Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

Take the Sci fi sounds quiz I received 71 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
Guess the Sci-Fi Movie Sounds hereCanon powershot

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brits! Petition for mandatory notification following data hemorrhages - Boing Boing

I signed up to this the minute I read it on Boing Boing. A petition to make it law for mandatory notification from companies and agencies when they reveal personally identifying information.

I can't believe this is law in the US and not in the UK!

Mandatory Notification Petition article on Boing Boing
Sign the Mandatory Notification Petition

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mass Attack

This is quite a simple flash based game based around weights. The idea is to have three attempts at dropping weights (controlled by holding the mouse button down) to balance out the scales.

It gets harder as you progress... Check it out:

VOSHY - Games - Mass Attack

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bit Late...

It's a shame this 'GPS Letter Logger' was only posted on Engadget yesterday, perhaps someone should send this to Alistair Darling anyway. Sounds like just the thing he could've been doing with...

Hindsight - who'd be without it?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Futurama Bender's Big Score

"Uncancel your plans for the future - FUTURAMA is back!"

My preorder for the newest Futurama DVD - Bender's Big Score arrived this morning earlier than expected!! On the back the following Special Features are advertised:

Futurama Returns - A live comic book reading by the Futurama cast
Everybody Loves Hypnotoad - A full-length episode of the future's most popular TV program!
Deleted Storyboard Scenes
A Terrifying Message from Al Gore - An animated promo for An Inconvenient Truth featuring Bender and Al Gore with Video Commentary
Bite My Shiny Metal X - A mind shattering Futurama maths lecture!
3D Models / 3D Turnarounds
The Script: Original First Draft
New Character / Design Sketches
Original 5-minute Comic-Con Promo

Inside there is an advert for the Futurama comics with headline - Resistance is Futile! and an advert for a handpainted picture of the crew playing nude beach volleyball.

The DVD packaging is very nice and a great change since the somewhat mundane TV show releases a few years back!

I've unboxed it on YouTube...

Monday, November 12, 2007

One Week of Leopard

Having purchased Leopard a few days after launch, I waited a few days before installation ensuring my existing Tiger setup was completely backed up as I wanted to do a fresh install of Leopard on Monday morning. Once installed, I immediately took a dislike of the 3D dock and the translucent menubar. The dock has been replaced with the 2D one using the standard solution (found in my links) and I've used LeoColorBar to update my background image with a color at the top to simulate a non translucent menubar - whilst a horrible solution, the menu looks better now!! Hopefully Apple will introduce an option to toggle this in a future update.

Initially I found coverflow in the finder to be gimmicky, I haven't really used it that much and when I have it's been more out of curiousity. Although recently I did use it do browse through some documents I had - which I found much quicker than by reading the names or a text search.

I've found the quick look facility to be really useful. I nice touch I discovered is playing a movie file in coverflow, when you move to quick look it seamlessly transfers to the enlarged window without skipping playback and if you've decided that is the file you want to watch - just hit fullscreen and it seamlessly zooms to full screen! Very, very cool. Quick look even supports the new Office XML files - to my surprise Excel spreadsheets are displayed in coverflow and quick look - a very useful facility!

I like the new iCal application, not that there is much difference in terms of my usage of it, it is just more visually appealing. Similarly the todo functionality in mail is great to grab a piece of text in an email and mark it as a todo! This all syncs using the sync services so mobile phones and PDAs will all get updated. With Tiger I synced my Palm Treo 680, but I didn't want to upgrade my Missing Sync application as they hadn't updated the software for Leopard. My Vodafone upgrade is due, so I went for a Nokia E65 which is supported under Leopard directly by Nokia. So I get my calendar, todos and addresses synced to my phone over bluetooth.

There are a couple of hidden features which I never noticed before, if you option-click the wireless menu item, you get detailed information about the wireless you are connected to such as the channel and other radio information which could be quite useful if you have a number of Wifi points around you.

Another is in iTunes when you play a video, rather than playing in a small window, it takes over the "list" view playing in the iTunes window - again offering fullscreen options as usual. Also in Quicktime whilst watching South Park the ability to "stretch" the 4:3 video to fill the widescreen monitor by stretching the sides of the image so as not to distort the centre of the video - my TV does this and so now does my computer!! A feature the old faithful VLCs and MPlayers do not! I haven't confirmed if this is simply an update to iTunes and Quicktime or a unique Leopard thing.

I finally got around to installing Time Machine by clearing out a drive and using that as a dedicated backup. It would be much cooler if I could use the network drive I have upstairs, but I need to install Leopard (currently Tiger) on the attached host to work. The drive I'm using is quite a small 40GB WD passport drive, but my drive is only 25GB full so this should be plenty. Time machine is clever enough to delete older backups when the drive gets full so it should keep me going until I get a larger drive or Apple fixes the bugs in (non Leopard) networked Time Machine. Time machine doesn't work with iCal which seems a bit of an oversight - although you can obviously get an earlier version of the ical database and replace it manually - you just can't recover individual events or tasks using the Time Machine interface. Most of the other applications work using the new interface and I'm sure as more people move to 10.5, more apps will support it. Since I'm using a macbook pro, I was a bit worried about having to carry around the hard drive and leave it plugged in at all times. This isn't the case; Time Machine incrementally backs up your drive every hour and when your backup drive is reconnected again, it updates the backup drive with the incremental backups it made whilst disconnected. A bit of an annoyance was the fact that Spotlight starting indexing my Time Machine drive, I had to manually disable this in the Spotlight Privacy settings - such a function should be automatic as I don't see the point in indexing a backup drive; unless of course they integrate spotlight and say "4 files found in Time Machine" so you can go back and see them...

Spaces was quite fun to use, but now disabled. When you click the application icons in the dock, if the app is in another space, the desktop zooms to that space with a little arrow showing the direction it's going - a nice touch, but not for me. I couldn't find a decent enough use for virtual desktops in all the years of using Linux, however from the look of it, Apple's implementation is great - if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I like a nice clean desktop and Exposé when things get a bit cluttered.

I've tested out iChat and Photobooth and they have a cool feature which allows you to replace the background - so you can video iChat to someone and pretend you're in Paris... Quite useful if you've got a cluttered background and want to screen it out! I tend to use Skype for everything (including Video) so there is no real benefit to me here.

I really like Stacks, but not for storing documents or pictures as Apple would like you to. I'm quite tidy with my desktop, I hate stuff on it and with Leopard I can now remove all the icons from the desktop and use it purely as a workspace, deleting all files once finished doing a specific task. Downloads from Skype, Safari and Firefox all go to the "Downloads" folder which has a default stack and I find that great as I'm quite happy to leave downloads there and out the way. I can install applications and view documents directly from the download stack when I want and I can now delete them much later on than usual because it isn't taken up any of my precious desktop space!!

I've taken a real shine to Safari 3. It's very nice to use, integrated well with Mac OS X. I miss my and stumpleupon toolbars from Firefox, but I've gotten around that with the "Inquisitor" plugin for Safari and delimport which integrates my bookmarks with Spotlight - probably a superior feature. Using Safari and delimport allows me to search my browsing history and bookmarks with a single spotlight lookup!! Posting a link is replaced with a bookmarklet and my favourites has been replaced with a custom google homepage with a gadget viewing my bookmarks tagged "favourite". StumbleUpon has been left as I can't find bookmarklets for it... A shame really, but I now use Digg more! This was a hard decision for me to make as I've been a very long user of Firefox (since it was called Phoenix) and have donated to the Mozilla foundations for their NYT article and merchandise - I have a Firefox mug! Firefox is installed though, as there is the occasional site which doesn't work properly with Safari 3.

I never found a killer "upgrade for this" function since I had backups using Chronosync before and everything else is about the same. However, Leopard feels smoother, faster and above all looks and feels nicer than Tiger. It appears to start up much faster than Tiger did. 100s of minor features have been glued together and Apple seems to have made everything much more integrated than previous versions of Mac OS X. I really like the new Finder, it has a much more optimal use of window space than in Tiger. I also like being able to control remote macs through the Finder. You could do this before in Tiger, but needed "Chicken of the VNC".

