Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pac-man, Oil Leaks And Sinkholes

Okay, we've had a couple of days last week that were 25+ which is welcome. It still seems like that cold winter wasn't all that long ago, so it's good to finally walk in the sun!

Following another visit to Tokyo at the beginning of last month, it's been quiet again on here, so it's time to update with the news I've been gathering.

The big news at the moment (aside from the start of the World cup in South Africa), is the capping of the leaking oil pipe in the Gulf of Mexico caused by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. This article from the BBC came about a week after the accident happened and BP have only just managed to arrange a cap so that some of the oil can be tapped off, after their top-kill method failed. The hole still isn't fully plugged and revised estimates of the amount of oil leaking before the cap at 20-40K barrels per day. Needless to say Obama has been applying pressure on BP to fix things as soon as possible, what with this being the largest environmental disaster in US history. Meanwhile Sir David King points out that accessing oil in increasingly remote locations such as deep sea should be a warning that it's high time we reduced our fossil fuel dependence.

Pac-man turned 30 last month and it turns out that the shape of our munching friend is in fact based on a Pizza. This article from describes how the idea was to create a game including cake and sweets to try to get more women into amusement arcades. To celebrate the birthday, Google added a version of the game to the company's logo, which according to the BBC cost $120m in lost productivity.

And there's good news for gamers. Two hours of adrenaline pumping gaming action is equivalent to the same high as a line of coke. reports on British therapist Steve Pope's explanation as to why some teenagers play truant. And if the adrenaline becomes too much, in this busy world of always online, mobile communications, a moment for reflection could actually be healthy.

On the subject of gaming, I've only come across mole-rats as mutant creatures in Fallout 3. Apparently the real-deal have a social behaviour more characteristic of ants than mammals. They look like one of nature's freak experiments, not unlike the duck-billed platypus.

Not only Pac-man, but also the VW camper which celebrates 60 years since it first went into production. Made famous during the hippie years, it is also popular with a some well-known celebrities.

You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off. A botched raid by a group of German robbers left a bank building in tatters and the ATM intact.

Don't mess with comic book heroes. The owner of a comic book store who dressed as Spiderman for a promotional event in Adelaide, caught a thief red handed - way to go Spidy!

In yet more proof that the human face aren't that far removed from our primate cousins, this report from the BBC describes how observation of Bonobo chimps shows them sahking their heads in a disapproving "no" gesture.

Newcastle Brown Ale is no longer brewed in the Newcastle area. The BBC reports on how production has now moved to Yorkshire with over 50 jobs losses. Furthermore there is more sold in the US than there is in the UK. A sad day indeed.

Google are expected to be releasing ChromeOS in the not too distant future, though the Financial Times report they have apparently ditched using Windows in the lap citing security issues.

Lot's of news that makes science fiction become reality. As if we haven't screwed up the balance of nature enough, Nature News reports how lasers could be used to stimulate condensation in the air producing showers on demand. Reminds me of Kate Bush's Cloudbusting. Next up, like something from a science fiction move, the BBC reports on a zombie satellite that required a complex space manoeuvre to avoid a collision.

French scientists have harnessed the power of photosynthesis to create electricity. This article from Science Daily desceribes how a catcus was used as a bio fuel cell to create an alternative source of solar energy. One of the short-term applications would be to add such a cell under the skin of patients relying on biomedical devices.

The Mars500 project has begun, with 6 volunteers being locked into a module with nothing more than a slowly degrading email connection to the outside world, while they perform simulated planet surface missions.

Like something from Fringe, a British scientist has implanted himself with a chip, not unlike those used to chip pets, and successfully infected external systems. Considering the potential for RFID ships in the future this is a wonderful proof of concept. Another surreal incident that could just as easily have come from the same show. a sink hole caused by recent floods in Guatemala left a perfectly round 60 metre shaft where a road juntion and buildings once stood.

Finishing on a sci-fi note, June is the month that Star Trek fans visit Vulcan...Canada, and this year is a bit special as the BBC reports, because the legendary Leonard Nimoy has visited the small town personally to put it firmly on the map and show appreciation for support of the franchise after all these years.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Imposed Internet Sabbatical

My internet connection died on the 26 March 2010. I had an old suybscribtion that I was, to be honest, paying too much for. The modem somehow seemed to have lost its settings and couldn't contact the DNS server - no IP, no internet.

