
paintball markers to 6mm calibre airsoft. Dee Sheldrake of Area 51
eventually admitted that the concept was considerably harder to realise
than he had anticipated, and it will be interesting to see if SoftRAM fare
any better. Incidentally, they turn out to be
another company with a thoroughly inappropriate domain name -
softram.com is owned by a speculator, so evidently they decided that
softram.net was fair game, not knowing or not caring that this TLD
is intended for companies who provide the infrastructure of the Internet -
ISPs, bandwidth providers, administration services etc etc. I know that
people don't pay nearly as much attention to this stuff as they used to,
but I'm a traditionalist and it still bugs me...
Armstrong in hair scandal - via Mike comes news that Neil Armstrong
may sue his favourite barbershop after the proprietor sold Armstrong's
hair clippings for $3000. Armstrong's lawyers contend that the sale
violated an Ohio law designed to protect the rights of famous people, and
have demanded that either the hair is returned or the profits are
contributed to charity. The barber claims that he has already spent the
money, and unfortunately the purchaser (an enthusiast who apparently has
the world's largest collection of celebrity hair, including that of
Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein and Napoleon) has
declined to relinquish it. Maybe Armstrong should take a lead from fellow
Apollo 11 astronaut
Aldrin, and just punch him out... :-)
Two graphs this month, to illustrate the folly of messing
with domain names when the majority of one's coveted site stats come from
visitors linking in via Google... Until the 21st it seemed likely that this
month's figures would approach the record level of January, but as you can
see the number of hits tailed off rapidly as I first re-located the domain
name and then tidied up the old remnants at the chthon and cix
addresses. This is now the only extant copy of Epicycle, and even though
Google is already busy re-indexing the new site it may take a long time
before I can edge back up to my previous level.
The benefits of the new domain host are already clear,
though, in that I have finally managed to get the local search feature
working. I tend to use Google myself to find entries in this site, and
having the facility already integrated into the
archive page is really rather neat. Go
ahead, knock yourself out!