I haven't had a need for Time Machine just yet, but it is pretty cool searching through deleted emails and files - it's backing up my gmail (now accessed through imap) - so even if I delete an email on Gmail's web interface, next time I sync Time Machine that message is backed up and searchable!!

Oh and finally, the iCal icon displays the correct date in the dock regardless of whether it is running or not!

In conclusion, I'm now in a situation where I simply wouldn't go back to using Tiger.

Friday, November 09, 2007

School Strippergram Screw-Up

I just read this article on the BBC about a strippergram sent to a 16 year old at school on his birthday as a present. Looks like it was a mistake on behalf of the company organising it as his Parents ordered the "present".

I've just a few queries about this particular incident, the first being; How did she get into the class? Singer, stripper, whatever - they shouldn't have even been allowed on school grounds. Second; Why did they even allow her to start - I'm sure it would have been pretty obvious what she was.

Unless of course her uniform was so good as to pass as a real police officer in which case. Calling all weirdos and terrorists, take heed of this proven method of entry.

Utterly ridiculous, a simple mistake by the stripper company/parents, horrific error of judgement by the school. The school are apparently investigating - I wonder if they find themselves blameless?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Futurama Interview

I've been waiting for the new Futurama movie with anticipation since it was announced over a year ago! The DVD movie will be released in a few weeks now and the 'buzz' on Futurama sites is increasing.

There is a nice interview from CGEF (Can't Get Enough Futurama) with David X Cohen about his past, what he did during his time between Futurama (the Futurama 'hiatus') and some extra information about whats on the disc.

I'm looking forward to the Maths extra on the DVD - a lecture by Dr. Sarah Greenwald. Dr. Greenwald is a fan of Futurama and has a great website listing many of the mathematical references contained within the Futurama TV Shows.

Benders Big Score is released on November 27th.

Link to the David X Cohen Interview
Link to Futurama Math by Dr. Sarah Greenwald

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wii Jackets Arrived

Earlier this month I placed an order for the new Nintendo Wii Remote Jackets, 4 days ago I received an email stating they would arrive within the next 10 days. Well yesterday I received them. Two rubber covers and an instruction leaflet informing me how to fit the jacket were in the jiffy bag.

Amusingly on the front cover of the leaflet, it does warn me not to deliberately knock the Wii remote against the TV, furniture or other objects and also warning me the jacket will not eliminate potential damage completely - I was hoping it was gonna be like the Hazard Suit in Metroid...

The jacket itself is quite nice, not too flimsy or thick. The material is soft and not too sticky either and it's ribbed around the edges for extra grip. The air cushion at the end isn't too bulky but looks like it ought to do the job!

The whole thing looks quite nice when it's on the remote. It covers over the power button at the top of the remote (the only button covered by the remote), but it doesn't seem to affect operation. The IR window at the top of the remote is uncovered and recessed by the air cushion so it should be quite safe! It's also slightly curved around the sides so in addition to the grippiness of the rubber and ribs, it should be quite difficult for this to slide out of sweaty hands - useful for a Rayman Raving Rabbids championship!!

There is a dust cover built into the jacket to protect the Nunchuck connector which is a good idea and it is easy to remove the cover to plug the Nunchuck in.

In the hand it feels like a tennis racket handle which is quite convenient as I like Wii Tennis!! Overall very neat and both remotes will be covered by this today!

Not sure how it will operate with the new Wii Guitar Hero III controller, I suspect I may have to remove the cover for the remote to fit in. Similarly with other remote accessories you'll probably have to remove the cover!

I think it's well thought out - and if I saw this in the shops or on eBay, I'd probably have bought one.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Leopard on Amazon

You can now pre-order Mac OS X Leopard on Amazon UK. It's been on the US Amazon site for a few days now and now number 2 and 4 in the Amazon UK top software sellers. I've preordered and look forward to it's arrival next Friday.

This will be the third Mac OS X operating system I have purchased; Panther; Tiger and now Leopard. Each of which have been worth every penny!

I debated whether I should buy it at Glasgow's new Apple Store or online; I decided to take advantage of Amazon's discounted price instead.

Link to Apple's Leopard site
Pre-order Leopard on Amazon

Churchill Make Good

Earlier in the year Louise and I had an eventful drive to the south of Spain and a small part of that was spent waiting at the side of the AP-15 just outside Pamplona in the Provincia de Navarra, Spain. We waited for about 5 hours whilst our UK breakdown company Green Flag (via Churchill Insurance) mis-communicated with Linea Directa, their Service Provider in Spain.

When we returned from our trip there was a questionnaire lying in the hallway asking me to rate the service received for this breakdown. I took great delight in expressing my feelings including specifying the weather as 40 degree direct burning sunlight. On the back they had a suggestions box which I used to highlight (what I thought) were the main problems which could and should be rectified.

A week ago I received a letter stating that they have admitted the lack of communication and apologised for the inconvenience. They explain that they will discuss this with their service partners - presumably so it doesn't happen to somebody else in the future. Anyway they refunded £40 as a gesture of goodwill.

I'm quite happy that something is being done and I've scanned in the body of text for everyone to read:

Link to my blog post about the journey

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wii Remote Cover

Just read on Engadget that US Wii owners are being offered a free rubber cover for their Wii Remotes. These are sticky to stop sweaty palm sliders and cushioned at the front to soften impact on TV screens, etc.

After a bit of hunting, I found this service is available to UK Wii owners too and you can order more than one. They'll be including them with all future Wiis and Remotes.

Just placed my order for two.

Nintendo UK Wii Remote Jacket Request

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

It runs Doom!

Following on with the Doom theme (believe me this is completely unintentional), I just discovered the phone I use (a Palm Treo 680) runs Doom. Let's be honest here, what doesn't?

Well, since my contract is coming to an end I've been scoping out possible alternatives. Possibly a Nokia N series on Three; or maybe the iPhone on O2 - unlikely, I've tried the "My iPod needs replacing" already!

Then via the I discovered ZDoomZ which is a port of the Doom engine to the Palm. It will run any Wad files - which I happen to have both Doom and Doom2 wads lying about!

It was a bit tricky to install since I had to install the Timidity MIDI engine by hand since the instructions didn't work. Doom went on fine and after configuring some keys I started Doom to be prompted by familiar music and a surprisingly smooth Doom experience - with authentic sound!!

I may just be keeping hold of my Palm after all!!

ZDoomZ at MetaViewSoft
Wikipedia Article about Versions and Ports to Doom

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Doom Soundtrack

It's been years since I played doom - but I've never forgotton the tunes. I've never since known a game to have such a menacing, but fantastic soundtrack!! I once had one of the levels as a ringtone on my mobile!

I appreciated this YouTube video for exactly this reason - although this guy plays the doom level theme "megamix" purely on the piano!

Great Stuff!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Colin and Aileen Wood

Yesterday Louise and I attended the wedding of my friend Colin to his fiancée, Aileen at the Western Hose Hotel at Ayr Racecourse. I met Colin during Physics as my lab partner at uni before discovering he was on my computing course. Colin was the best man at my own wedding 2 years ago.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the day and we wish them all the happiness in the future!

Congratulations to you both!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is a big headed, arrogant and sore loser. Every single press interview he gives, makes me dislike him further. I remember back at race 5 or 6 when Lewis failed to get onto the Podium, when asked how he felt, he responded that he wasn't quite sure what to do since "this is the first time I don't have to go to the Podium".

On the linked BBC article Lewis Hamilton is quoted:

I've never felt favourite but it's always easier when you're chasing someone than defending.

Nothing to do with the other Driver's skills of course? The almighty Schumacher never had this problem!

Yes Lewis, you are a good driver and in the next few years when you've found your feet and honed your skills - you will be unbeatable. At the moment though, you aren't. The first corner at Spa proved this - Alonso kept his ground and you lost out!

Personally I think Hamilton's points have all come from the start of the season when he did so well - since then he's been in the top 5 - but not at the top. The start of the season was very convenient for him, because of the hours he put in at McLaren training simulators which none of the other drivers of any car had been able to do at their teams.