So I took the opportunity to purchase an upgrade (which will be done in two phases), and hopefully I'll have a fibre connection of around 40mbps in a month's time.

In the meantime there have been quite a few stories, so I'll try to summarise them chronologically here. First up the victim of the lorry shunt that so was so widely publicised on the net has spoken of her fear.

A chilling tale from history, which is maybe somewhat appropriate now given the plethora of vampire related TV shows and films the last couple of years, such as Moonlight, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and even less directly related series like Charmed and Supernatural. The BBC's tale starts in Glasgow in 1954 when an urban myth was generated suurounding monsters seen in a graveyard. It was eventually attributed to hallucinations caused by reading sinister comic books and so the authorities clamped down on the publications. The sorry part is that they were looking for a scapegoat to ban American comic books which were supposedly a bad influence on children, which reminds me all to much of the current crusade against video games.

The UK finally has its own space agency says the BBC. After many years participating in ESA, the new agency is supposed to manage budgets and make decision making more efficient. I hope that the fact the UK has its own logo, that maybe there will be more promotion for space technology and engineering in general to inspire young people.

If that's not enough, Pacman lives on the Saturnian moon Mimas courtesy of this image from NASA.

In an Easter related post, the BBC report on how the depiction of The Last Supper has grown from a meager to a super-sized feast. Over the years meals have grown in size along with general prosperity, and painters through the centuries have reflected this in their translations of Jesus' final meal.

Portal is to get a sequel - hooray! Following a mysterious couple of updates involving strange transmissions from the radios to be found in each level, and a subtle change in the closing scene of the game, Valve have confirmed the suspicions. Furthermore, Ars reports that Jonathan Coulton who got so much publicity from "Still Alive" will be doing music for the new game, due out at the end of this year in time for Christmas. report that the European privacy watchdog want to impose the restriction of cookies, such that users must always be explicitly given the choice of whether to allow them or not for every site they visit. This may be a pain for Joe Average who does not realise that login sessions and shopping baskets are powered by them, potentially creating more harm than good. It would be a step in the wrong direction if users for "Always accept" when the goal of the EDPS is to avoid the creation of clandestine browsing profiles about users.

Justice has come for Omari Roberts who was attacked by two robbers as he entered his mother's home one night and stabbed one of them to death. The BBC reports that the second robber changed his story which corroborated Omari's version of events and the case was dismissed. And so it should have.

Climate change has conveniently solved the problem of a disputed Bay of Bengal island by making it disappear beneath the waves, according to the BBC. Scientists say it won't be last one either.

In OS land, the next version of Ubuntu Lucid Lynx will not only shift from brown to aubergine in its default theme, it will also incorporate a music store, say Ars. In the meantime, Microsoft are promising h.264 support and full HTML compatibility, but Ars questions their philosophy of bring fixed releases, rather than their competitors more frequent updates, which provide new functionality as it becomes available.

Another famous TV actor Robert Culp has passed way. The BBC reports on how he made his fame in America with Bill Cosby in the series I Spy, but is a recognised face in many later films and TV shows. RIP Robert.

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The famous Austrian village proudly boasts its own beer, appropriatly named Fucking Hell, which according to has been approved as a registered European beer brand.

The catholic church are having a hard time of it lately with all those pedo-priests being exposed says the BBC. An isolated case, then maybe a verbal apology and a promise to make things right would have been sufficient. But this is endemic and as far as I'm concerned it's time of an independent investigation to expose the cover-up and protection that the Vatican must have been giving all these years.

There's been a hell of lot hype around the iPad, an oversized iPhone with no keyboard. Our friends at Blendtec haven't let us down.

Further news in brief; Ricky came out, anthropologists discover the ancient human X-woman, Ada Lovelace, Babbage's assistant and the first ever programmer is still the number one tech heroine, Apple lost their next-gen iPhone, the Nord Stream pipeline construction has begun while in America an Eastern seaboard windfarm is on the cards, , life on Earth has been found that does not require oxygen, and Graham Norton disrupts the season's opening episode of Doctor Who...again.

Oh, and one more thing: SCO does not own Unix!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Supersonic Cars, 25 Years .com, Leprechauns And Lorry Shunting

Spring is finally here, with temperatures exceeding 10C for the first time in 4 months! It sure has been long winter.

