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Monday 25 July 2005

A speedcam that works! [Shedir]

The notorious A77 road in Scotland got a new innovation recently. Aggregate speed cameras, idea being there's 12 cameras and it takes the average of your speed through all 12.
If you're average is over the max for that stretch, bang a ticket.
I've driven that road a fair few times, but when we went last week what a pleasure. I coasted about 5/10mph below the limit and enjoyed the drive.
All the folks around me were a bit quicker, but there's usually speed demons aplenty on the road. I only mind seeing 3 and they were in big fuckoff motors. So it's only to be expected for folk like that to speed.
I really quite prefer the idea of the cameras noting how quick you are between each of them, making it harder to break the limit both at the point where the camera is and between them.
So, what to you think of this sort of idea? Another example of Scotland leading the way, or a total dead duck?

Wednesday 20 July 2005

The north/south divide? [Spiny]

As far as I'm concerned, only girls have baps :)

Saturday 16 July 2005

Hymn [Spiny]

I just tried out some free music from iTunes via the Saturday Times & came accross a rather nify app.

If you're an iTunes user then you'll know that you're weeing in the wind if you want to convert a protected iTunes file to mp3 for say listening in the car or whacking into your dvd player. iTunes just won't play ball as it assumes you're a durty pie rat.

Up to the hockey steps Hymn. Easy to use & does the job, but you may want to uncheck "Delete original locked files" to keep hold of your original iTunes downloads.

Friday 15 July 2005

We are not afraid [Am]

Quite a lot of the clan live in London or there abouts so you might think it strange that no-one blogged, as yet, on the aftermath of the bombs. I think that it's obviously a personal thing on which I certainly don't represent the clan in this post, but I do have a few things I'd like to say....
There have been some magnificent responses to what happened from, of course, the emergency services on the day through to the public show of support in the two minute silence today. As well as the respect for the people who perished and were hurt I sense there is also a very strong determination in a huge number of right thinking people in the country that the UK's united country, united people ideals will not be thwarted by twisted extremism.
A website has been set up and received bbc coverage for simple images uploaded from across the world expressing solidarity and support for London.
In looking through the pages there I had three main thoughts
i) I'm really very pleasantly surprised just how much support has been posted up by european people for London in the wake of the bombings. It's very nice to see a huge outpouring of support from germany, holland and france to name but three. Thanks.
ii) There's a huge amount of people in this world who like to post a picture of a fluffy cat or small dog with "Not Afraid" next to it. I actually don't mind this. But it sure as hell reminds me about how many, probably very nice, people in the world there are who can't face reality what-so-friggin-ever. Bless you.
iii) There's a number of really nicely meant thoughts put the way of London but which obviously come from people who are actually a hell of a lot more scared than Londoners themselves were in response to last thursday;
Here it was pretty different....
When people post "we're not afraid" it's simply a nice piece of sloganeering. It's support and that's cool. But you know, here where it happened, there was a core of steel that has made me proud of being a part of London and which is so palpably real its not just some bullshit piece of counter-propaganda. It really has stunned me just how public and strong this feeling is. In this city in the last few days, and in fact on the day itself, London's legendary stiff upper lip re-asserted itself in a new but very profoundly strong way.
In the days that followed the bombings, you might have expected a city and a nation to get fearful and worried about what happened.
Did it? Did it fuck.....
What has followed is everything that is great about Britain and its spirit. In a hundred thousand instances, the response has been to put back a public face that says a mountain-sized "FUCK YOU" to the people who would seek to disrupt our lives.
I would not want anyone to think that "London handled it better" because of course observations on responses to terror are not a relative exercise compared to others. The facts, drivers and circumstances are utterly different.
But the London bombings caused a response from the british nation which millions of people are expressing from the fibre and the bones of the country and I'd say the message repeatedly from literally those millions of voices has been this;
*Not remotely fuckin scared of you
*No fuckin chance we'll change because of you
*You cannot possibly hope to defeat our spirit
It might be a bit hard for outsiders to understand that there truly is no sloganeering or ra-ra-britain content in this blog. To those opposed to our values, if you remotely fail to understand the above three bullet points or doubt them then I say to you, you really have no clue about Londoners and the British people.
London is proud to be multi-cultural, multi-racial. You can do what you like but you've never picked on a less receptive, prouder, stronger city than London. So to the cowards that would try to change us understand one thing very plainly
- Here, truly, the more you try, the less effective you'll be....