Unfortunately for Lewis, his luck's running out faster than his track experience is gaining.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Steve Job's First Apology (Joy of Tech)

Steve Jobs seems to have manage a massive PR bonus by offering $100 to all early iPhone customers. The Joy of Tech has taken his letter out of context and rewritten it as if it was his first!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bad/Inappropriate? Joke...

Something told me not to post this joke, but what the hell!

What's worse than letting Michael Jackson look after your kids?
Letting the McCanns take them on holiday!

See, told you it was bad! In a similar vein as the other I heard:

Renault has just released a brand new people carrier - apparently it's so large, you can lose your kids in it! This wondrous car? The Renault McCann...

Sorry to all you McCann supporters out there!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Help find Steve Fossett using Google Earth

I think this is a really impressive use of Google Earth and the internet (centred around Amazon's "turk" technology); a massive distributed effort using recent satellite images on both Amazon and linked to Google Earth to find the missing explorer, Steve Fossett.

Basically you log into Amazon using your normal book buying username and password and select which Turk you want to do - the Steve Fossett one is free, but many others you can get paid for. Then you are presented with an example image and the image Amazon want you to check. You simply select "yes" (there is something interesting) or "no" (move along, nothing to see here).

Go to Amazon's Mechanical Turk (
Original article on BBC News

Sunday, September 09, 2007

IT Crowd antipiracy ad

I'm a fan of the IT crowd and watch it whenever it's shown on Friday nights on C4 (My Sky+ automatically records it for me).

Catch it if you can, although you can download it using BitTorrent if you miss it!

Which is a bit ironic, considering this was the start of last night's IT Crowd - a parody of movie copyright infringement videos you get on DVDs these days!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Parcel Force and Paypal

I sold my iMac earlier this week and in the process of completing the online "paperwork" I pressed the button to print a packing slip.

This usually prepared a nice label which I could print and affix to my parcel ready to take to the post office. Except this time was a little different...

It asked me for the weight of the package (14Kgs), Paypal already knew the source and destination so I had a selection of postal options to choose which covered this journey. I chose "Parcelforce 24" and was given a quote of £11.99 - really good value! So I accepted, paid for this through paypal and instead of a nice address label - I actually printed the barcoded label for ParcelForce! All I had to do was drop it off at a post office or arrange a driver collection.

Now this was where the fun came in!

I'd chosen "drop off at Post Office" since they couldn't offer a (free) collection from my house today so I wondered up to the post office and they didn't really know what to do; washed their hands of it and claimed they weren't touching it because it takes business away from the Post Office. However, they did offer to post it if I paid the difference between the £11.99 I paid online and the £23.50 they were going to charge. Yep you guessed it - I turned around and wondered out slugging this oversized, overweight package underarm...

Turns out the post office were wrong to turn me away due to the fact I had all the completed paperwork and barcodes affixed correctly - but not much I can do about that now. I travelled down to Dixon's Blazes and dropped the package off at the Parcel Force depot and it travelled out tonight.

When I spoke to Parcel Force they explained that the Post Office should have accepted it since they are Parcel Force collection points. The lady I spoke to explained that a lot of them don't realise the discount offered by ParcelForce/Paypal for eBay purchases - at 50% it's awesome and the lucky winner of my auction got a £10 refund from the original P&P charge!

Next time you sell something on eBay - check it out for a real saving in postage! It may take away business from your local Post Office, but at those savings with free collection - Post Office, get with the times!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hurricane Dean

Having just read that (Category 5) Hurricane Dean has just hit the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula I have to send my sympathies to those who live there. 18 months ago my wife and I spend our Honeymoon on a cruise around this region of the world where we visited both Costa Maya (currently being hit by Dean) and Cozumel which had been pretty much destroyed by Hurricane Wilma (also Category 5) only a few weeks before.

Honeymoon - 484

The photo above shows the damage Wilma caused to a solid concrete pier at Cozumel.

Our tour guide in Cozumel was so pleased to see us as all tourism stops in these areas when a hurricane hits - and doesn't return until you've recovered. When tourism is your only income which is the case for much of this coastline this can be quite difficult!

Honeymoon - 842

Costa Maya (above) is a completely manufactured "tourism town" serving up to 3 cruise ships a day (probably 7 or 8 thousand tourists a day). Who knows what state Hurricane Dean will leave this place in and when those tourists will return.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Maglev Trainset

The linked article has a great video demonstrating a "not so ordinary" train-set operating on superconductive magnetic levitation!

I want one of these! One wonders how long it would take to make these things more practical for lifesize everyday use... Imagine closer to room temperature superconductors and filling up on liquid coolant at the fuel station! Of course you'd need something to propel you too...

Link to watch video

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Simpsons Movie

I went to watch the Simpsons Movie last night thanks to the Orange 2 for 1 deal at the Showcase Cinemas!

As (oddly) seems to be the case, when Louise and I go to watch a movie, all the other screens are bustling; except the one we're in! The screen last night had about ten people in it in total - fantastic!

I was a bit worried about not enjoying this film as I'd heard mixed opinions and having watched various adverts and clips either I'd watched all the funny parts or that was the tip of the iceberg...

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I hate it when people tell me what happens so don't worry I'm not going to tell you anything other than - there is someone credited in the voice credits at the end of the film who doesn't actually appear. Whilst not realising this at the time, I noticed it and later found out it's apparently a joke on "those who obsessively read the movie credits" - D'oh!! Worst Joke Ever! Wikipedia is now telling me they were cut from the movie - oh well, guess I'll have to wait 'til the DVD release now to find out!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

More Work in Olvera

Olvera Work - 12

We visited Olvera again on Friday to do some final bits of work in the house before we head back to Scotland. The main task was to get the water switched back on... I walked down to the workmen who were laying the new street next to ours and in my best Spanish asked if they had a key to switch the mains water on for me. "Neccesito Fontenero" - You need a plumber was the reply... Goodey! However they did point over to a chap measuring the road who looked like a plumber because he was wearing blue trousers; so over I went. The guy walked up with me to the house armed with a small spanner - I tried turning the tap last week with a spanner and knew this wouldn't work... To his credit he wondered off and got the real tool. He explained they didn't turn the water on unless the owners were there just in case of ruptured pipes. Well what did you know, a large gushing noise was heard and water came spurting out some brickwork in the kitchen - damn! I then asked him to switch it off and again in my best Spanish asked him to switch it back on once I've turned the water tap off at the water meter in the front of the house. It held and we had control of the water in our hands. Our neighbour was with us during this work and was egging us on to ask the guy for the tool so we could do this ourself!!

Anyway, we had to smash away the brickwork to get to the mains pipe, cut it out and replace it with a temporary rubber pipe giving us back a supply of water!

The rest of the day continued where Louise painted the front room getting rid of the grey concrete brickwork we left from last year - much brighter now! The following day we pulled in more tiles of the kitchen to investigate for termites and removed the kitchen cupboards and chimney wood.

Removing the chimney wood was quite fun - there is an extractor fan underneath along with a switch. The cable was wrapped around the wood and would have been live, so I isolated the electricity from the mains and armed with my screwdriver immediately electrocuted myself on the "neutral" which in Spain appears to be constantly live. My father in law always carries around a testing kit when he works on anything in Spain and now I know why - don't trust anything!! I cut the cable out and left it hanging. I manage to shock myself again by inadvertently touching a slightly bared portion of the cable insulation - dammit!!

I also rewired the light on our second floor to use new black metal lights we'd bought a while back which converted more lights from the old 125V to the new 240V. I did this really carefully since I didn't want another electric shock!

We feel a lot better about the house now since we know the termites have probably been attracted to the house because that water pipe has been leaking for a while! Pulling the tiles off revealed good solid walls with little activity in them and confirmed the termites are subterranean. We have water and 240V electricity and most importantly - no termite food - so it is now practical to spend time in and do up as we go!

Flickr Set

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Removing Kitchen

Removing Kitchen - 1
Originally uploaded by barry_williams.

