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Tuesday 31 January 2006

Chasing spam [Lurks]

I must have had some spare time on my hands because in early December when I received some spam regarding, I got incensed enough that they cloaked their activity in a shroud of legitimacy that I reported the offenders (some outfit called traffic4biz) to the Information Commission's Office. This being the government body which is charged with enforcing spam.
I had to fill in a form and gather actual company information about the people sending me spam and then after sending all this off didn't hear another word. So much for that then. But today I just got a letter, just shy of two months after the fact including their 'sincerest apologies for the late reply' and all because of the large volume of correspondence apparently.

From the information provided, it would appear that you did not give you prior consent to receiving the emails in question. I have therefore written to Traffic4Biz Limited reminding them of their legal obligations and seeking their assurances that your email address will be suppressed from their marketing lists. I would expect this to take no more than 28 days. If you receive any further emails from them I would be grateful if you could let me know.

Oh well, I bet them spammers are shaking in fear.

Thursday 26 January 2006

Serious Samurize [Spiny]

Desktop customisation. Isn't that all useless faggotry lapped up by people who are suckered into all form & no function, arty types with pointless anime themed desktops that have window borders so thin as to make unusable?

One of the advantages of being terminally bored locked up here in Spiny Towers is that I've looked at stuff I normally wouldn't sneeze on (if I could sniff that is).

Today, I stumbled upon Samurizer. This thing will take all sorts of info from your system and enable you to display it on your desktop, or on trasparent on-top windows etc. I'm not usually into these sort of gadgets, dismissing them as useless baubles. Not to worry though, even those 1980s Windows95 user interface types can find something here. I just found my (personal) killer feature. One of the many sources of information you can display is from VB scripts and some bugger has kindly written one to leech info from, so I can have a reminder on my desktop of when my favourite TV shows are due to air. You can more pointless stuff like display media info too. There's loads of input sources, stuff like basic system settings, VB scripts & plugins. For overclockers and tweakers. Of more interest to me is the fact that it can get info from Windows WMI so you can use it to monitor all sorts of critical system activity (like checking your servers have backed up to tape OK or checking for flat mates maxing your ADSL while leeching rude pictures ;)). I was going to write a little WMI consuming app that checked the SMART status of hard drives (until I found a free one) but I think I'll pick up what code I've done (C# natch) and transmodrify (TM) it into a plugin for Samurize. Samurize can read the SMART failure status, but not predict a date for threshold failure.

Oh yea, it's got a pretty small memory footprint too, so should even fit into your 286 !

Wednesday 25 January 2006

Cheiftan o the puddin race [shedir]

Naw, no Slim. Oor dearly beloved Haggis ya fucker!
Oh what a sleekit horrible beastieLurks in yer belly efter the feastieJust as ye sit doon, among yer kinThere sterts to stir an enormous wind
The neeps and tatties and mushy peasStert working like a gentle breezeBut soon the puddin, wi the sauncie face Will have ye blawin all ower the place
Nae matter whit the hell ye dae A’bodys gonnae hae tae pay Even if ye try to stifle It’s like a bullet oot a rifle
Hawd yer bum tight tae the chairTae try and stop the leakin airShify yersel fae cheek tae cheekPrae tae God it doesnae reek
But aw yer efforts go asunderOot it comes…… like a clap o thunder !Ricochets aroon the roomMichty me ! A sonic boom !
Good God Almighty, it fairly reeksHope I huvnae shit ma breeksTae the bog, I better scurryAch whit the hell, it’s no my worry
A’body roon aboot me chokingWan or two are nearly boakin’I’ll feel better in a whileA cannae help but raise a smile
Alas too late, he’s just keeled owerYe durty bugger ! they shout and stareA dinnae feel welcome any mair
Where e’re ye go let yer wind gang free Sounds just like the job fur me Whit a fuss at Rabbie’s perty Ower the sake o’ wan wee ferty !

