Thanks for the memory

I know that we are living in the future, but it's still worth stopping every now and then to really appreciate how things have changed. It was maybe thirteen years ago that I got my first PC. It was very exciting, because it had an extra large hard disk -- 80MB. To use this massive capacity, we neede a special controller card, and the disk itself was the size of a shoebox, and made a grinding, rumbling noise. Eventually, after upgrading the computer from a 286 to a 486 a few years later, it was just possible to fit DOOM on this disk, and after waiting for a few minutes, the game was almost playable, providing it didn't crash.

Fastforward to 2004. I recently bought a SD memory card for something like $15. It's about a square centimetre or two in area, and a few millimetres thick. And it holds 128MB. And what do I keep on it? Photos from a digital camera. About four of them, and that's more than all of Doom. Meanwhile, dangling from my key chain is a USB flash drive with 512MB -- that's twice the size of the 256MB drive I bought ten years back to replace the 80MB behemoth. Let's not even mention the 60GB sitting on my lap as I type this, or the quarter *terabyte* in the machine in the corner of the room.

Does anyone particularly care? Well, probably not. But maybe for the first time, it feels like technology has advanced sufficiently that you can actually do things with it. I spent a couple of hours last night trying to get two machines to talk to each other over a windows network, and it occurred to me that this was the first time in a long while that I've actually been dealing with hardware configurations and software issues. When I was a kid, I used to do this all the time: I'd hardly ever use the computer to do anything, instead, I'd spend hours configuring it to work, like trying to get it to run doom or windows 3.0, but not really do anything when it worked. Nowadays, I hardly ever do much configuring, instead I'm actually using the thing. Admittedly, I'm using it to surf the web, write email, or (occasionally) do some work, rather than, I don't know, command my robot army, but still, it's a big step forward.


Out for Delivery

The limitations of internet commerce and parcel tracking become apparent when the package is listed as "out for delivery". There's still no indication of when the delivery will be made. Is it worth staying home an extra couple of hours in the morning to pick it up before heading out to work? Or going to work but sneaking home early to collect it? Actually, neither seems particularly useful since, in my previous experience, the van usually shows up about 2.30, which is roughly the middle of the day for me. Anyway, it's raining this morning, so I think I'll just wait in until the rain stops (sometime tonight, probably), or the truck comes down. How long until they augment the package tracking systems with GPS on the trucks?


Lucas Arts

Has anyone noticed how the titles of the new star wars films are all the same as the old ones? We have "The Phantom Menace" and "A New Hope", which are both (article) (adjective) (noun), and vaguely opposite meaning. Then there's "Empire Strikes Back" and "Attack of the Clones", both of which involve a large force (empire, clones) in a violent act (attacking, striking back). And now there's "Return of the Jedi" and "Revenge of the Sith", (note that Jedi and Sith are, basically, the goodies and the baddies). All the same, you see.


Lamest 419 ever

Is there anyone out there still dumb enough to fall for 419 scams? A compelling argument for eugenics if ever there was one. Anyway, the latest one to fall into my inbox contains a sentence that just jumps out as pathetic:

"But i am contacting you from here in (Dubia )where i am now sicking political

From Dubia? As in George Dubia? Well, I hope you get your assylum. Now sick off.

Advertising jingles

The following has been buzzing around my head for a few weeks now. Feel free to appropriate and turn into something useful.

The scene: Boston, in the early 1700s. Two Bostonians are preparing to celebrate thanksgiving.

Sam: And this is my newest creation!
[He presents Ben with a 12" disc of pastry with melted cheese and tomato topping]

Ben: What is this? Never in my life have I seen so strange a dish!

Sam: Try it!

[Ben takes a slice, and savours the new dish]

Ben: My! Such a cornucopia of sensation! Such a rich blend of flavors cannot be godly!

Sam: Now try this

[He presents a second "pizza", this time with a selection of sweet peppers, mushrooms and sausage meat cooked on top.]

Ben: What fresh devillry is this?

Sam: 'Tis not devillry -- 'tis DiGorno!


NB: this may not make any sense to those who have not spent too long watching US TV adverts -- see this advert if you must.


The Clam Before the Storm

SIGMOD deadline is 11:59pm tomorrow night (could be worse, could be in Europe where it's 5am), and right now I have nothing to do. Hence, the best option is to switch off the computer and get a good night's sleep in advance of anything that may require my attention tomorrow, not to speak of whatever complicated manoeuvres will be required of me on Friday. But before that, I feel obliged to post something here. I just can't think what. The half-dozen or so things that I've been meaning to post about for a while but have been putting off... I can't remember them.

I should probably write something about television, or rather not watching television. I've decided that I will no long watch television, or at least will do so to the best of my abilities. While this sounds very improving, it's less so since I have no intention to stop watching television shows. What I mean is that I can no longer tolerate TV that arrives in the form of an analogue NTSC signal on a cable, sattelite or aerial. The tedium, the fact that there's never anything decent on when you want to watch it, or the show you do want to watch is on hiatus, or delayed by a sporting event or a declaration of war (the frankly weak "Veritas: the Quest" was pulled one week in 2003 to make way for the attack on Iraq, and was never restored to its timeslot) means that I'm fed up with broadcast TV. Instead, from now on I get all my TV shows from DVD or Internet. This is the future of video on demand, although there's still a few kinks to be ironed out of the process.