Some people go to Spain for Holiday, some go for work. Well, Louise and I have also gone to remove termites from our house!

The house we purchased a while back has a bit of a termite problem. We've been slowly removing all the original wood from the property (thankfully the structure is concrete) such as door frames and whilst we thought the kitchen was safe - we discovered last year it was infested.

Armed with gloves (lot's of), paraffin, insecticide and a hammer we set about removing the old kitchen and replacing it with a temporary stainless steel one.

This flickr set shows the state the kitchen was in - the picture above required no tools to lift this 1.5 inch thick worktop up off the cupboards below!

There are two types of termites, "subterranean" and "drywood". We suspect we have subterranean which require baiting and poison to totally irradicate!

In the process we also found an insect we couldn't quite identify.

Flickr! Set - Kitchen Removal

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Homer plays Ring Toss

Well not actually - a publicity stunt for the Simpsons Movie has enraged Pagans as their fertility symbol in Dorset (Cerne Abbas) has been "disrespected".

They are currently doing a rain dance to wash poor Homer away as unlike Cerne Abbas, he's been painted in a biodegradable paint that washes away once it rains!

Originally found in The Daily Telegraph

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Third time lucky?

Louise and I have driven from Glasgow to Malaga twice before without any serious issues. This third time was something else...

We prepared the van and had a car trailer on the back to take my Suzuki over to Spain with a view to export it.

We left Glasgow on Saturday morning and travelled south toward the Eurotunnel, we pulled into a caravan shop somewhere after Manchester to obtain additional supplies for the van's conversion to a camper. Just as we rejoined the M6 I heard a bang, we pulled into the next services in half a mile to fill up and I noticed a clicking noise, that was when I noticed one of the wheels of the trailer was jumping - the bearing had sheared! We were recovered by our breakdown policy and taken to a farm in the middle of nowhere next to a village called Alsager. The mechanic there explained he would like to get us on our way as soon as possible, but he wouldn't be able to get the parts until Monday - since the van is partially converted we could stay on the farm until the Monday which was great! Unfortunately a two day delay, we found the local booze shop and were sorted for the weekend...

Monday came and we were told that the part wouldn't arrive until the afternoon, but they would stay open until the trailer was up and running for us. I rebooked the Eurotunnel shuttle and we departed the farm that evening.

After an overnight stay at Maidstone services we set off for Folkestone and arrived shortly after eleven. The Eurotunnel put us on an earlier train and we arrived in France ahead of our (revised) schedule lunchtime Tuesday! We'd made it to the continent and things were looking up!

A few hours after Calais and just before Rouen, a routine check of the trailer revealed a strap holding the Suzuki had snapped! We stayed about an hour restrapping the Suzuki to the trailer where a helpful Spanish truck driver directed. It turned out the way the straps were put on rubbed against the Suzuki suspension slowly wearing through the fabric.

All was well until Le Mans where we decided to stop off for the night. We had our dinner and were contemplating opening our wine when a Polish car parked directly in front of our car (nearly) blocking us in. A family got out and dispersed into the complex when one of the men came to my window and started asking for 2 euros so he could feed his baby. I objected to this since he was on a pay road and should use the free roads if he needed the money, 'plastico' he explained, 'use the cash machine inside then'. He haggled me down to a euro when he eventually gave up and wondered off. Louise was still in the back when I had the engine running and was round the next corner, after a quick check round the trailer and van we were on the road again!

We stopped off about 2 hours later where we had a peaceful night parked between some refridgerated lorries...

Next morning (Wednesday) we set off down the toll road through Tours and toward Bordeaux. On the last stretch of road between Bordeaux and the Spanish border I heard another bang! I thought one of the straps had failed so we pulled into the next rest stop and I checked them all over - everything appeared to be fine so we had a quick rest when Louise noticed one of the wheels of the trailer was sitting at a funny angle. The other bearing had sheared! Our breakdown covers us in Europe but I didn't want to call them out for this so we offloaded the Suzuki, removed the failed wheel of the trailer and decided to run it unloaded on three wheels - with only 900 miles to go, not a bad solution...

When checking through the documentation for the car, we realised Louise was not named on the insurance policy and doubted whether her own policy in Scotland would cover her third party in Europe. So I called Adrian Flux who ensures both the Van and Suzuki. Unfortunately their customer centre was closed and we'd need to call back in the morning, but when I explained our circumstances (200 kms from the Spanish border, etc) they found some people in the office who were able to sort this out for us. There was a charge of £40, but they said they'd put it in the post and we can pay it later - fantastic!

About 30 minutes later Louise radioed in (we had 2 way radios) that she wasn't feeling well. The Suzuki had been loaded with some heavy oils we were transporting over for her Dad - but then I remembered I'd left a bag with Glass Fibre Resin in it (very strong stuff). I repacked the Suzuki sealing the Resin in the Van and stayed the night about another 30 minutes along the road.

Next morning (Thursday) we headed straight for the Spanish border and onwards through San Sebastian. While driving through, a car overtook me and the passenger had a look right out the window back at me - I presumed he was looking at my wheel-less trailer. Then the car pulled into the right with it's hazards on when I spotted it was two uniformed police officers... About 2 miles down the road, I looked in my mirrors to spot the car with a blue light flashing in the window just behind me and in front of Louise - my heart sank! I pulled into the side of the road and stopped on the hard shoulder to watch the unmarked police car disappear off into the distance - phew!

Just south of Pamplona my van cut out... lost engine power to realise I was coasting down a hill in a 3.5 tonne van with trailer at 60 MPH... I stopped the car at the side of the road and called out the breakdown. When I gave Churchill the road (AP-15) and the kilometre marking I was told "that isn't useful because I don't have that on my map" - what? 30 minutes later the Guardia Civil Trafico arrived explaining (with a serious language barrier) that I needed two warning triangles out, not just the one I'd placed and that I'd need to pull the van further off the road or they'd have me towed off the motorway at my expense. They had a laugh at our predicament with the trailer, smiled and rode off. Another call to Churchill explaining the urgency of this assured me the driver would be with me in twenty minutes. 1 hour later a 'Grua' (Spanish for tow truck) arrived with a 'Autopista de Navarra' badge on the side - this guy wasn't our breakdown company's partner 'Linea Directa'. Off the motorway we were towed and a bill for 53 euros was presented to me, I explained I wasn't going to pay it and the guy left explaining he'd be back! Linea Directa telephoned me directly explaining they couldn't find me, so I wondered up to the toll booth at the motorway and asked them to speak to the guy on my phone (who was spanish) telling them where I was. They were on the phone for about 2 minutes when our friend with the Autopista Grua arrived at the toll booth, the phone was passed to him and he drove off with it!

Ten minutes later the Grua driver gave me my phone back when Linea Directa explained he'd charged the 53 euros directly and we didn't have to pay it. Our new friend then arrived with two chilled bottles of water for us which was much appreciated! The grua driver then telephoned our recovery company's driver to explain exactly how to get where we were and an hour later the Mapfre truck arrived and spent 5 minutes bleeding the diesel lines and starting our motor for us!

We set off for another 3 hours and stopped off at a filling station just outside a town called Medinaceli just before the A2 to Madrid.

Friday morning we set off toward Madrid and arrived without a single problem in Tembleque (our rendezvous with Louise's parents). We set off for the final leg of the journey between Tembleque and Malaga arriving at just after 10 in the evening. 6 days and 12 hours after we set off...

I've learnt a lot on this journey - all about wheel bearings, how to tie a vehicle to a trailer with straps and what to look for if a diesel engine stops running!

In summary, the wheel bearings sheared because they didn't have dust caps on them grinding dirt into them and the van motor stopped due to a blockage in the fuel line. Two simple and avoidable things!

A few months agao when I left my driving licence at home on a journey to the USA and had to make a 300 mile journey using public transport I was told it would be "Character Building". This journey to Spain was definitely a lot more than that!!

Funnily enough we both enjoyed it! Not again with a trailer though!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mac OS X Grapher

Recently I thought I'd dive into the 'Grapher' program provided free with Mac OS X Tiger in the Application/Utilities folder to simulate an equation I'd been given.

