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Tuesday 30 August 2005

Laughed at first read [Am]

Was walking around the 'Wharf today and saw a black van which was as dirty as fuck and had a usual finger-etched piece of random grafitti. Now usually this is something incredibly imaginative like "Clean Me" but this was something I haven't seen before which made me laugh out loud; picture it - totally dusted and grimed van with in two foot high letters;
"My bird is this filthy"
Well got a snort out of me. Set me thinking of a couple of others which are some of my favourite film titles ever;
Shaving Ryans PrivatesAnal Kommando {.. I think it's all to do with the K. So heroically, germanically...Arnold...}
and these two from top C-grade movie house Troma;
Surf Nazis Must Die
and the all time classic;
Die Screaming With Sharp Things In Your Head

Thursday 25 August 2005

Shoot Bikers in the face [Slim]

So, Clarkson said motorcyle riders should be shot in the face. He's an opinionated shite, people should be used to that by now. Thing is, the leather clad gay deniers have well and truly spat the dummy out and have organised a petition for his dismissal from the bbc. I'm here to say don't sign that sign this instead. Free speech, yay.

Fontopia EX71SL review [Slim]

While I brought closed cup headphones to AmLan, I quickly realised I was missing out on some quality bleatage from the room, so I plugged my ipod earphones into me lappy instead and blew the fuckers. Doh.

Am I bovvered? Face? Bovvered? They were shit anyway. I still wanted in ear jobbies, so I went a pair of Sony Fontopia isolating jobbies, ex71SL . Instead of sitting in your lugs like regular phones, these things sit in your ear-ole, making an airtight connection. This means that unlike most in ear phones you actually get bass. You get lots of bass in fact, perhaps even a little bit too much if anything, but stuff sounds very nice indeed. Another couple of nice side effects from this in-ear-ole design is that noise is blocked which is ace for walking/biking around heavy traffic and sound leakage is minimal, brill for playing Motorhead in the library.

Couple of downers, first is they're more fragile than regular phones. The in ear stuff is sort of condomish rubber to get a good grip of your ear, and this simply isn't going to be as tough as the hard plastic of regular earphones. Sonys recognised this by shipping em with a hard plastic case plus a soft bag to carry em in, but that's all a bit faffy, I like to wrap me headies around my ipod and pocket it. Second, the sealed ears means you hear quite a bit of your own nose, its like the way your bodies sounds are amplified when you've got blocked up ears, you can hear your feet hitting the ground, stuff like that. Oh they do the sony thing of looping the cable under your chin, which pisses me off too.

Thing is, they sound ace, and I'm prepared to put up with some pain for that, so they get the thumbs up for me.

Monday 22 August 2005

Panorama vs MCB [Lurks]

I've got to hand it to them, after viewing last nights Panorama show on the tele, it seems like the BBC did the unthinkable. They grew some balls and tackled the thorny issue of the muslim community in the UK following the apparent rise of extremism that lead to the bombings.
I watched it and near as I could tell, they bent over backwards to allow the boss of the Muslim Council of Britain the right of reply on a whole bunch of thorny issues. As the picture built up, it became clear that the MCB isn't in a position of leadership which has a chance of steering the muslim community to deal with extremism. Rather it sees itself as a body that has to right wrongs of the oppressed muslim etc.
Now the latter point is fair enough, and maybe they do need some body to act as a voice whenever the inevitable ugly face of racism appears. However, I think the show adequately called out that there is no actual logic applied to when it is appropriate to step up and beat the drum. Two cases rammed home the point to me; the first was the female student that demanded to be allowed to wear an ankle length dress on religious grounds. This is blatantly a cultural and not a religious issue, no one else has problems with the attire but the MCB turned it into a huge issue, apparently being a case of discrimination.
More recently, in the aftermath of the bombings, they were highly active in criticising the police concerning how they dealt with acts like searching homes and so on. You would have thought that would have been a good time to be helpful but apparently it needed some firmer encouragement to begin the process of getting leaders together to denounce the bombings and so on.
For whatever reason it is, the politically inclined arm of the muslim community (as opposed to the silent majority who view Islam as being a personal and spiritual relationship for them) is capable of some remarkable demonstrations of double standards as was very skillfully demonstrated in the in interview of John Ware (the interviewer and narator of the episode) and Dr Bari, deputy secretary general of MCB and so on.
When taken to task about various highly offensive views that some of the Islamic organisations have that are represented by the MCB (things like no Kaffar can be your friend, the West is generally corrupt etc etc you know the sort), he downplayed all of that saying that these are views and these organisations are entitled to them and the MCB cannot influence them.
And yet... the same chap lead the fight to ban Salman Rushdie's book the Satanic Verses and when quizzed directly, still believes that the book should be banned. So it's fine to ban a view so long as it's anti Islam (even in the case of that, it's a work of fiction) but of course if there's any anti secular, anti West, anti Christian etc view points then those are just 'views' which they are powerless to influence.
I found the combination of the obvious making politics out of Islam and this rampant double standards are being quite disturbing because the programme left the viewer with the real sense that in the first instance, muslim leaders were in denial of extremism and in the second instance, that there was no real chance of the MCB (or anyone like it) doing something collectively about it because it didn't serve their political agenda.
I was also touched by the comments from many of the other muslim representatives being interviewed - who offered insights which you were highly enlightening. Explaining the backdrop of the MCB and, perhaps most worryingly, the claim that there's generally one set of language for the public (promoting cross-faith tollerance) and quite another behind closed doors (promoting isolation from the Kaffars etc).
I came away from the show worried. It seems obvious that the MCB will do nothing to assist the issue but instead will continue their agenda of portraying muslims as victims at every turn. This view was reinforced by reading their statement today, responding to the Panorama show. Here's an extract from the Media Guardian story:

"It was dishonestly presented and mischievously edited to present a pre-conceived view. We are absolutely disgusted with the clearly Islamophobic agenda of this programme," the spokesman said.

It's hard to comment about how it may have been mischievously edited but I didn't get that sense at all. Whatever the programme was, it was certainly not Islamophobic. I guess it's hardly surprising to see the MCB attempt to equate any attack on it as an attack on Islam but it's clearly not going to wash with any thinking viewer.
Make your own mind up by reading the transcript for yourself.
The danger here is that if a representative body for muslims in the UK cannot (or more accurately will not) help to deal with extremism in the ways it needs to be dealt with, then it'll be left to legislation and police who will be galvanised by a generally unsympathetic public following the right-wing agendas of the tabloid press. That treatment might very well lend factual weight to the victim mentality that desperately needs to be dismantled to tackle extremism for real.

Wednesday 17 August 2005

The Living Hell That Is Other People's Code [Spiny]

Right now, just at this moment: I'm really, really glad I have a holiday coming up. I just had to add a method to someone else's class that was written to manage settings in an XML config file. This stuff is already built into the .NET framework of course. As you know dear reader being a highly intelligent superbeing. The method I was forced to add essentially duplicates ConfigurationSettings.GetConfig(). With slightly different behaviour of course.


Checklist [Am]

Right boys, it's time to check;
Testicles, spectacles, wallet and watch?PC?All leads?Monitor?GAMES?Clothes?A towel?Deoderant (no Newbury racecourse at my gaff)?Soft stuff to sleep on?Soft stuff, at least, to cover you up?Special medicines?Passport?MONEY?Camera?Directions?Phone numbers?Axe?Duct tape?Lube?
If yes, pass GO and collect £200 which is co-incidentally the entrace fee to what I am now calling "G2". You get a 4ft wide "station" in a super heated room, no prospect of a shower for a weekend and I get to sell you warm beer at £4 a pint.
It's gonna rock!

Sunday 14 August 2005

The best keyboard evah? [Brit]

The best keyboard evah?
This blog might possibly be properly categorised as "computing heresy", but the fact remains that after years of searching, I've finally found a keyboard that actually feels right, looks good, and is a joy to use.
Yes dear reader, the Apple Mac keyboard simply, utterly, rocks.
Believe me when I say, I've tried 'em all - from cabled, to wireless, from el-cheapo to keyboards that require a second mortgage - and none comes close to touching this puppy.
How much does such an object cost? (I hear you cry) - well, to you sir, £20 from PC World, so probably considerably less anywhere else.
I'm a confirmed PC user - I cannot stand the Mac platform as a rule, but when it comes to peripherals, Jobs et al just seem to get it. The keyboard ticks all the right boxes...
a) it looks the business.b) it has brilliant key transport, and good sized keys to boot.c) the slight curvature, the ergonomics if you will, make it extremely comfortable to use.d) it has two inbuilt USB ports, so I whack the mouse in one, and have another spare thats easy to get to (no fiddling round the back of my PC to plug things in).e) at £20 its stonking good value.f) it works with a PC instantly (including the built in vol +/- and mute keys above the numpad).g) if you want to use the extended keys (F13 and the special Apple key) then you can grab a free Apple keyboard -> Windows functions installer that handles existing and custom mapping.
I personally cannot ask for more than this from my keyboard, and so must simply blog about this revelation and recommend to all of you - if you want a new keyboard, and want a right good 'un, a Mac job is a five star winner.

