20070429

Humility

As I may have mentioned once or twice, or possibly constantly, I am technically a published author, having contributed an edited volume of paper to posterity and ISBN records. It's on a subject that no one could possibly be interested in, so I have no expectation that anyone will ever read the thing. Still, it is maybe just a little galling to search on Amazon to discover that no only are there a handful of copies available second-hand, but also that these are annotated by the seller with such recommendations as "Absolutely no signs of use.". Well, quite.

Fast-forward

Quick survey, which I expect no one to respond to: does everyone else find fast-forward to be a pain in the backside? Whenever I'm watching I video, I either want to jump a long way forward or back, or else skip back a few seconds to catch something I just missed. In both cases, fast-forward/rewind is just annoying: it's so fiddly to use a remote control or other device to catch just the right moment. This used to be usable on a tape recorder, but somehow on digital devices its no good. And, honestly, why do we still have fast-forward except as a digital simulation of an analogue concept. I'd much rather have 'skip' buttons. Indeed, on my mp3 played, which is gloriously configurable, the "back/forward" buttons do indeed skip varying amounts rather than fast forward. So let's start a campaign to get rid of fast-forward, an unnecessary relic from a bygone era. Just as soon as we've got rid of Comic Sans.

I was thinking similar things about "channel change" on IPTV. Apparently, the biggest technical challenge in deploying a large scale IPTV system is being able to simulate the 'next channel' capability of an analogue TV. Well, why even try? Channel-surfing is so 20th century. In the on-demand world of the 21st century, why should we have to surf through channels in the vain hope of finding something to watch? Get rid of channel change, and go all on-demand.

20070428

Standby...

A strange error on my server, Sever2. I played around with the standby settings to make sure that it goes into standby whenever possible. But then I noticed that it seemed to fail rather dramatically when coming out of standby: it would reboot itself. That's suboptimal. I messed around for a long time, but realized tha the problem may have started when I swapped its main disk from an IDE to a SATA drive, and some furious googling later led me to this site, which suggested that the remedy might be to install a RAID driver, despite there only being one disk. I took the advice, and on the first glance it seems to have done the trick. I'll see if it turns out to be a permanent solution. (tech notes: it's an ASUS motherboard, in a pundit barebones system).

MySpam

I now have accounts set up on MySpace, Facebook, Orkut, Friendster, YouTube, Flickr, and goodness knows how many others. All in the name of research -- of course, I don't actaully want to use these things, and indeed am rather unsure exactly what the point is. What was most surprising to me was how much spam there is on MySpace in particular -- I'm used to periodic spam messages on friendster, at the rate of one every few months. But MySpace seems to suffer from a couple of spam messages a day, quite impressive since I don't actually have any friends on myspace. This suggests that there are spammers with too much time on their hands. There's probably a way to disable this influx of trash, but this, apparently, is what made this network so valuable to Murdoch and his cronies.

20070427

Please be my friend

I'm in the process of nosing around a number of web2.0/social networking sites at the moment, and consequently people that know me may receive various "friend" requests to interrupt their otherwise pleasant day. Acknowledge these if you have time, but no worry if you don't fell like it.

I've even set up a mice pace account. It turns out that you really can set John Cage's 4'33 as your favourite song (no word on whether the Mike Batt effort is also available). Of course, I've set mine up not to autoplay when people come to the page -- don't want to irritate anyone with my choice of audio.

20070424

I Spy with My Little Eye

This story came out a few weeks ago, and has been bothering me since then. In particular, didn't they have this in Coventry City Centre back in 2002? I remember hearing various sk8r kids being berated while I was eating my jacket spud near the fountain. I thought it was annoying and invasive at the time, and I wondered why no one else seemed to be bothered.

20070422

Red Letter Day

I recently succumbed to netflix, on the grounds that it is more efficient than any other way to see some movies that I want to catch up on -- this includes all other legal and semi-legal avenues that one has open to one. It works quite well, although I had to do a small amount of hacking to get it to operate in exactly the way I want. I decided that I will aim to watch about one movie per week, and although I'd like to control the set of films sent to me, I'd like to absolve myself from controlling the order. The problem is that if I pick the order, then I'll never get round to seeing some films, because I'll keep putting them off. So I decided to randomize the order of arrival. This turns out not to be an option directly, but there's a handy greasemonkey script which will do precisely this. Next, to make it more fun, I decided to ensure that I don't know what the film will be until it starts playing. This requires various steps: not opening the film envelope until it is time to watch (and even closing one's eyes while putting it in the machine); diverting email notifications of which film is next into an account that I rarely check, and which does not generate any new mail notifications; and not checking the status of the queue of films, etc.

I just completed the first completely successful instantiation of this protocol, and it worked reasonably well. I had no idea, until the movie started playing, that the film that arrived last year was... Man of the Year. An interesting premise, let down by excessive focus on the b-plot, which entirely dominated (and therefore made less interesting) almost the entirety of the second hour. Also, if you watch the trailer, you get almost all of the good bits, which is disappointing. I wonder what next week will bring?

20070421

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Quote of the week:
Howard University journalism professor James Rada says NBC "found itself in a no-win situation" and that releasing parts of the killer's diatribe was the right move. He noted that the Unabomber wasn't caught until after his mainfesto was released and people recognized his writings.