Writing it into the equation bar was surprising because it displays it all very nicely converting a * to a nice dot and bracketing and dividing nicely as you type! Further, I discovered an item in the context menu to export the equation as an image or... A LaTeX equation!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Amalagamate, Video Discs, Laserdisc, Microcomputer? It can only be...

The same year that brought you Blade Runner also brought us this $20000 (Twenty Thousand dollar) exercise cycle which "amalgamates a superior, industrial quality LaserDisc player with a video disc, a 45" rear screen video projector, and the Lifecycle electronic bicycle/aerobic trainer." Wow!!!

This "surrogate travelling" monstrosity gives you a whole 2 hours of tours, meaning it was probably possible to fly to these places and actually cycle this tours for less than the cost of this device!


Original article found on BoingBoing

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Extreme Balloon Modelling

I found this site using Stumble! and it's really impressive the amount of detail these guys have managed with balloon folding. I was impressed with a bicycle made from 10 or so balloons, but this takes it to the extreme!

Good stuff!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Manhunt 2 Banned

The computer game Manhunt 2 has been rejected classification by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) - an unelected group of people who decide what is acceptable for the British public to watch.

This game's predecessor was given an 18 rating which apparently was at the "top end of the scale". Manhunt 2 clearly surpasses that, no doubt due to it's probable increased graphics realism and something which I read separately; the Wii version's ability to control stabbing and mutilation by performing the motion with the wiimote...

Whilst I'm not one for buying this particular genre of games I would have like to have seen the wiimote stabbing action purely out of curiousity, not out of some hidden wanton desire which the BBFC rejection now makes this appear.

a range of unjustifiable harm risks to both adults and minors

Let's quickly skim over the adult part. If a person starts to commit these acts based on a computer game, then that person has a problem. It's not the games fault!

They should perhaps do a lab test - pull a few hundred people of the streets, let them play the game for a few hours a day for a full month and release them into the wild and see what they do. I doubt very much they will all turn into killing machines*. Although, you may find that a fraction of those that do have tendencies for violence may be catalysed by the computer game - but since (I presume) that number is quite small, why stop the rest of us. It's a bit like banning peanuts because some of the population is allergic to them.

Now to the minors, sorry, that's why it should be an 18. 18 means, don't let people who's ages are less than 18 watch or play... Let's assume it did get an 18 classification. I'm not ignorant enough to realise that kids would get hold of it because "it's cool". Some of their parents would have even bought it for them, their friends would play it, etc. This is a decision the parents should be making based on the age rating and it really should become an offense just like (unsupervised) underage drinking is. Perhaps there is a useful application of DRM here.

Furthermore, rejecting the game now makes it even more 'cool' in the average kid's eyes because they'll have to import it from the US and play it on their chipped PS2s...

Come on, where there is a will there is a way. Why bother banning games - you'll still be able to get hold of them. It's not going to stop it, is it?

*If someone makes a movie out of this then I had the idea first!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What happens when you bury a car?

Originally uploaded by Michael Bates.

On June 15, 1957, a time capsule and a Plymouth Belvedere were buried in a vault next to the Tulsa County Courthouse. On June 15, 2007, the car and the capsule were exhumed and unveiled.

What a shame! They probably had high hopes in '57 this would work, especially since they coated it in rust preservatives! Let's hope they do it again, but this time try to stop the seepage of ground water!

Originally found on this BoingBoing post.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Joy of Tech

I though this was really funny. I read this keynote on Engadget's and MacRumours' live blogs as with the last few keynotes Jobs has performed. All of these apart from the most recent I've watched again online when it was released. I never watched the June 2007 one... When announcing the new features I found myself shouting at my screen 'You said that last year you arse'. Boy am I sad.

So I found this cartoon funny:

(Click it to read it properly)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Car Radio Advert

I received this advert in my email from Pixmania advertising a Car Radio sale!

WOW! Like I've never done that before...

I did chuckle a little!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wii arrived!!

Quite by surprise yesterday afternoon a delivery truck came to deliver a package in Louise's name. What could it be?

Later that evening I had built up a sweat, pulled a muscle in my leg and had a sore arm. It was a Wii with Wii Sports ordered early December 2006!

My favourites so far are definitely the Tennis (despite the fact I don't like it in real life), Bowling and Baseball!

My PS2 has GTA: Vice City Stories in it - I'm about 30% through that game and I'm not sure I can go back to sitting on a chair stabbing my fingers at a controller! The Wii is just different and a lot more fun. Louise and I competed last night for about 4 hours before having to give up! Even the dog was trying to join in...

The Wii has WiFi on it, which was a breeze to setup and you get News and Weather through the first menu. The weather is quite swish - it gives you a google earth type map to play with and displays the weather and temperatures for major cities across the globe. You spin the globe using the wireless Wii controller! The news is extremely readable and looks like a newspaper. Cool stuff!

It also plays my old Gamecube games so I may just have a go at finally completing Metroid Prime!!!

You can create your own Avatar or 'Mii' which you can use playing your games - Good Fun!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is definitely a Formula One driver to watch, however, I wonder just how much modern technology in the F1 cars is helping Lewis achieve the results he is currently enjoying.

I was a bit surprised to read that McLaren are being probed over possible team orders when they requested Lewis to 'take it easy' toward the end of the Monaco Grand Prix. How is this team orders? It simply stops Lewis Hamilton taking out Alonso and losing McLaren a one-two finish! Common sense!

Why is everyone saying he was robbed of his first win? Yes, he is quick - he has done well in motorsports before F1 (See this Lewis Hamilton article on Wikipedia), however it is still his fifth F1 Grand Prix and he is proving he is doing well! Why should we be expecting him to be winning every race?

I think this media coverage is giving Lewis Hamilton a bit of an ego now as I have read that he acknowledges the 'team orders' so that he didn't pressurise Alonso into making a mistake - and then perhaps colliding with him after such a mistake.

I was told to take it easy, so there was no point pressuring him into a mistake, and then if he had made a mistake to crash into him, so it was best to finish one-two.
Quote taken from article on BBC Sport

I watched on the edge of my seat Alonso being pressured by Michael Schumacher for the best part of most races and not making any mistakes. I doubt he would have in Monaco just because it was Hamilton.

Alonso deserved to win - he was definitely the fastest all weekend.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Chapel Cross Cooling Towers Demolished

The cooling towers at Chapel Cross Nuclear Power Station have been destroyed in a controlled demolition.

I read about this a few weeks back and the article mentioned they were going to broadcast it over the internet to try and minimise public presence at the site.

Well, they've done so and produced quite a nice site too with details of how the demolition works and a video of the towers falling down.

Pretty cool!

Link to Chapel Cross Cooling Towers Website

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Eurovision Song Contest

I went bowling on Saturday night to intentionally miss the Eurovision Song Contest since it had shunted Doctor Who off the schedule...

However, we arrived back to watch the last couple of songs with a few beers and see the final scores and of course Terry "We won the Cold War but we lost the Eurovision" Wogan's fantastic commentary. After watching the short clips we seeked out the Ukranian song 'Dancing Lasha Tumbai' and hoped it would win! A bit of a crappy song, but catchy and I am sure destined to be 2007's Macarena! Personally I think it's a perfect 'eurovision' song - a lot of effort's clearly gone in (doesn't that star sparkle) and in fact it's moved from 43 on the iTunes chart this morning to 16 right now and (hopefully) about to overtake Britain's lame attempt with 'Flying the Flag', which sounds to me more like a bad advert for British Airways and how much better the UK is to the rest of Europe (what?)

I was so disappointed that Malta gave the UK 12 points!?! Ireland of course did the neighborly thing and gave a couple of points to the UK - and of course the UK didn't reciprocate - surprising, given the fact that this week marked the restoration of power sharing in Northern Ireland... It would have been so amusing to see the UK entry 'scooching' off with no points.