Thursday 11 August 2005

E-tailer incompetence [Muz]

Hello readers. Having just completed some 'cleaning' (read: getting rid of assorted tat that serves no purpose whatsoever), we found ourselves in the position of having a fairly large wall free in a position that seemed to lend itself to the installation of some sort of large televisual device.
A bit of Googling followed, and after a conversation with resident clan blingmeister [EED]Kaveman, a Sharp Aquos LC37GA5E from EmpireDirect was ordered. As a bonus, the thing was on sale. The very helpful Empire sales monkey on the phone informed me that the logistics company would be in touch in the next 24 hours to arrange delivery.
48 hours later, with no contact from anyone, I call back Empire, and they give me the number of the logistics company to chase things up directly. After being bounced around several people and promised several callbacks, it transpires that though someone signed a manifest taking delivery of my TV from Empire, no one at the logistics company knows where it is. It's entirely possible that it's been nicked, that it's sitting in the logistics warehouse, or it never left Empire in the first place. "Sorry sir," say the logistics company, "we'll get Empire to release another order." A week later, with no-one having returned my calls, I finally get through to Empire Customer Support, who sheepishly inform me "Err, it appears we haven't reinvoiced this order yet. I can process that now for you, but I won't be able to arrange a delivery date for 24-48 hours." One cancelled order later, here I am, pouring my troubles out as a warning to all who follow.
I'm not impressed. Two weeks to dispatch a piece of kit that's currently in stock? I for one will not be using Empire again; and I'm sufficiently incensed that I'm contemplating exiting my current state of lethargy and actually writing a complaints letter. Is there a regulatory body governing phone and internet retail one can make a complaint to on the grounds of ineptitude?

Tuesday 9 August 2005

Evil Spyware [vagga]

I was having dinner at an aussie mates house the other night. He is off home to kangaroo land so it was a boozy farewell affair.
Anyway late in the night he was moaning about his PC being slow. He is the least tech literate person known to man. He bought a top of the range lappy from Dell about 8 or 9 months ago, with money from his old work. He rang them and said "I have 2 grand and I want a laptop" - lol. You can imagine the look of glee of the phone sales moneky's face. He was sold all manner of patethic usless software along with an insanly priced machine. Dell really are cunt0rs.
So given all he does on said machine is email and surf for porn he should not have paid more than 600 or 700 quid for a basic machine with a chunk of ram. Anyway, said machine should be dead quick!
But I started IE and he had no fewer than 5 of those annoying search bars. Yahoo, Google and 3 random ones - such as the CoolWebSearch crap. He said he liked having options when searching the web :)

I cleaned it all out for him (removed links to IE and Outlook Express and installed Firefox and Thunderbird!) and hey-presto it was not slow anymore. It was lightning quick. He had no fewer than 4 different viruses and AdAware found about 4 million things it had to delete! The internet is dangerous for muppets :)
But I was reading this today :
CoolWebSearch Bar installing spyware and nicking info and more worrying ident's
I bloody knew those search bars were evil!

Monday 8 August 2005

The march of technology [Lurks]

Like many of you, I'm a classic early adoptor. I'm guessing I'm not alone to be amazed at how things like the web became mainstream when back in the day, it was an intensely geeky thing that you'd have difficulty just explaining the point of it to someone on the street. There's plenty of developments like this as we get older and technology that was once geeky and cool becomes mainstream.
The one to hit me today is the news that Dixons are to dump 35mm cameras. Bloody hell! I remember when I bought my first digital camera, it was an Olympus 800L and it was hard core high spec in that it took 1024x768 pictures. The only other cameras on the market about that time were the shitty Casio ones really. This camera cost me over £700 (and that was a LOT for me back then), you had to get the pictures off via serial and it would only take about 20 or so shots before draining the batteries - the damn thing heated up like you wouldn't believe.
Now basically everyone has a digital camera and ergo some sort of PC to get the pictures off or some fancy direct-connect photo printer. Hell even if they don't, you can walk into a photo place and slap your memory card in a kiosk and print out directly from there. Amazing stuff really when you consider where it came from.
Are there any other examples of technology that you can remember being once cool and geeky and now mainstream?
And come on, iPods are too easy. :-)