Funny how the media grabs a topic and milks it. Not only Toyota and GM have had large scale recalls recently, but Honda are also doing it to 400K vehicles in the US says the BBC. Since the media keep reporting this, many would think this is some kind of new wave sweeping the auto industry, when in fact recalls are not unusual.

Richard Noble and hist crew are going at it again, with the sequel to Thrust SSC. The new supersonic car called Bloodhound will have expanding aluminium wheels to cope with the forces it will have to endure. The attempt to push the land speed record to 1000mph is set for the end of 2011 in South Africa.

The internet celebrated a milestone this week with the 25th anniversary of Symbolic's registration as the first commercial (.com) domain. The BBC explains the history here.

Peter Graves of Mission Impossible series fame passed away this week. RIP: mission accomplished!

More evidence about the online music sales business model, with the report that the amount from online royalties is growing faster than the decline from CDs and DVDs. Now when the publishers going to stop whining and embrace the new medium.

It seems that modern day scientists are a short sighted folk. Like GM crops that only seem to be tested against a single cause and effect, we now have a proposal to add iron to the worlds seas, so that their ability to absorb CO2 is increased. Unfortunately the BBC reports that more iron means that the algae produce more of a nerve toxin that affects marine life and birds.

TCO is the key cost factor for enterprises and Ars reports on a survey by the Enterprise Desktop Alliance that Macs are in the long run cheaper to maintain than Windows PCs.

The Playboy Channel got some early morning airplay in parts of North Carolina this week. The BBC tells of how the preview windows of a children's on demand station were showing hot babes instead.

The French have made a TV program based on the famous 1960s experiment, where members of the public take part in an experiment in which a man is given electric shocks when answering questions incorrectly, the BBC reports. Television is reaching new levels of sensationalism, so personally this stuff is unnecessary for me. But I wonder how long will it be before it we get copycat shows sold throughout the rest of the world?

It was St. Patricks Day this week and the BBC has an article on how officers in Nashville decided to celebrate by shooting a leprechaun. In this case it was a bank robber, who together with his getaway driver were deactivated following a shootout.

In yet another example of how much big brother power the web potentially has and how the weakest link in cyber security are the employees, Wired reports on how an ex-garage worker used a remote deactivation system to set off the horns on 100 vehicles. It was only that he left his IP address unprotected that authorities managed to trace him.

The Amsterdam Historical Museum are showing an exhibit from by Kienholz depicting the red light district in the 1980s. It is not as likely to shock the Dutch residents as much as those in London, where it has already been shown in the National Gallery.

The Polish Auschwitz trio that nicked the famous sign from the site have been sentenced to up to 2.5 years in jail say the BBC. A trial was deemed unnecessary since the perpetrators had already admitted to the theft.

Science reports on the creation of a 3D invisibility cloak of nanometer scale that hides a bump, by using fibre type structures and a laser to change the refractive index. When the object is viewed from any angle, the surface appears flat.

Finally a bizarre film from YouTube prompts officers from North Yorkshire to re-investigate a motorway shunting incident.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mad Toyota Hoaxes And Other Stories

The media reported two Toyota incidents this week. The first one involving James Sikes who claimed his 2008 Prius accelerated out of control turned out to be BS. His claims to the media have been dismissed on closer examination and he has a previous history of bankruptcy and insurance fraud. The second incident involved a housekeeper who hit a wall after an apparent sudden acceleration. In this case there were injuries, though it is too early to say if this was a driving error or a technical fault.

The BBC reports on a plan to introduce a natural enemy of the Japanese knotweed, a plant introduced to the UK in Victorian times that is very hardy and has been even known to disrupt building sites. I do worry about these tactics in the same way as I do about GM foods, in that a proven one-to-one relation between pest and plant does not mean that there will be other consequences, such as effects on native species.

More news on the Auschwitz sign theft. The Swedish suspect will be extradited to Poland to stand trial, according to the BBC.

The LHC will be a shutdown for a year at the end 2011 to repair errors in the design that prevent the machine from working at full power under safe conditions. The BBC reports that scientists admit that unique projects of this size are their own prototypes, so their is always risk of a design fault. For conspiracy theorists, a year after the end of 2011 means the 2012, so those of us worried about black holes and the end of the world have something more to worry about.