Watch the Ukraine's 2007 Eurovision Entry (Verka Serduchka) on YouTube
Link to the Eurovision 2007 Final Scores

Thursday, May 10, 2007

1997 - 2007

The Daily Telegraph has an interesting diagram showing the average prices of everyday items in 1997 compared with today.

Price Differences 1997 - 2007 (Click to Enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)

Full Daily Telegraph Article about Tony Blair resigning as Labour Leader

Monday, May 07, 2007

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

I've seen the signs about Glasgow's 2014 bid for the commonwealth urging me to back the bid, but I only just found out you can sign up online!

At Glasgow's Back the Bid webpage, you can sign up as an individual, company, club or school to give your support to Glasgow's Commonwealth bid.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

DRS Software

Steven Murdoch left an interesting comment on my previous posting about the Scottish Election Chaos. Namely that the electoral commission recommends that in the event of crosses and numbers being placed in the wrong columns a system where the ballot can still be counted and not simply discarded as 'spoiled'. Steven simply hoped that the software does follow this recommendation.

As a recent convert to Apple Mac OS X from Linux over 2 years ago, I'm not quite the Open Source Advocate as I once was. However, if ever there was a case for OSS, this must be it. I really would like the ability for the public to audit the software DRS has written to ensure it follows the guidelines. Even though it has been 'independently reviewed', I simply don't trust the programmers who wrote it unless I can see test suite results and/or the code. They don't have to reveal the company secrets that actually interpret the glyphs written on the paper - but they can open the algorithm used to produce the final results.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Election Chaos

Now that we've found out that over 100,000 ballots have been rejected due to being 'spoilt' I think they should all be recounted using common sense rather than a computer.

I strongly believe that most of the spoilt papers will be because somebody has placed a '1' where there should be a cross and a cross where there should be a number.

They should recount the papers such that a cross where there should be number = 1 and the number 1 where there should be a cross should be a cross. This would discard second, third and fourth choices of course - but would come up with a more accurate result.

Better yet, rerun the election in a few months time. I read somewhere on the internet that if this had have happened in Africa - Britain would be first shouting for a rerun!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Colourful Encryption

The HD-DVD encryption system was cracked over the last week and the AACS licensing authority is trying to take down the numbers wherever they appear on the net. They are failing miserably as a google search for the numbers yesterday revealed 30,000 results and today they're indexing 370,000 pages with those numbers!

t3knomanser decided that it was a good idea to create a colour palette containing those numbers, unfortunately when he converted it to GIF - the HEX encoding was lost.

What do you think of the pretty image I've created on this page? I quickly made it up in photoshop using some colours I thought go quite well together...

t3knomanser's blog
Originally found on Boing Boing

The above image is licenced under Creative Commons. I hereby waive the Attribution requirement on this licence.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

This'n'That - you can learn it at!

Great card trick I found on via Stumble! Amusing trick involving three cards - not entirely sure how he does it though, but there are a couple of suggestions in the YouTube comments. Costs $9 to see how it works on - I think I can live my life without knowing it...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Nine Inch Nails

One of my favourite bands, Nine Inch Nails recently released their album 'Year Zero'. The past few singles have also been released in GarageBand format to allow remixing them. They've just released a few more tracks on their site which is cool.

Whilst reading that page I noticed a couple of things which I found quite amusing - first of all:

As a reward for stealing Year Zero, we've prepared the next batch of multitrack audio files for you to download.

Secondly for the those that don't have GarageBand, they have linked directly to a 'generic' version of the file - on as a torrent file...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Election Fever

Well, maybe not fever or excitement. Rather than blurt out my political thoughts and indicate who I'll be voting for - I thought I'd poke some fun at the election leaflets which got forcefully thrust through my letterbox yesterday morning. I'm also doing a postal vote, so I get a sneak preview at all those smaller parties you know nothing about until the big day - Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers party anyone?

First off, there is Richard Sullivan - Glasgow Baillieston candidate for the Scottish Conservatives, he lives nowhere near Baillieston, managed to spell the name wrong and waffles about how the Town Centre needs regenerating! Baillieston "town centre" is a street of maybe 20 or 30 shops, mainly takeaways and estate agents plus a couple of each type of shop including greengrocers and butchers with a Lidl and Morrisons right at the end. I actually thought it was doing rather well myself - not a single closed or out of place shop with new ones opening every month or so... Secondly he goes on about the need for "people here in Baillieston" to "deserve to be able to walk their streets at night". This confirmed it - he's never been here at night - In the couple of years I've lived here I've never seen a single problem! I might take him up on his offer to give me a lift to the Polls - might actually get him to see the area!

The other amusing leaflet was from David Jackson - candidate for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Inside he waffles on about making Scotland, greener, safer, increasing health care and making young people matter. It's this last one I found amusing as the headline is sitting right next to the following picture:

That looks like a young person putting a Buckfast bottle in (presumably) a recycle bin. Are they encouraging young people to drink - or just be responsible enough to recycle their Buckie bottles after consuming them?

Another leaflet posted through my door doesn't bitch about other parties or offer to give pensioners more money. They simply state:
  • No to Anti-Social Behaviour
  • No to More Bogus Asylum Seekers
  • No to More Immigration
  • No to Being the Sick Man of Europe
  • Yes to Long Term Sustainable Jobs
  • Yes to More Police
  • Yes to Better Quality Housing
  • Yes to Education that Works
  • Yes to a Better NHS
  • Yes to a Cleaner, Greener Environment

Well - I'm fairly sure Labour will get in again, but hopefully not. I'm posting away my vote soon and maybe it'll make an iota of a difference.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Music Recommendations

I was trying a new piece of software for my mac called 'CoverSutra' which is quite nice application. It offers a little icon of the current track being played on the desktop and has Growl support.

One of the features I didn't know much about was submission to a site called which is a music recommendation site. Coversutra will automatically upload the music you play (names of tracks only) and compare it with other people with similar listening tastes. Eventually it'll recommend local concerts and music based purely on your listening history! Sounds good to me - and it's free.

If you visit my actual website (rather than reading my newsfeed) you'll notice a little icon on the right hand side which displays my most popularly listened artists over the last week! Pretty cool - this updates live too!

Check out CoverSutra - it's only 10 euros!
Link to

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Street Artist

I found this website through 'Stumble!' and it is about pavement artist (Julian Beever) who is quite good at what he does. He paints anamorphic illusions to create the impression of 3D shapes from paintings on the floor. Check them out they are all very good, but this one got my attention the most!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mobile Phone Insurance

In January of this year I bought a Treo 680 from Expansys on contract from Vodafone, the problem that I didn't realise is that Vodafone won't insure my mobile because it's not from them and they couldn't do a 'like for like' exchange. This meant looking for a 3rd party insurance company...

Most of the ones available are for purchase with a new phone, for example Carphone Warehouse, Argos, etc. I found one quite quickly on the internet, but (to me) it seemed like a bit of a nobody and wasn't sure whether it was a rip off or not.

Left with no choice, I went ahead and purchased the insurance from a company called Insurance4mobiles but with a number of different domain names on the internet. The website claims it is underwritten by AXA and when I called the number I actually got through to someone. The monthly price is £7.99 for my Treo 680 and you pay the first three months up front.

Well, you can't really review an insurance company without a claim, so by luck (or not so) I had to make one recently.

I managed to accidentally crack the screen on my Treo and this is covered by the insurance policy's accidental coverage. I called the company and told them I'd like to make a claim and they wanted proof of purchase of my phone, this was going to be slightly difficult as I'd purchased it from Expansys using Paypal. I forwarded on the paypal receipt and it wasn't accepted; after explaining the situation they would accept a photocopy of the label on the side of the box including the make and model of the phone along with the IMEI number. I compromised by offering a photograph of the phone displaying this information - I sent the photo via email and they were happy with it, claim approved and it would be a £25 excess fee.

They sent me an addressed package for the phone and claim form to sign which arrived the following day. After posting it, a few days later an absolutely brand new boxed and unopened Treo 680 arrived through the post!

After my initial reservations, they've demonstrated they are good - and a lot easier than some insurance companies I've claimed through (T-Mobile).

