Saturday, December 27, 2008

Status Quo - It´s Christmas Time

Quo´s first christmas single and what a cracker it is too.

Shame that the X-factor screws up the christmas number one battles, but I hope this one does well nonetheless.
UPDATE - Seems it only went as far as number 40 the week before christmas. But it did make the top 40 so I suppose that only extends their record of having more top 40 hits than anybody, ever. Long may they reign!

Woolworth´s closes

It´s a great shame to see Woolworth´s, one of the most recognisable features of a british high street, disappear as a result of not being able to get credit because of the current economic gloom.
You will be missed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Coldplay vs. Satriani

After apparently being ignored following previous requests for an explanation, Joe Satriani has taken Coldplay court to sue for damages resulting from the likeness of his tune If I Could Fly and Coldplay´s Viva La Vida. There is certainly more than just a passing resemblance, with the chord structure, tempo and part of the melody being practically identical.

Problem is, Creaking Boards had exactly the same complaint about the same song six months ago and there are videos going around YouTube containing mashups of other songs that run along similar lines. I think it was stupid of Coldplay to ignore previous requests, especially since they have used a Kraftwerk riff for the main melody line of Talk, but will Joe´s argument stand up in court?

Dogs Feel Injustice

As anyone with a dog will know, they are certainly capable of showing jealousy. Now it´s been scientifically proven that dogs feel a sense of injustice if they are not treated fairly. They are now testing if this is also present in wolves, to prove that this trait is required when dogs need to work together as a pack and as such predates domestication.


Watch out for those fizzy drinks if you´re into FPS games...

No F-in Swearing in Preston!

Preston City Council have been putting up signs asking people to refrain from anti-social behaviour like swearing and urinating in public, to improve the image of the city. People caught will be fined. Don´t say you weren´t f-cking warned...

Tungsten´s out, Mercury´s in?

The EU are aiming to ban the sale of traditional tungsten lightbulbs by 2010 and aim for a replacement in the form of LED lighting. Current energy saving bulbs are long lasting and durable but less environmentally friendly when it come to recycling as a result of the mercury vapour they contain. Ventilating the room after a breakage is sufficient though, and there seems to be an alarmist attitude at the moment towards them.
The biggest downside is that they are not suitable for dimmer switches, and LEDs are also difficult to regulate because of the small response range between off and on. So I´ll have to stock up on the tungsten variety for the time being.

Flexible, Unbreakable Displays

Arizona State University and partnership with HP have issued a press release presenting flexible, unbreakable displays. As well as providing the capability to produce cheap laptop displays, future applications could include wall and surface mounted displays and advertising boards.

Happy 40th Birthday computer mouse!

Doug Engelbart demonstrated the first computer mouse 40 years ago this week. Part of project designed to demonstrate improved productivity with computers, Engelbart was ahead of his time. Some member of the project later moved to Xerox Parc, which famously inspired the Apple Mac interface and led to the modern dekstop metaphor we use today.

Cold sore Alzheimer´s link

The Herpes virus responsible for cold sores could also be responsible for creating the brain deposits that lead to Alzheimer´s. Scientists hope that treating the disease using similar drugs against cold sores may show benefits.

Mario Kart for real!

Armed with a pizza

Pizza is good for you, in more ways than one. A Florida pizza delivery man defended himself from an armed robber by throwing a hot pizza at him before fleeing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tracking your parents

Issue for debate: If parents are allowed to monitor their children´s activities, what happens when those children become adults? Are the children allowed to monitor their parents? And when does it become spying? These kids decided to do just that, hacking their father´s computer and using GPS to locate him and maybe even murder him. Raises the question of how far one can go with surveillance and what if it is in the interest of the subject itself such as a mentally ill family member? Technology creating more questions than answers again...

Official: World economy worst since 1930s

Thanks to fat cat stock exchange greed, we´re now in the same position the world was in around the time of the great depression, according to the UN.

European import duty limits

At last! They´ve finally increased the limit allowed for importing goods from abroad. This means that if you buy anything over the internet, you only have to pay customs duty if the value is more than 150 Euros (except if it´s from a private individual in which case it´s still 45). You still have to pay tax on your purchases, but it´s still a vast improvement. There´s lots of stuff in America or China which you can´t get here, so every incentive helps. Also if you bring anything back with you, the limit has been increased to 430 Euros. So next time you´re in the US, bring an extra case with you.