Sunday 22 January 2006

Do you know Who I^ He Is? [Am]

Bit of a conversation going on the other day reared the old drunken topic of whether someone is a Theist, Agnostic or an Atheist. M'Friend was avowing deeply that he was a total atheist. The following was what I went back to him with. His response is ommitted cos that'd stunt the blog. But it's a bit of a doozy and really rather major topic, we might as well give it a dust down on the hatch they call cross....
.....Really atheism and theism are both illogical if you use "illogical" in its strictest sense. Soren Kierkegaard was a philosopher who knew where shit was at and one of his most famous flows went to the fact that there are many questions or propositions which are non-proveable where to take one side or the other is to go beyond logic and take a "leap of faith".
Over the centuries, hell millenia, many philosophers have tried to make logic-only arguments for the existence of God - you can look 'em up on - try the ontological argument and the teleological for starters. In summary, they are all highly refuted and generally busted apart from in the minds of a few blowhard believers.
So you can't prove God by logic and therefore this is where you get left with the "leap of faith" which is taken in "fear and trembling" precisely because there is no logic behind it. Believers have faith and therefore belief in God. But it's not based in logic. Atheists are somewhat more problematic - since it's impossible to prove or disprove God, how can you say you are an atheist rather than (deeply) agnostic. As a logical premise it's really totally unsupportable to say that you are an atheist rather than deeply agnostic. Way I see it, in the end wherever anyone is deeply passionate about arguing "no no I really AM an Atheist", it's a secular statement about how much you dislike religion's place in the humanitarian world. Now that I understand. But let's not confuse it with the logical deniability of God.
As to the major religions, go study their books for a few years and then read the works round them giving the historical precedents for their content which preceeded them. I think many'll be pretty shocked how much of the content of, for instance, Christianity, takes direct content from other major cult religions preceeding its codification in the Bible. It's not a couple of cues - it is totally littered. There are other major religious texts which are, to anyone other than an already inculcated follower are incredibly eye-brow raising as an expression of the word of god given how firmly rooted they are in the sociology and politics of the time they were written in.
What Islam got right was to venerate and respect the prophets of other religions. Do not confuse that with the secular US vs "Islam" war at the moment. There you have TWO increasingly fundamentalist "nations" whose perversion of BOTH religions is to do with self-serving their secular needs.
In the end of the day, the hundreds of millions that have been killed through religious conflicts are humanity's greatest self-attributed stupidity. There may be a God, indeed I hope there is. But the playground fights about whose incredibly inaccurate made-up versions of what that God is truly like (particularly as practised more than as originally written) show us to be the undeveloped animals we really are.

Saturday 21 January 2006

Ultimate Working Laptop [Muz]