If you have an uninsured phone or laptop, have a look. They ensure a wide range of mobiles and have a couple of different insurance products.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Apple TV like Sync on a Macbook Pro

I was wondering earlier when and if someone could write a piece of software which makes any mac pretend it was an Apple TV. One of the features I like about the new Apple TV is the ability to 'push' and 'sync' music and video onto the device from any iTunes library, So.... if someone could figure out how to emulate an Apple TV's response to iTunes - you could possibly make any computer pretend to be an Apple TV and sync your music to any computer!

There are programs out there like SyncOTunes and SlingShot, these are all rsync based with some AppleScript to update iTunes' library - no disrespect to their authors, but they are separate applications. The Apple TV emulation would make the whole thing seamless and integrated within iTunes.

Perhaps I should have a look at this, although this may mean purchasing an Apple TV, which, until it supports DivX out of the box (or post installable without warranty voiding) I'm not interested in :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Discovered this link on the net which I found quite interesting! It's a robot with four axis of movement and programmed to respond to the rhythm of music in a human way.

They have two videos on the site and they are spookily amusing to watch! The robot really does dance to the music and quite well too...

Found it originally on BoingBoing
Direct link to the article

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vista Upgrade Flowchart

Click on the image to make it larger.

Extreme Swing

I'm up for extreme activities - never done one yet, but i'd like to. This one however does look pretty terrifying! It's the world's largest swing across The Oribi Gorge (Google Earth Link).

The linked blog has a YouTube video on it demonstrating the swing - crap sound - good video though.

Original Posting on
Discovered on Neatorama

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lunar Eclipse March 2007

Originally uploaded by barry_williams.

My camera was out from 10 o clock last night snapping photographs of the Lunar Eclipse which was meant to be one of the most spectacular ever. I've nothing to compare with but it was certainly a fantastic sight!

I was slightly surprised at the number of people walking past me asking me what I was taking photographs of. They had no idea an eclipse was happening and didn't even notice the moon was red until I pointed it out!

Link to my Lunar Eclipse flickr set

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Response from the Prime Minister

Thank you for taking the time to register your views about road pricing on the Downing Street website.

This petition was posted shortly before we published the Eddington Study, an independent review of Britain's transport network. This study set out long-term challenges and options for our transport network.

It made clear that congestion is a major problem to which there is no easy answer. One aspect of the study was highlighting how road pricing could provide a solution to these problems and that advances in technology put these plans within our reach. Of course it would be ten years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically, feasible.

That is the backdrop to this issue. As my response makes clear, this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance. This is a complex subject, which cannot be resolved without a thorough investigation of all the options, combined with a full and frank debate about the choices we face at a local and national level. That's why I hope this detailed response will address your concerns and set out how we intend to take this issue forward. I see this email as the beginning, not the end of the debate, and the links below provide an opportunity for you to take it further.

But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing. Indeed we are simply not yet in a position to do so. We are, for now, working with some local authorities that are interested in establishing local schemes to help address local congestion problems. Pricing is not being forced on any area, but any schemes would teach us more about how road pricing would work and inform decisions on a national scheme. And funds raised from these local schemes will be used to improve transport in those areas.

One thing I suspect we can all agree is that congestion is bad. It's bad for business because it disrupts the delivery of goods and services. It affects people's quality of life. And it is bad for the environment. That is why tackling congestion is a key priority for any Government.

Congestion is predicted to increase by 25% by 2015. This is being driven by economic prosperity. There are 6 million more vehicles on the road now than in 1997, and predictions are that this trend will continue.

Part of the solution is to improve public transport, and to make the most of the existing road network. We have more than doubled investment since 1997, spending £2.5 billion this year on buses and over £4 billion on trains - helping to explain why more people are using them than for decades. And we're committed to sustaining this investment, with over £140 billion of investment planned between now and 2015. We're also putting a great deal of effort into improving traffic flows - for example, over 1000 Highways Agency Traffic Officers now help to keep motorway traffic moving.

But all the evidence shows that improving public transport and tackling traffic bottlenecks will not by themselves prevent congestion getting worse. So we have a difficult choice to make about how we tackle the expected increase in congestion. This is a challenge that all political leaders have to face up to, and not just in the UK. For example, road pricing schemes are already in operation in Italy, Norway and Singapore, and others, such as the Netherlands, are developing schemes. Towns and cities across the world are looking at road pricing as a means of addressing congestion.

One option would be to allow congestion to grow unchecked. Given the forecast growth in traffic, doing nothing would mean that journeys within and between cities would take longer, and be less reliable. I think that would be bad for businesses, individuals and the environment. And the costs on us all will be real - congestion could cost an extra £22 billion in wasted time in England by 2025, of which £10-12 billion would be the direct cost on businesses.

A second option would be to try to build our way out of congestion. We could, of course, add new lanes to our motorways, widen roads in our congested city centres, and build new routes across the countryside. Certainly in some places new capacity will be part of the story. That is why we are widening the M25, M1 and M62. But I think people agree that we cannot simply build more and more roads, particularly when the evidence suggests that traffic quickly grows to fill any new capacity.

Tackling congestion in this way would also be extremely costly, requiring substantial sums to be diverted from other services such as education and health, or increases in taxes. If I tell you that one mile of new motorway costs as much as £30m, you'll have an idea of the sums this approach would entail.

That is why I believe that at least we need to explore the contribution road pricing can make to tackling congestion. It would not be in anyone's interests, especially those of motorists, to slam the door shut on road pricing without exploring it further.

It has been calculated that a national scheme - as part of a wider package of measures - could cut congestion significantly through small changes in our overall travel patterns. But any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes, may well be able to play a role here, by ensuring that the Government doesn't hold information about where vehicles have been. But there may also be opportunities presented by developments in new technology. Just as new medical technology is changing the NHS, so there will be changes in the transport sector. Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society.

I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax" on motorists. It won't. Road pricing is about tackling congestion.

Clearly if we decided to move towards a system of national road pricing, there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation. This could mean that those who use their car less, or can travel at less congested times, in less congested areas, for example in rural areas, would benefit from lower motoring costs overall. Those who travel longer distances at peak times and in more congested areas would pay more. But those are decisions for the future. At this stage, when no firm decision has been taken as to whether we will move towards a national scheme, stories about possible costs are simply not credible, since they depend on so many variables yet to be investigated, never mind decided.

Before we take any decisions about a national pricing scheme, we know that we have to have a system that works. A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair. I fully accept that we don't have all the answers yet. That is why we are not rushing headlong into a national road pricing scheme. Before we take any decisions there would be further consultations. The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament.

We want to continue this debate, so that we can build a consensus around the best way to reduce congestion, protect the environment and support our businesses. If you want to find out more, please visit the attached links to more detailed information, and which also give opportunities to engage in further debate.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What are we to do?

I signed the petition asking for a debate on the suggested pay as you go road tax scheme. As such, I'm now expecting an email from Tony Blair explaining why he thinks this is a good idea. I think this will be a tough letter to write! As I understand it the main aim is to cut road congestion - the second aim will probably be to cut carbon emissions too. My retailiation to both of these is what are the alternatives? Bus, Rail, Plane, Ship? I think not - in practice people don't really have a choice...

I only have a short journey into work in the mornings, it is already quite expensive to park in the city of Glasgow for more than 3 hours so it is usually cheaper for me to catch the Bus or the Train - the Bus takes 45 minutes, is every 10 minutes, smells and is too busy to get a seat at peak times; the train takes 20 minutes (starts and ends at the same places as the train) and is every 30 minutes, reasonably reliable and again too busy for me to get a seat a peak times; obviously cannot do plane or ship for this journey. Luckily I can start and leave work at off peak times allowing me to get a seat, so I go by train - the bus is £2.50 and train is £2.70, but the train is much quicker. This is a common sense choice for me.

My wife works as a school teacher, she must be in work at 8.30am (rush hour). It is a 15 minute car journey. Impractical to travel by train due to the distance of that line's stations from our home and the school. There are buses that travel close by our house and the school, but that would require a change of bus and travelling on the same bus as other school kids (not usually a good idea in this country). Therefore Car is the only practical solution here. Again a common sense choice.