The 512-byte block size has had its day say the BBC. Disks have become so large that the number of blocks required for error detection reduces the effective amount left over for real use. 4K will be the new standard, but apparently Windows XP users will be out of luck because drivers will only 512 bytes, forcing disks to run in slower, compatibility mode.

OnLive is finally scheduled to go live in June this year. The BBC call it a console killer, and there conceptually it could be. I just hope they can guarantee the server power needed to run games like Crysis for thousands of user over the net and you'll probably need a decent multiple-Mbps connection too.

My Mental Radio has been playing two tracks persistently this week. Maybe I should make this a regular feature:

Long Long Way From Home - Foreigner
Lethal Weapon - Honeymoon Suite

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March Is Here

March is finally here though it's still rather cold for the time of year. Things are supposed to get more spring like next week. It's about time. It's rarely got above 4 or 5 degrees since the middle of December and though we haven't any really deep snowfall, we've had it regularly enough to disrupt traffic, rail and airports.

This post summarises news from the past couple of weeks. China and its internet censorship policies have been cropping regularly in the press. This report from The Times online suggests that China are indeed bugging western nations.

In a follow up to the pinching of the sign at Auschwitz, the BBC reports that a Swede is being sought by authorities for authorising the theft.

The BBC reports on a study in which people are about 20ms faster when reacting rather than initiating. This would mean that the one who draws first in a gun fight would be at a disadvantage.

There is an official explanation about why WTC 7 collapsed in what appeared to be a controlled demolition. The BBC report states that media film never saw the side of the building that was facing the twin towers when they collapsed and that this side was badly damaged by debris. Also the building was constructed over metro so that that it was more likely to fall in on itself. I'm afraid is does not convince me. If only one side of the building was affected, I still cannot understand why the 47 story tower came straight down.

New Scientist reports on how physiologists have hacked a 25fps camera to produce 400fps images!

Ants will sacrifice themselves by moving out of a colony if they find themselves sick says the BBC. Also bat's are not affected by alcohol when it comes to flying.

The Brits have decided to start drilling for oil in the Falkland islands. Argentina is not pleased and has the backing of the likes of Chavez who says the time for playing empire is long over.

The British National Archives have released UFO files. Read them here.

Yes, no, yes...finally! The Dutch have NS have announced that from March 2010 it will be possible to internet in the train! Story from here.

It is possible to bank sleep. If you know you are going to have a long day then extra sleep beforehand will make you feel fitter say the BBC.

I have to admit liking girls with curves and broad hips. This article from explains that the site of an hourglass figure tickles part of the brain associated with rewards and has a drug inducing effect. I'm not complaining, though some people don't appreciate the female figure, especially when a Venus de Milo is created out of snow.

Apple's iTunes store has celebrated their 10 billionth download. Now when is the music industry going to get up of its arse and do something constructive, now that there is proven business model for selling music online.

Men At Work's fight over the kookaburra is not over yet according to the BBC. EMI have backed them up saying that the copyright does not actually belong to the company making the claim.

A drop of oil in some acid can solve a maze faster than a rat.

It has taken longer than I thought but Ars Technica reports on how the internet has finally beaten print as a primary news source in the US.

In a worrying development, a GM potato has been approved for use by farmers. Though luckily not fit for human consumption, it is impossible to test every effect and side-effect from using a GM crop, affecting parasites, the food chain etc.

A report from Ars indicates that it is possible to obtain medical records using P2P techniques. Think twice about sending medical information in plain email or storing it on your PC.

While publishers are afraid to touch 6 Days In Falluja, there is more evidence that munitions have caused birth defects in the city.

The recent 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chili may have caused the Earth's rotation to speed up, shaving 1.26 microseconds of a day. BBC explains the mechanics here.

Ubuntu have dropped their Earthy brown tints for a more purple/aubergine style. There's more to see at Ars here.

In the true spirit of openness and freedom, North Korea have introduced their own Linux distribution, Red Star. Meanwhile in South Korea, a couple have been arrested for neglecting their newborn as a result of internet addiction.

Finally some amazing photo shots, the first from the Boneyard, the largest plane cemetery in the world and the second courtesy of NASA and their Blue Marble project.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Welcome to 2010!