It occurs to me that gun control is a lot like DRM. Both frustrate the intentions of the law abiding, but are easily circumvented by the criminally inclined. So why do I support one but not the other? Well, because I'm generally in favour of people being able to enjoy the music and video that they have purchased where they like, when they like and how they like. I'm less inclined to encourage them to take the same attitude towards AK47s that I advocate for MP3s.

20070419

Diversions

This morning, I quite enjoyed this song. Apart from the spelling.

I should probably go to work.

20070417

Everything's Hunky Dory

A lot of people have been asking me to explain to them the meaning of the ending of "Life on Mars", the popular BBC time travel show. Well, of course, I didn't actually bother to watch it, but here's what I worked out using only the power of my own mind.

The show features 21st Century Man Sam Tyler (named after the famous time-travelling Irish Playright), who 'leaps' back in time to 1973. There, he is unsure how he got there. His faithful assistant, Al, is nowhere to be found, nor his supercomputer Ziggy Stardust.

The explanation is that Sam Tyler is actually a renegade time lord who has lost his memory after exceeding his allotted number of regenerations. The ford cortina which collided with him and sent him back in time is actually his Tardis. The clue which gives this all away is in the choice of name : DI Sam Tyler is an anagram of Mister Daly . This Mister "Arthur" Daly is a sinister figure whose name keeps cropping up throughout the show (this is the programmes "Arc-word of infinity"), and Tyler (or to give him his Gallefreian name, the Minder) is only able to overcome his amnesia when he is able to "write the feem toon, sing the feem toon"...

20070411

Who is mktg13?

Some new news. Strange scratching sounds continue to emanate from my bathroom light fixtures. I think I am doomed to be an earlier victim of the impending insect invasion.

I notice that the sliced ham comes in packs with 17 slices. Who would design such a thing? I have determined that putting three slices of ham between two slices of bread makes a nice sandwich, and I like to have two sandwiches for lunch. This bizarre prime choice of servings means that I always seem to be very slightly disappointed when I finish up a pack. Not even a pack of Frazzles, smuggled in from the motherland, can fully recompense.

While chewing my sandwich and guzzling crips, I scan my home network, and discover an unfamiliar host: mktg13. That doesn't sound like the kind of computer I would have lying around. I ping it, and it definitely seems to be there. It's even running a windows workgroup, although it requires a username and password to access, and 'guest' doesn't seem to cut it. So I check my wireless set up, and sure enough it seems to be fully open -- I thought I had it secured, but it seems that I've been walking around with the equivalent of my flies open for the past few months. Oh well, at least that should be good enough for some plausible deniability if the lawsuits ever hit. I enable WEP (only at 64bit, just to make things easy for the determined hacker), and carry on with my day.

20070408

Wolves in the Walls and Wasps in Ceiling


While taking my usual leisurely three hour bath this morning, I noticed a scratching buzzing noise. After I had thoroughly dabbed down my leathery skin, I investigated further. There was definitely insect activity, and it seemed to be coming from... the ceiling light? This was rather worrying. I switched on the light -- a lightbulb encased in a translucent plastic fitting. Illuminated in sillhouette was the clearly discernible outline of a wasp, as well as a couple of other dead bodies. But how had it got there? Was there a whole nest of wasps trapped up there? Or was there a passage from the ceiling about into my bathroom light? I don't know, and I'm rather afraid to investigate. Instead, I did the only reasonable thing in the circumstance: I left the light on, in the vain hope that the ambient heat (it being an antiquated incandescent bulb) would wipe out the wasp and all of its brethren.

Hat on a Map!

A kind soul has indulged my obsession with New Jersey bank robberies by plotting some of the recent robberies on a Google My Maps Mapping-style Map-flavoured Map Device. Most of these robberies are those attributed to our friend, the hat bandit, but there's one or two associated with other felons but covering the same region. Also, it seems that there are a few of the early crimes missed off. I searched around myself, and it seems quite hard to find the details of the early crimes, since most are locked behind paywalls on local news websites. Odd that even the local police/FBI don't seem to have a comprehensive list available anywhere.

20070406

Idea for a lame web comic

Idea for a badly drawn web comic:

"Hey! I'm really excited about having an epiphany!"

'What?'

"One of those new epiphanies, that's a mobile communicator, music player and data manager. You know, the Apple epiphany."

'That's an iPhone, idiot.'

Etc.

20070404

Noah's Arc Word

Well, the Doctor is back in, and I was just paying enough attention to notice the first appearances of this season's "arc word", a phrase of recent coinage which basically describes whatever the hell it is that RTD is up to (see that most authoritative of sources, Pikiwedia for an early usage). Well, I'd be all impressed, except that Newsround, of all places, picked up on it back in January. Oh well. The reality will inevitably turn out to be less interesting than one might imagine.

20070401

April Foolery

The concept of 'april fool's jokes' on the internet is particularly annoying, in a medium where most of the information out there is dubious, false or mistaken already. This apparently worrying story is an april fool's joke, actually part of an elaborate ARG (alternate reality game) to promote a new NineInchNails album. Or is it? Are the claims that it is false actually the joke? It's all very irritating.

So instead, I refer you to the austere and somewhat humourless world of NPR, whose weekly 'puzzler' goes as follows:

Take the names of two U.S. States, mix them all together, then rearrange the letters to form the names of two other U.S. States. What states are these?

Ooh, seems tricky. Except... there's one particular trivial solution. Is that what was meant? Is this seemingly difficult puzzle also part of some april fool conspiracy? Oh, I give up. I'm going back to bed until I can actually trust anything I read again (which is never).