In response to emissions; we own property in Spain and we drive there. It takes about 2 to 3 days of driving through wonderful scenery (once through the Eurotunnel that is) and is a joyous and relaxing drive. We do travel on the mostly on the French autoroutes and the Spanish toll roads. It costs us about 90 euros (£60) to travel through France and Spain - a total of 1200 miles and get full use of the ample rest stops on the French motorways. In terms of carbon emmisions; a plane jouney would emit 0.5 tonnes per passenger each way (total of 2 tonnes for 2 people return); driving emits 0.5 tonnes each way (total of 1 tonne return) and the train emits 0.35 tonnes per person each way (total of 1.4 tonnes for 2 poeple return). As far as I understand this - taking the car is the most environmentally friendly way of getting myself, my wife and my dog to Spain (in a 2.5 litre Diesel Van). Therefore car is the most environmentally friendly way of travelling.

I am hoping that Tony Blair's email to me will explain how he plans to upgrade Britain's public transport systems to cope with the obvious increase of passengers at peak times. How he is going to ensuring that those passengers arrive at their places of business just as relaxed as they would have done by car. His plans to remove the statutory annual road tax and remove the tax on fuel reducing it to European prices (in Spain it costs 0.90 euro cents per litre - about 60p).

Perhaps labour will make the congestion charges variable depending on what time you travel at. This could make it extremely unfair - and expensive - to those who cannot adjust their working hours.

I look forward to read what he'll say...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Maths Puzzles and Alzheimer's

There is a history of Alzheimer's in my family so most things like this interest me. It appears maths puzzles help fend off Alzheimer's which is jolly good luck since I enjoy maths puzzles - particularly Sudoku.

One of the puzzles the Telegraph examples is surprisingly difficult - a colour test. Not really a maths puzzle - but bloody difficult. You have to read out the colour of the words, which are names of not necessarily the same colour.

Read the article on the Telegraph here

Dom Joly in an Indian Call Centre

I get really frustrated with the number of calls I get from indian call centres and it appears Dom Joly does too. I watched this episode of Happy Hour last night and found it hilarious as Dom Joly puts a small spanner in the works during an Intelenet English phonetics training session by introducing some alternative words!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mighty Mouse Scrolling

Something that bugged me since owning an Apple Mighty Mouse since March last year is it's seemingly inability to scroll horizontally and vertically at the same time (diagonal scrolling) - being a ball you'd think it could. This facility is particularly useful in apps like Photoshop...

For some unknown reason I never thought to look in the mouse preferences to discover a 'scrolling options' selector box which offers an option to allow 360 degree scrolling... At last I can scroll in a circle with my mouse 'wheel'!

Whilst writing this I've just discovered another thing which I 'miss' from Windows; to middle click and scroll down a webpage. On my mac, whenever I try this I invoke the Dashboard which is frustrating, if I hold down the control key however, I can drag and scroll down a website in Firefox.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Steve Jobs on DRM

This is quite an interesting post by Steve Jobs about the state of play with DRM and online music.

With many European companies complaining directly to Apple about the restrictions employed by the iTunes music store, Steve points out that 2.5 of the 4 big music companies are based in European companies so the finger should be pointed in their own backyard. Looks like Jobs' is fed up with getting the flak...

Another concern which I have heard time and time again is 'DRM locks you into a specific device'. Steve counters this by providing the statistics that about 22 in every 1000 songs in each iPod is from their iTunes store - I agree with this - 2% of your music isn't going to stop you from ditching your iPod and picking up a Zune... In fact, looking at my iPod, I have 34 protected items on it - and 3561 of 'normal' music and videos on it. The number of songs purchased from iTunes will be a little higher as before I had an iPod I burned the music to CD and reimported it, but it still well under a few percent. I could easily switch to another device if I wanted to.

It really looks like DRM music is a complete waste of time, especially when the majority of music is being sold on CDs - although contrary to Steve Jobs' argument record companies are trying to inflict 'compatible' copy protected CDs upon us.

I think it is refreshing that the largest retailer of online music is taking the attitude that DRM is bad! You have my support.

I found this in an article on TUAW
Here is the original posting on Apple

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Online Password Generator

[June 30th 2017 Comment]
A company recently contacted me about this page and asked if I could add their newly announced password generation tool alongside the one linked from this site. The company is called "CompariTech" and I've never heard of them. Anyway, this article is 10 years old, I no longer recommend using a website to generate passwords, can you trust they do not store your password and leave a tracking cookie?

Use a password manager instead. Read this wikipedia article:

This is quite a useful site for generating secure passwords. You specify the length and what the password should contain (numbers, punctuation, capitals, etc). Then you select how many passwords you want so you can either choose or distribute them.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Palm OS renamed to Garnet OS

On January 25th Palm OS was renamed to Garnet OS. I'm an avid Palm OS user and have used those devices for years right back from my very first (and still working) Palmpilot Pro! Unfortunately, over the last 2 years or so there hasn't been any real progress with the OS, especially when compared with Windows Mobile. I still prefer my Treo 680 over all the WM devices I've seen!

However, on reading this article on Palm InfoCenter about the name change, I thought the day's tear-off Dilbert cartoon was particularly apt!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bennie Railplane Updated

Spotted this article on Boing Boing where Mass Tram America Inc. are planning to use decommisioned aircraft to create a 'highway in the sky' by suspending them from overhead tracks. Mass Tram America do state on their 'about us' page that none of the technology is new and indeed, it isn't as this was trialled once right here in Glasgow (well just outside anyway).

George Bennie announced similar plans in 1921 and actually built a working prototype in 1929. You can read about this in Wikipedia's Bennie Railplane article.

This image was taken from Rampant Scotland's Bennie Railplane article.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cringe Worthy Microsoft Video

This video took up 12 valuable minutes of my time and quite frankly I'd like those back... However, it was compulsive viewing.

Basically it's about a company needing to get a document out ASAP and one of the workers uses Windows/386 to get the job done with retorts from her colleagues 'that's not OS/2' and 'but that looks like 1-2-3'... It's all pretty horrid stuff.

I've got 4 applications running each with it's own 8086 machine with 640K memory.

Try that with Vista!

Watch the Windows 386 Promotional Video on Google Video

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Spotted this on Boing Boing and had to share...

Why on earth do they put these types of graphics on a toy??? Basically a Chinese company has produced what looks like quite a good toy, but the instructions on the box and the graphics are quite funny.

My favourite is the "Don't hit yourself for not buying something else" guess when baffled with an icon instruction.

Post on BoingBoing
Original Article

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogger Now Supports Custom Domains

Just discovered that Blogger now supports custom domains. At the moment I can use my '' domain name by having Blogger publish my blog to my hosting provider... But now blogger will host my blog for me - and allow me to use my custom domain. This will mean I'll get some of the newer 'Blogger 2' features such as labels being displayed on my homepage. Not sure what other extras are available though...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Gotten out of hand

I think this whole 'racism' issue in the Big Brother house has gotten completely out of control. Wikipedia are running an article which outlines exactly what comments have been made in the Celebrity Big Brother House.

Last I checked there was a black person in the BB house as well as an indian (I don't know all of their names so I won't use any), yet all the attention is focused around the indian. Why? Surely if they are all being racist it would be across the board - perhaps they are just bullying the indian girl because she is annoying - like that guy you know.

The comments I've heard are - calling the indian girl, "the indian girl" - Guess that includes me then. The second comment was about the Londoner not wanting to touch the food because they didn't know where the Indian's had been. I don't want to eat food unless I know where the preparers hands have been either.

Just think of this: How many times has an English person called people up her the 'f**cking scottish'? Perhaps me - the 'bl**dy irish'. Jeez, I'm blonde too...

People should grow up and realise - yes it is bullying, but it isn't racist bullying. As soon as people call it racist, then become racist.

This is no more derogatory than an Edinbugger calling a Glaswegian a 'weegie' or a weegie calling someone from Edinburgh an 'Edinbugger'...

Please move along - there isn't anything to see here.