New drug to combat jet lag

Tasimelteon is a new drug that will go on trial next year that influences the levels of melatonin and helps to shift the body´s natural sleep rhythm, making you sleep longer when your sleep pattern has changed. My trick is always to step into the new rhythm of sleeping and eating as soon as possible, though the killer for me is always when you´ve been flying all night and arrive early in the morning. No matter how I try I always feel dopy in those situations. I guess I just like my sleep.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New ways of spreading God´s Word

How about a glossy magazine? The Bible Illuminated is a just one of the novel ways to spread the New Testament to the modern world. It was never this exciting when I was at school. Apparently Jesus Loves Porn Stars too. Still, although I can agree with the basic Christian principles (which are pretty much the same as every other religion), I don´t feel a need to belong an organised church. That´s when the whole power system of ideology kicks in, and I don´t want any part of that in whatever form.

Robots take to the stage

The Japanese have this thing about robots, trying ever more to make them more socially responsive and acceptable. Now theyŕe taking part in stage plays. To me this isn´t so much cutting edge (programming steps into a computer is nothing new), but the application is interesting.

NASA´s Lost Toolbag

The toolbag that a NASA astronaut dropped while repairing the ISS during a spacewalk has been filmed from earth. The thing is worth about $100,000 dollars so as a result there´ll be some procedural changes to ensure that they remain tethered in the future.

Compulsive Gaming

It´s official. The Smith & Jones addiction clinic in Amsterdam say that people who are compulsive gamers are not true addicts. The virtual world simply provides a method of escape from the cruel, real world and many young people who feel drawn to it do so for social communicative reasons. In the virtual world you can be a hero and feel a sense of belonging and accomplishment, and not be judged or bullied by your physical appearance.

Even the Pentagon isn´t safe from worms

The Pentagon are looking to ban the use USB sticks after having been infected by a worm. It happens to the best of us, though might expect something like The Pentagon to set an example in office network security.

New anti-malaria drugs

Trials start in February 2009 of a new synthetic drugs, based on new sources of artemisinin, the active ingredient in anti-malaria pills. The University of York is using a fast-track breeding program to grow plants and produce a more affordable source of the drug which may in the future help eradicate the disease.

Rats return to Hamelin

Rats are thriving again at a disused allotment site on the outskirts of Hamelin. The land is private property so the local council cannot enter the property and have set up traps in the area instead. Can anyone play a flute?

Syria´s Bombed Reactor

Israeli jets destroyed a facility in Syria in September 2007. Following the attack both the Israelis and Syrians were farely quiet about the purpose of the site. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency have found traces of Uranium and do not exclude the possibility that the site was indeed a nuclear reactor.
With the current state of world instability these are frightening prospects. How long will it be before a middle east nation fires something in a fit of rage and kicks off the next world war.

Minority Report Style OS is a reality

Oblong industries have developed the g-speak operating system built around spatial concepts, not unlike that seen in the movie Minority Report. It remains to be seen in how far organising and operating on information in 3D space is suited to applications, and whether waving your arms around is good for you from a health and safety perspective, but it is certainly a novel idea.

Dead Parrot Sketch is 4th Century

Monty Python´s parrot sketch has a 4th century greek ancestor. Hierocles and Philagrius were jokers of the time and manuscripts have been found that reveal that sense of humour doesn´t differ too much from what we know now, like farting and jokes about the missus. The rediscovred manuscripts have been published here.

Diamonds from Tequila

The University of Mexico have figured out a way to create synthetic diamonds from Tequila vapour. Although too small to be used for jewelry they have potential for industrial applications. The brand doesn´t matter either, with even the cheapest bottles being good enough to produce them.

Lost Nuke

On 21 January 1968 a B52 bomber crashed in Greenland. The plane was armed with nuclear warheads which needed to be recovered to prevent an environmentally catastrophy and to prevent them falling into Russian hands. Turns out there´s still one nuke unaccounted for, buried in the snow somewhere. Thule air force base is at the top of the world of immense strategic importance which is why the base was being protected. The concern now is more towards environmental health rather than the old cold-war enemey.

Blind pilot

All credit to RAF Linton-on-Ouse for assisting a pilot who was struck blind following a stroke, by successfully guiding his Cessna in to land.

The Final Guest

India seems to be having its fair share of violence recently, the Mumbai attacks this week bringing terror to a new level there. But also Pakistan is waging war against the Taleban. This report tells of how the idyllic Swat valley is slowly being taken over and how nature´s beauty contrasts sharply with the sound of gunfire and heavy artillery. The one remaining hotel in the region is still open but the once popular tourist destination has been quiet for a long time, with the reporter being the only guest at the luxurious hotel. Will people be able to dance carefree in the streets again?