It's been a busy couple of months what with moving house in November and of course Christmas and New Year. Finally I have made time to publish all those links that I saved. So here a summary of what I thought were notable events around the turn of the new decade.

First off, a public protest at the weak security of Facebook. I don't have an account on it because I find it far too easy to profile me and then there's the duty of updating your status and checking your "wall". Maybe I'm just anti-social in its most literal form, but it could be worse; I could be using Twitter. In any case Facebook got hacked in November to prove a point.
So, after that the Iranian cyber army had a go at Twitter in December. Gory details here.

Intel and AMD settled up in November. There has always been rivalry between the two, especially since AMD needs rights from Intel to be able to do anything with the common or garden x86 PC architecture. But Intel have been hit some anti-trust litigation and shown to have played some dirty tricks to maintain their market lead.

Copier paper could be the future of battery technology according to the BBC. One advantage is that being lighter than traditional materials, it is an ideal applications in electric cars.

For the James Bond wannabes, the CIA have published a manual on their tricks of deception.

Octopus have one of the largest brains in the marine world. This article from the BBC shows how they pick up coconut shells and carry them off, using them as a protective cover.

A novel use for an old red phone box; a village public library.

The genetic code of cancer has been cracked according to the BBC. Smokers trigger a gene mutation every 15 cigarettes and it is hoped that by tracking gene mutations caused by cancer, it will be possible to prevent and maybe even cure some types in the future.

However metal god Ronnie James Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Let's hope he's up and running again soon.

In the run up to Christmas it was revealed that the Vatican did not provides its full cooperation with regard to child abuse cases in Ireland.

"Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow". A New Zealand billboard caused a stir shortly before christmas, as described in this BBC article.

A vocal protest at the British royal family outside a premiere in London. Whether you agree or not with the sentiment, at least it shows there is some freedom of speech in the UK. You'd probably be arrested for this in US.

The Italian police managed to prang their prize Lambo.

"Arbeit Macht Frei". The Auschwitz sign got nicked by a couple of Poles in December. Luckily the sign was later tracked down although it had been cut into three sections. To me that's as bad as desecrating a grave.

Risky domain names sees Cameron (.cm) at the top of the list, followed by China (.cn) and Samoa (.ws).

Marilyn Monroe liked the odd bit of pot according to the BBC.

The LHC has finally done its first bit of sub-atomic smashing - hurray! Then we had another power failure in December - boo! Though in related news, it probably won't hit the carts but a song has been recorded about the LHC in celebration of the Higgs boson. The intention is to promote and inspire science to the younger generation.

As The World Turns, one of the longest running soaps ever has finally been terminated.

This happened above Norway, sparking all kinds of UFO fears or the second coming. It was probably a Russian missile outside the Earths atmosphere that went awry, but it paints a pretty picture.

Christmas Day had just been and gone when Turkey demanded they wanted the bones of St. Nicholas back. Perfect timing.

A Spanish MP was used as the basis for a digital photo fit of Osama Bin Laden. The FBI used the photo without the MPs permission. Think twice about that mugshot they take when you cross the US border.

RIP Otto, who at over 20 years old was officially the world's oldest dog. Also RIP Lucky, the worlds oldest sheep at 23 years old.

Gunsights with biblical references inscribed on them. Fuel to the fire for those who think the current conflict in Afghanistan isn't in some way regligiously motivated.

Old computers illustrates how much has changed in such a short time. Ideal for those who understand the bits and bytes and are looking for a trip down memory lane.

Humunculus. Rotting fruit has never been so scary.

A an environmentally friendly "cloud" tower above London is one architects dream for the Olympic village.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin is at 32% the world's strongest beer.

Oink, the membership driven site where you could access your MP3s from anywhere has finally been cleared of all piracy charges.

Men respond to the smell of ovulating women, from an article in Science daily. However claiming prior art, this looks very similar to a 2007 IgNoble involving lap dancers.

And finally, as the result of a Chinese hacking incident involving Google and an Internet Explorer exploit, Microsoft have finally declared IE6 officially dead. Now that is a resounding start to the New Year!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

McLaren T.27

Unexpected move for a F1 team, but they have developed a short range electric vehicle for cummting and short runs, says the BBC. The design is such that its is as light as possible (600kg), can travel up to 60mph and does 100 miles on single charge. Three prototypes are planned for the coming year and a half.