Sunday 7 August 2005

AmLanII - the final countdown [Am]

It's teh fiiiiiiiiinaaaaaaaaaalll couuuuuuuuntdoooooownnnn!!! Da-da-da-DAR-darrrr-da-da-da-darr-darrrr-da-da-da-dar-DAR-da-da-da-da-da-dar-dar-darrr-da-da-da-darrrrrr-da-da-darrrrr-DARRRRR-DARRRRR.
Ok so two weeks to go. If you aint' got a pc, lappy or know where you're getting it from, you're probably fucked but squawk now just in case.
If you don't know how you're getting there (bar the directions to be recirculated to the ml soon) then you're probably fucked but squawk now just in case.
One quick request - last year as you know we had some trip outs of the fuse box basically due to badly grounded equipment. So requests this time is LURKS - and others - please bring any grounding testing stuff. And EVERYONE - if you have a long garden type extension reel type thing, please bring it so that we can run as many power supplies from different rings as possible to reduce the spikey bothersome thing.
All your souls are mine. BWUAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!

Thursday 4 August 2005

London syndrome [Lurks]

9:30PM last Friday, I was sat down with a group of my mates at a pub in Islington. We would have been sat down there when the number 43 bus went past, having just picked up a lady which we'll call Tara McCartney although that is not her real name.
Around about 10PM a gentlemen by the name of Richard Whelan got onto that number 43 double-decker bus in London and sat down upstairs with his girlfriend. A man on the bus was behaving like a prick, throwing chips at passengers and so slowly everyone had moved downstairs in the usual manner of Londoner's avoiding a crazy on public transport. So far nothing unusual for a Friday night in London.
Eventially there was just Richard Whelan and his girlfriend. The man threw chips and abused Whelan's partner and obviously Whelan defended her. In return he was stabbed multiple times and a manhunt is still ongoing since Richard Whelan sadly died in hospital as a result of the stabbing.
This is a terrible set of events of course and I followed this originally, increasingly glad that we're making plans to leave the city. Then I found an account in the Guardian Unlimited from Tara McCartney about what happened on that bus that drove past an oblivious EED gathering.
A brief explanation is needed of something which people who don't live in London may not understand. Everyone on the streets or public transport in London is a stranger. They don't talk to eachother, they don't look at eachother and - should there be any form of confrontation - the best you can expect is that they'll move away. Even if this is a packed tube train with one man assaulting a woman, it's not unusual to find absolutely no response at all, just a sea of faces all looking the other way.
On this Friday night in question Richard Whelan staggered down the stairs after his assailant had maliciously and casually sauntered off the bus. Surely when faced with an injured man such as this and no ongoing threat to safety, even Londoners would step up and render what assistance they could? Apparently not, from Tara McCartney's acount:

But as soon as he sat down he started to go a bit floppy. I kept looking round expecting other people to engage with him as well, but no one did. I was trying to call 999 on my phone, and I think he sat on one of the fold-down seats in the centre of the bus. He started to breathe a bit heavily. I wanted him to lie down because obviously he was wounded. Things started to happen quickly. I was calling 999 and trying to get him lying down at the same time. He was quite a big guy, not huge but an adult man, much bigger than me, and at that point I couldn't physically do both things at once, so I called out, "Can someone help me? Can someone help me?" Nothing happened. No one made eye contact. I couldn't quite believe it.

I can believe it. I've seen it before. Not with a stabbing or a medical emergency like this but it does confirm my worst fears concerning the human nature when confronted by that big-city anonmity that I'm calling London Syndrome. Not had enough?

I took off my jumper and put it over where I thought the wound was, then tried to get him down on the floor. I kept saying, "Someone help me!" But no one did.

Emergency services finally suggested that Tara McCartney pass the phone to the bus driver. Presumably someone working in an official capacity might recognise the severity of the situation and step up to deal with the drama. Yet when the police showed up the engine was still running so they told the driver to turn it off, to which he replied "No, no, I've got to get back to the depot."
No story exposing such a deficit of basic standards in human nature would be complete without your obligatory rubbernecker too.