Bletchley Park

One of the birthplaces of modern computing, Bletchley Park was where the British cracked the German communication codes during the second world war. The place is falling apart apparently and this year a host of academics wrote a petition to The Times expressing their disgrace. According to the BBC, IBM has donated to repairs and The National Heritage have pledged 100,000 pounds per year for the next three years provided enough sponsors are found to match the same amount.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fox on the run

In Arizona a lady jogger ended up taking a fox with her - attached to her arm. The rabid fox attacked her after she´d backed away from the animal. She ended up having to run back to her car with the animal on her arm, wrench it off with a shirt before visiting the nearest medical center. It was confirmed that the fox was indeed rabid. One hell of a workout though.

Russian sabre rattling: Missiles to Baltic

Russia has responded to the US plans for it´s missile shield base in Poland and the Czech republic by saying they´ll be stationing missiles in the Baltic states. They see the anti-missile shield as a threat even though it´s only supposed to be used against rogue states according to the US. With the US being somewhat of an international bully, its good to see someone standing up them.

Lost in translation: Welsh

A translation error for the modern world. A welsh out of office reply ended up on a road sign as a translation for a ¨goods vehicles only" board. Nice one!

Giant Lego Man

Another artist has been busy. After allowing a giant Lego figure to wash up on the Dutch coast in August 2007, another one bearing the same slogan ¨No real than you are¨ was found on Brighton Beach.
Nice stunt from Ego Leonard.

Xubuntu 8.10 released

Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex has seen the light of day and following suit the derivative Linux distributions are also out. I like Xubuntu because itś built for speed so even your five year old PC in the corner can be made useful with it. Time to try it out.

Fact: Polar warming is man made

The Nature Geoscience journal has published evidence that humans really are the cause of melting ice caps. Not that it really matters anymore. There are too many people who still argue that Gore´s climate film was unscientific, when the fact is we are feeling the effects of climate change already. It´s pointless trying to convince them when we should be focusing our energies on how to cope with these changes. Wee already screwed up the planet, so we might as well get on and see how we can best live in the mess that we created.

Beer sales slide, pub culture dying?

Could the UK pub culture really be under threat? I notice that fewer people were going out between the Christmas and New Year breaks the last few years. I thought the drop in restrictions on opening hours would help things, but now that the smoking ban has been introduced and alcohol prices in the pub growing ever higher, it seems that beer sales are suffering. Five pubs a day are shutting up shop.
Considering the fact that beer from the off-licence and supermarket is cheaper, and people have more home entertainment these days, no wonder more people are staying at home.
But the UK government´s attitude of using alcohol as the scape goat for causing anti-social behaviour doesn´t help. Even now they government are talking about banning supermarkets from selling beer under cost price. This all reminds me too much of the Al Capone years in the US when they tried to ban liquor. When will the government realise that hanging on a street corner with a tin of lager is because the youth have nothing else to do. Tackle the problem not the symptom.

Give someone a cuppa if you want them to like you

A warm drink is a great way of getting someone to ¨warm¨ to you. Primeval instincts regarding warmth and comfort are invoked if you offer someone a hot drink according to a study in Science magazine from Yale and London Metropolitan Universities.

Privacy is an illusion

Extended terrorism laws, Orwellian databases. You´re civil liberties are at risk with the new powers being imposed by the UK government. Another article describing how the UK is turning from a ¨Nanny state¨ into a ¨Big Brother¨ state.

UFO near miss and other stories

The British National Archives have release a series of UFO files online in PDF format. Interesting stuff.

Echelon in practice: Orwellian database

The British government has some wonderful ideas about how to implement the Big Brother 1984 society. As if the country doesn´t have enough to worry about with more surveillance cameras per head of the population than other European countries, now they want a database to monitor all telephone and internet traffic and store it for two years. Apparantly it will be only point to point information and not the contents of emails, but one wonders how easy it will be to extend the system once the basics are in place.
Considering how the the british government, tax office and even the military have managed to compromise hundreds of thousands of personal records through IT mismanagement (lost USB sticks, selling old servers on eBay without wiping them first, sending sensitive CDs through regular mail), they can´t really say that your personal data is safe with them. Where is it going to end.

Energy saving initiatives: The Light Blossom

Now here´s a good idea from Philips. Create a street light that acts like a flower, using the sun´s rays to charge cells during the day, rotating like a daisy to face the sun, then in the evenings release the stored energy as light. Proximity sensors mean the light only comes on when there is movement nearby, in an attemt to reduce light pollution and still be safe. Saves laying cables too so they could be used in remote areas. I think it´s quite an attractive design too in a future-urban kind of way.

Tales from the trenches of an Apple event

It´s funny hows some professions give the impression of being glamourous and full of perks. I never realised how gritty the work of an internet journalist was, called up at the last minute to grab a flight, find a room in the only available hotel and fighting to get the best seat at an event just to tell you about those promotional events. You tend to take it all for granted.