So while there's a load of tosh showing on "real TV", I'm actually enjoying quite a few good things on my menu. IPTV, say, except that it sounds like something you might admit to a doctor (they should rename it to TVoIP, quick). So what's on, you ask in my head? Well, there's a few good things on at the moment, as it happens.

  • The full series of Eerie, Indiana has come out on DVD. All nineteen episodes are there in their full glory. I picked up a copy in Best Buy for $25. Run out and get it at this price while you can, folks.
  • Murder One is coming out on DVD early next year. I don't know if this will stand up to a second viewing (nor whether the ill fated second series will seem any better second time around). Perhaps the crazy twist ending will be augmented with some more plausible version. I shouldn't complain too much. I watched the whole of "John Doe", the detective show where the detective is a walking encyclopedia, only to be disgusted at the pathetic twist in the closing seconds of the last episode of season one. This could have set up season two with plenty of excitement -- except that the show was cancelled, and so the real mystery of John Doe will never be explained.
  • "Veronica Mars" is currently playing out on UPN/MTV, but no one is watching it. That's a shame, because it has the sharpest writing and strongest female lead since Buffy Anne Summers (yes, Anne Summers -- those stakes are dual purpose). It's bound to get cancelled before the mystery of the murder of Lily Kane is fully unravelled, which is a shame, so try to see this Nancy Drew for the whatever-generation while you can.
  • Oh yes, and Press Gang Series 1 and 2 have been out on R2 DVD for a while now. Check 'em out, these are the best series before the slightly weaker episodes of the later series. Plus, plenty of "before they were famous" cameos from, er, just about everyone.

OK, can't be bothered to write any more, so go away.


The power of hash functions

I'm waiting for some experiments to finish running, which is hogging most of the available computing power, so I have to resort to low processor drain activities in parallel, like reading a book, or posting something here so that it doesn't forget that I exist.

I was charmed to discover the following recently: FCKGW. These are the first five characters of the most commonly used Windows XP (pirate) CD key. I'm not telling you the rest --- because I don't know the rest --- but the ever helpful urbandictionary has a nice helpful explanation.

The random definition from UD is a great way to waste a few minutes. Actually, that's all for now.


Homeward Bound

Advance notice: I'll be in England from December 15th till whenever the US Embassy issues me with a new visa. Always a fun event, this time I actually get to go to the embassy in person so they can verify that I'm not a danger to society. Should be, er, fun.

Anyway, jot this in your diaries, and let me know if (a) you know me (b) you'll be in Englandland about the same time and (c) you want to meet up.

Some quick search queries to answer:
The person looking for "Lemmings Nude" from yahoo in the middle of the night-- why? I don't know if you've noticed, but Lemmings are nude to begin with.

And, to the person asking,
"Why didn't Paris Hilton vote?" Er, I don't know. To get to the other side? Because the mentally incompetent are not allowed to vote (see previous post)

Can't Vote, Won't Vote

I promise to stop whinging about the election soon, which, I should point out, Kerry won on the grounds that the criminally insane are not legally allowed to vote, and you would have to be crazy to vote for Bush. Anyway, a lot of people in the press are blaming the mistaken outcome on people voting on "moral issues". This is a euphemism for "bigotry, fear and hatred". So let's not indulge this any longer: next time anyone mentions 'moral issues', reply, "Oh, you mean gun-toting, homophobic anti-abortionists?".


And the winner is... Bartlett

A slight delay in posting, owing to the fact that Blogger seemed to be refusing my connection for most of the last couple of days. Either heavy traffic from bloggers frantically posting about what they'd just heard on CNN, or my fault for configuring Opera to masquerade as IE. Why is it that I start to feel persecuted for using Opera? Don't answer that.

Anyway, politics first. The simple truth is, the choice of the US president is far too important to be left up to the American people. But I was delighted to see that, after a long and hard fought campaign, the triumph of the Democratic nominee, Bartlett. Yes, in the face of a dirty race, and the theft of an election thanks to unauditable machines in Florida that threw the race into the lap of the incumbent thanks to his brother, I've decided that the real world is far too fictional for my liking, and instead I will cut off all contact with real news media. Instead, I will watch The West Wing from the beginning and delude myself that it's real. Given that there are four seasons before it gets crap and Aaron Sorkin leaves, and I plan to watch one or two episodes a week, I think that gives me a clear year or so to live in a land ruled by Democrats and to give the Zero-year curse a little more time to kick in. A William Henry Harrison-style open air oration may be in order.

Anyway, onto more important things: lolly stick jokes.

Q: Who lives in Sandcastles?
A: Sand-witches

Look: this doesn't make any sense. Firstly, since when have witches had a reputation for living in castles? Apart from the Wicked Witch of the West, I can't think of any witches who live in castles. And what have sandwiches got to do with sand castles? Apart from not wanting to get sand in your sandwiches. This is stupid.