At one point this other guy came over. I'm not sure, but I think he got on the bus to have a look. He was leaning over, looking, and he was wearing a jacket, a proper jacket. So I said: "Can you give me your jacket so I can put it over him?" He just said "No". That was it.

To my mind this makes a mockery of the sentiment behind the seemingly spontaneous "Londoner's Are Not Afraid" movement. It's all very well to exclaim that you are not afraid from the comfort of the computer in your own home. Yet on the evidence of last Friday night and everything I have seen in this city prior to that, the victim of a terrorist bombing, lying bleeding in a gutter could expect little assistance from the citizens of this city.
We're all up for rendering aidwith no risk to ourselves or without engagement. Probably some of those uncaring scumbags on that bus even given to charity to help ease suffering elsewhere. Suffering elsewhere, at a distance. Where it wont get blood on my jacket.
Any pride I had in this city through the successful Olympic Games hosting bid has been well and truly blown to smithereens. Not by some terrorist bomb though, blown up by the realisation that London is nothing but a massive collection of self-serving cowardly human beings. A densly packed society where it has somehow become acceptable that personal inconvienience has overridden the basic human fucking RIGHT to expect assistance when it is most required.
I could have ended this blog by saying something recalcitrant like "Fuck you London, I'm out of here" but I think there is a bigger picture. There's something dark that lurks in human nature, the thing that lends us the description of 'scumbags' as I did earlier, burried within our genome that we would do well to expose. I don't think it's just London, although these events have earned London the dubious honor of having me name this syndrome after the example quoted here.
I think it's anonmity. Big cities have it by the bucketful, you're not going to see friendly familiar faces drifting by on the street. Just one after another random face. In such circumstances, most people (and I think surely there are endless exceptions but I'm sticking to my guns and calling it the majority) will invest none of their attention to the standard social cues which they would render to their friends and loved ones. Assistance when needed and basic good behavior.
I probably need to illustrate this idea with two further examples beyond the knife attack of last Friday so I'll take one from London and I'll take another from a source that ever reader of this web site and blog will be deeply familiar with.
In London, forget the notion of assistance in need, you will see the most horrenous personal behavior of people on the London Underground. Shoving in when people have yet to get off, refusing to yeild seats for the elderly or even the heavily and obviously pregant and countless other examples of bad behavior brought about by anonmity. Might sound minor until you see it. You see what look like perfectly normal human beings behaving like absolute cocks. Why?
The other example is online gaming. Why is it, do you suppose, that we prefer to play with our friends? Why is it that everyone on a public gaming server is an absolute arsehole. The reason is, of course, that every player is anonymous, hidden behind some nick name and generic rendering of computer graphics. This example not only proves that we'll behave like animals for the most minor benefit such as that mildly more comfortable seat or standing position on the London Underground, but that we'll actually behave like animals for no fucking reason at all. All providing for anonmity. It's the same reason why you can have amazing rows from nowhere via email. It seems our brains get confused by the lack of a real person and all the social queues and, at least, our behavioral mechanisms also seem to get screwed up when those queues exist but we've grown used to being surrounded by strangers.
I think our psyche is geared to dealing with the social challenges of living in a society no larger than a village. It might sound like I'm putting forth an agenda given that we're moving out of the big city but actually we decided to move for these sorts of reasons without really knowing what they were. It took last Friday to make me realise how imperetive it is. Not just for our own safety but for a better quality of life. I want to essentially excise the anonymous people from our lives so that there's a mutual investment, if not friends then at least people that will treat me as a human being.
Maybe what it's down to is that the only time in our evolutionary history that an individual would be surrounded by anonymous faces would be if they were migrating somewhere. Perhaps evolution rewards someone who moves swiftly on, gets through and beyond back to the safety of their friends and loved ones?
This analysis aside, which I admit is some desperate attempt to try make sense out of this human disaster on our doorsteps, we ought to remember that a man was murderedlast Friday.
Maybe there's a slight outside chance someone knows anything about the attacker:

Mr Whelan's attacker is described as black, in his 20s, just under 6ft tall with afro hair and wore a dark jacket and a hooded top with the hood up.

Number 43 bus from Islington running North around 10PM last Friday... if so, you'll be wanting to call the police.