Banksy´s Pet Shop

I´m not an art buff by any means but I do appreciate Banksy´s style. Now he´s created a little shop to demonstrate the effects of factory farming on animals. I suppose it´s the next step up from the kid in school who says milk comes from a bottle out of a factory. I like the one with the chicken nuggets in the barnyard dipping themselves in sauce. Makes you think, which is what art is all about.

US debt clock runs out of figures

The US digital debt clock has run out of figures. I don´t suppose anyone saw it coming that there would ever be any more than 10 trillion dollars of debt in the US, even though they started with out with 2.7 trillion when they erected it in 1989. Now they have to use the space used by the $ sign to handle the extra digit.
Now that there is a 700 billion dollar bailout plan in action, it´ll probably be even more. Can someone explain why the US isn´t a third world country yet?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

This is the voice of the BBC

The BBC have released transcripts intended for use after a nuclear attack. Devised in the 1970s, the intention was to calm people and let them known that the BBC was still operative. Nowadays the populous is controlled through the exaggerated fear of terrorism. Have times really got any better?

Wikilinks: Rick Astley and Chillis

I haven seen any good examples of Rickrolling, though the event at a London railway station where the masses , chanted ¨Never Gonna Give You Up¨ must have been quite a memorable experience.

I never knew there was an international scale for measuring the relative strength of chillis. Many thanks to Wilbur Scoville for his efforts. I wonder if someone dreamed that up today whether they´d be given an IgNoble for culinary services?

2008 IgNobles

It´s that time of year again, including such gems as the prize for literature:David Sims for his passionately written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations." ;)

US economic woes

What annoys me most about the current economic gloom is that the man on the street who may have lost his entire long term savings because of the greedy actions of a few Wall Street gamblers. He can´t get the loan he needs for a house or car because the banks don´t have any money to lend. The fat cats know the system and will have their arses covered of course, while savings and pensions suffer because of the crashing stock market. The little guy loses again.

Why is it that this happens every 15 to 20 years, the governments swear there will be reform and that it will never happen again, when we all know it will. Humans unfortunately are short sighted and greedy by nature. Let´s face it, they very term growth means you have to make more than you did last year otherwise as a business you´re not successful. This is one of the cornerstones of the economy, but surely it´s unsustainable?

The recent 700bn dollar bailout is needed to get money flowing again, so companies can pay their workers and make necessary investments to preserve their futures. I just hope it´s not seen as a way of forgiving the reckless investment bankers and that when this mess is finally over (I predict a recession in Europe to come around christmas), that the perpetrators are caught and hung out to dry.

Going Green

Nice to see some companies are taking responsibility for the amount of energy they use. Take Google for example who are planning on building data centres using sea containers and placing them in the sea for cooling and as an energy source.
What I didn´t expect was the US military taking a leaf from the same book and building a 500 megawatt solar farm in the Mojave desert. Don´t get me wrong, I think it´s a great idea and proving ground for large scale solar power generation. It´s just the idea of the military saying that they want to set an example for environmentally friendly initiatives is bit hypocritical.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The real Buzz Lightyear, LHC and IBM

Congratulations to Yves Rossy who crossed the channel in a Buzz Lightyear suit ;) Having four kerosene turbines inches from your face must be a bit unnerving, but at least he made it. I wonder how long it will be before this becomes the latest rage in extreme sports.

IBM have threatened to quit the ISO after the mess surrounding Microsoft´s fasttrack of the OOXML standard. To me, fast tracking anything means that it at least must have some kind of defacto standing. That whole episode to me was yet another example of Microsoft throwing its corporate, monopolistic weight around and unfortunately tarnishes ISO´s reputation as a standards body. Standards are about interoperability, not monopoly and that certain ISO members were so easily convinced into supporting a half baked spec like OOXML is frankly outrageous.

Finally the LHC, following fears of black holes before its initial start-up will be out of action for a few months, following a break down of the super conducting magnets and a helium leak. Apparently it won´t be until spring next year before it´s up and running. Now as far as I remember they got a beam up and running in one direction, but hadn´t got as far as colliding two beams. That´s when the fun will really start. Now I´m no end of the world freak, but I wonder if any more delays may bring the actual collision date closer to 2012 ;)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Numer One

I have made so many attempts at creating and maintaining web pages. These days there are so many tools available that it´s not worth the effort of creating everything from scratch except as a learning exercise for HTML and CSS for example.

So this is a new start, a new page. Considering I´ll likely be the only one reading it, I´ll use it mostly for recording personal events, interesting links and news items, so I can keep track of what´s been happening and when. These days of greying hair and increasing girth seem to go by so quickly, it´s good to keep track of things.

Event of the day? Sebastian Vettel wins his first Formula 1 Grand Prix and at the same time becomes the youngest driver to achieve poll position and the youngest ever winner at just 21 years of age. Well done!