Wednesday 13 July 2005

Don't Throw Away That Expensive AGP Card Just Yet [Spiny]

This mainboard gets the big thumbs up from one of Anand's chums.

It suppports PCIe and AGP 8x rather well.

More here./me adds to wish list along with a 939 Athlon...

Sanity [Spiny]

With a big sigh of relief I picked up that the Euro parliament voted against software patents. While this will have coporate lawyers* gnashing & thrashing as they see fees disappear down the drain it's good news for everyone except huge corporate monsters.

Don't think it affects you? Well, have a read of this article by the sandlemeister himself, then check today's news.

Doubleplus good comrade!

* Amnesia's a good egg of course despite the usual state of gnashing & thrashing :)

Tuesday 12 July 2005

Podcast Group Hug [Slim]

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RSS Group Hug [Slim]

Wanna do a quick rss love-in please, if you've got some fanny-tastic rss's you can't live without post em in reply so I can make more efficient use of my timewasting.
My current list:
EED: Nuff said:
Penny Arcade: Online comic thing, we know the score:
The Register: IT news, not sure why this is an odd rss url, dont remember where i gots it from:
Slashdot: Getting a bit tired of it tbh, but still:
Blues News: Old fave, not much content these days but good for linkage:
Eurogamer: seem to have vaped screenshots off the rss at last, so they're forgiven:
BBC News: Best website in the world still:
Sophos Virus alerts: Incoming!
Security focus vulnerabilityes: More incoming:
Security focus news: Even more incoming:
NME: Sadly can't find a scrape of the uk one, unoffial usa one:

Friday 8 July 2005

VOIP is here [Lurks]

Exactly a year ago, I wrote a blog called VOIP is coming where I lamented about how groovy Skype is. For those that have forgotton what Skype is, it's basically a computer-powered software phone that doubles as an instant messenger client. You can place free Skype to Skype calls or you can sign up to Skype Out, load up some money, and get ridiculously cheap calls to real phone numbers world wide.
Quite a bit has changed since then, not the least that this sort of stuff has really begun to pick up. Initially, I must say, Skype was every bit as promising as the earlier blog indicated. However we did find that the call competition rates and general quality was poor enough that the wife simply switched our regular BT telephone over to a cheaper provider and used that. Since I moved into a rented office for work, calls were free and I paid it no more mind.
However now I work from home. One day I began the day and discovered that my BT line was busted and wouldn't allow outgoing calls. This was a nuisance fault which got quickly rectified but it did make me do something I'd been meaning to do for awhile, install Skype again and see if I could use it to call my head offices in Ireland and the US and maybe save the company a good chunk of change in the process. (And I admit, it's a nifty groovy thing to play with in a morning)
In doing so I discovered that Skype has changed too. For a start, in a week's worth of practical use - I have found it far more reliable. Call quality is still sub-standard regular telephone on occasion but I can live with that. SkypeOut is also now in full roll out (it was a beta when I wrote the early blog) and not only that but there's a new SkypeIn service too. For the princely sum of รข‚¬30 a year, you can get a real telephone number centered in a number of cities in Europe and the US. Naturally I chose London and signing up, I got a bright and shiny brand new 0207 number. If you call this, it rings through on the Skype running on my PC. How cool is that?!
My work phone number is actually an 08700 number which forwards calls to whereever my office happens to be that month. At this point it was our home phone and so the wife was faced with having people call for her getting an answering machine explaining my business details etc. Not exactly idea but not inconvienient enough to get a new phone line.
Friday of last week I redirected the 08700 number to the SkypeIn number and I've been trying this out all week to see if I can use this Skype service transparently as a complete replacement of traditional telephony. The answer, I am happy to report, is that I can. And so this system shall stay, too.
Something I must explain is that you need Skype running to take a call. As part of being signed up to SkypeIn, you get a voicemail service. When Skype isn't running, or if you don't answer the phone within x-many (configurable) rings, people get your voice mail. This would possibly not be ideal for the residence who don't want to have their PC on all the time but for my work application it is absolutely ideal. If the PC isn't on, I'm not at work. I'm not at work, I want you to go through to voicemail.
So let's explain exactly how this is working for me right now in practice. I tend to have an RDC window open to my work machine. I've got Winamp playing on the local machine. Skype rings, it plays a telephone ringing sound (which, incidentally, tabs you out of games but I have found that this works fine when you're playing WoW :-). I switch back to my local desktop and hit the play/pause key on my keyboard to kill PC sound. Then I pick up a USB headset draped over the corner of a nearby couch, slap it on and click on the green button. Bosh I'm talking to whoever is calling me.
To call out, I can either click on bookmarked contacts or type the number into Skype directly. Works as you'd expect and after the call my total SkypeOut credit at the bottom of the GUI ticks down some miniscule amount.
The cool thing is picking up voice mail. You can see a list of voicemail, what contact they came from (if they were in your contacts) or the telephone number. Then you just click on them to listen. It's a lot less pissing around that any voice mail system I've used before.
To be honest, with the USB headset, I could probably leave the PC audio on and it's not going to interfere but I don't want business contacts to necessarily know what I'm listening to at my desk, right? I have found out though, that I can speak on a voice call and tab back to my game (hehe) and carry on talking to them after having reached out to turn the volume down of course (hehe).
This system, so far, is pretty much perfect for me. However as has been pointed out it's probably not perfect for everyone. One thing I would like is a cordless handset so I can strut up and down the house when I'm on the phone, as I used to do. Skype flog directly (though you can buy stuff like this all over the place) various handsets from a simple USB handset (so you can dial numbers on them etc) to the cordless dualphone. This nifty thing plugs into USB on your PC and the regular phone line and you can take incoming calls on both regular phone and Skype and choose to make outgoing calls via either. That's pretty wicked but you will still need a PC on 24/7 to run Skype and there's no answering machine on the regular phone.
The product that I think there's huge demand for is something that zaps into your WiFi router directly and hence doesn't need a PC on and is always active. This is the kind of thing which the cable operators are doing, base stations that plug into cable boxes and so on. These may well be more accessible, understandable and attractive the your general peon on the street. I dare say, though, most of us have some sort of server which could be plugged into for Skype or otherwise. That cordless dualphone in such an environment could rock.
Finally, I'm investigating other IP telephony solutions for bundling with computer systems as part of my job. Skype seemingly aren't bothered about replying to my business development requests so I must look elsewhere. I don't suppose anyone else has seen anything like Skype? I've found one or two but I know there's some bigger brands out there competiting with Skype but I'm blowed if I can find them.
In summary though, Skype is definately ready for the prime time. Earlier this week I sat down in a coffee shop in central London (before they started blowing it up) and picked up my voice mail from my laptop and while I was doing it, fielded a live incoming call to my work telephone number. While this is nothing that you cannot obviously do with a mobile number, this is via my proper office number and I think there's no looking back.
Also, the fact I'm not paying BT is likely to induce a warm fuzzy feeling inside, don't you think?

Wednesday 6 July 2005

New Battlefield 2 box [Beej]

Tuesday 5 July 2005

WoW - Farming is the new boomtown! [Shedir]

Got a desire to give up your day job?
Think living the MMORPG life is a way to real world wealth and free housing?
These guys did.
After reading it, I feel pretty disgusted. But hey thats economics for ya!

Monday 4 July 2005

Zut Alors! [DrDave]

I couldn't help but notice this little news nugget on the BBC today. Our pal, French President Jacques Chirac, has been overheard commenting on British cusine. Apparently, he was overheard saying, in a conversation with the German and Russian leaders, Gerhard Schroeder and Vladimir Putin:
"One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad,"
Jacques goes on to add:
"The only thing they (the English) have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease,"
and finishes with:
"After Finland, it is the country with the worst food."
Now, I can't comment on Finnish cuisine, though I'm sure it's lovely, but I would take umbridge with Mr Chirac's assertion that we British have never contributed to European agriculture. Surely we contributed hugely by booting the Germans out of glorious French farmland, so that fat, rich French farmers could get on with the important task of blockading ferry ports with their heavily subsidised trucks and BMWs? Or maybe it was because we we haven't been dumping enough of our share of subsidised quotas onto the world market to undercut impoverished third world farmers?
Of course, not that I'd expect Mr Chirac to actually talk any sense or view the world from a non-French standpoint or anything. After all, one cannot trust a people who can't even run a fucking online game!

Saturday 2 July 2005

Live8 drinking game [shedir]

Every time you hear "Amazing" (relating to an acts performance), 1 shotn.b. 2 shots when you disagreed
Every time you hear "fabulous" 1 shotn.b. 3 shots when you disagree
btw, anyone heard a phone number to donate on for the last hour?