Greetings, gentle readers (and denizens of the Crosshatch). Since our esteemed Beej McTut has (repeatedly) rounded up the creme de la stuff of gaming laptops, I thought it might be interesting to turn the premise on its head and consider what's hot in the notebook world if one simply wants to Get Shit Done(TM).
Nor is this an entirely academic exercise (a good thing that, since after four years I'm thouroughly sick of academic exercises). As some of you may know, I have sold my soul to The Man, and part of the devil's due is a required trip across the pond for training. I'm not sure, but I believe taking an Antec tower and two 19in TFTs along with my luggage probably won't sit too well with commercial airlines. So, a laptop of some description will be required. As mentioned, El Beejster has covered the gaming options in detail, so without further ado let us look at the "work" options.
Currently my mobile needs are being met by the very swish Asus M5. It does the job and fairly well epitomises the qualities that I (and therefore you) should be looking for in a mobile computing solution. It's small size and 6-7 hour battery life make it ideal for use on the move without a) purchasing a man-portable generator and b) finding a flat surface 3 foot square on which to place the thing. It's solidly built, looks cool within its carbon fibre chassis and has all the interface options one would expect in a modern bit of kit apart from Bluetoooth and Gigabit Ethernet. Ho hum.
The only shortcomings that I feel need to be pointed out are the display and the battery. The display is very clear and bright, however, comma: I am used to having a 2560 x 1024 desktop (apologies for the cameraphone photo, I need a new camera too) - after that, 1024 x 768 might charitably be referred to as 'roughing it'. As a computer science geek who has to use IDEs on a regular basis, widescreen could come in handy.
The battery life of 6-7 hours I mentioned is only achievable with the 72Whr battery that must be purchased seperately from the main unit. Not only that, but as it is significantly larger than the standard battery, somewhat ruining the compact form factor. So, a second further requirement - an extended battery life without the requirement for extra purchase and/or extra battery cells trailing out of the chassis.
So, in summary, we are looking for an ultraportable laptop with stupid battery life, all the standard interfaces any self respecting geek today requires, and a nice high resolution/widescreen display. Off we go.
Bizarrely, there don't seem to be many that fit the bill. Asus appear to have one successor to the M5 that looks promising, the W5A, but Asus' UK site has no information on battery life nor on where to get hold of their wares. Disappointing, but somehow unsurprising (see my earlier linked blog for details). From other manufacturers, three machines in particular caught my eye as 'vaguely promising'. In no particular order...
The IBM (Lenovo) Thinkpad X32. While still limited by a 1024 x 768 display, it satisfies every other criterion quite nicely. In addition, its 5 hour battery life can be effectively doubled through the use of a second battery pack that docks onto the bottom of the chassis. Smart - doesn't increase footprint, but allows extra working time. It also enjoys the dubious honour of being part of IBM's only successful consumer product line. Which they proceeded to sell off. Errmm....
The other two possibles will come as no surprise to regular readers - the Sony TX and S5 series.
The TX needs little introduction, being the successor to the venerable TR1MP of yore, owned by a sizable (in every sense of the word) number of the champagne and nachos clan. 11.1in widescreen with a 1366 x 768 panel, onboard GigaBit Ethernet etc, looks like we could be on to a winner. Not sure how viable it would be to code on that small a screen for that long a period of time though, so for completeness I include the...
Sony S5. 13.3in screen this time, 1280x800, otherwise much the same as above, but... what's this? A mere 3 hours manufacturer's rated battery life? That's a big down check.
It would appear then that the spawn of the mighty TR1MP is victorious - but wait! There's a new player in the PC notebook market, some upstarts calling themselves 'Apple'. Apparently after 30 years of making elitist, semi-functional tat for the nu-meeja industry, this random company have finally moved to a proper architecture. This combined with an OS consisting of a userfriendly frontend sitting on a robust BSD backend makes me seriously consider getting a 'MacBook Pro'. The 12in model hasn't been announced yet, but one assumes it's only a matter of time. As a bonus, if they follow past form, the 12in model will have the same GPU in it that the recently announced 15in model does, namely an ATI Radeon X1600, and since World of Warcraft runs on OSX... I think for the first time Apple have a serious chance of getting some of my hard earned wonga.

Tuesday 17 January 2006

The Hoose that Jack Built (while pished) [Shedir]

Bad things happen in three's, oh yes don't they fucking just.
12/12/05 Tumble drier goes phut
15/12/05 Boiler stops giving hot water for longer than 2 mins
Friday just past, cooker goes bang.


Guy comes to repair tumble drier, while this is out of action I'm out £15 a week getting gear dried at laundrette and a wife with tourettes about drier, wrong parts had been ordered origionally.
Boiler apparently needs a 'power flush', but they're going to try and repair it. A power flush is £450! A new boiler is 600 christ. Provided I can talk a plumber here at work into a homer that is. But there's new radiators needed with this too. sigh.
Meanwhile the microwave is supplying us with brekkie, porridge..lunch, soup and sometimes dinner, baked spud. I now glow in the dark.
All in all what a pain in the arse.
On the plus side, my 4 can fridge beside the PC screen is fine :)

Monday 9 January 2006

All I want for Xmas was an iriver H10 [Shedir]

Santa was very good to me this year. A lovely slate grey iriver H10, 20gb of music on the move.
It's a stupendous little piece of kit, plays mp3 and wma unlike the ipod which was vying for my dosh. Very sleek physially and nicely laid out with the buttons. USB2 as well for fast transfer.
The only downside was that iriver expect you to use windows media player 10 with it, which is awful. Fortunately there's a cracking wee app called "easyH10", this re-indexes the files on your iriver and updates the player.
Needless to say dumping music via copy n paste is far quicker than using WMP10. As a bonus this lets you store stuff in directories of your choosing. The H10 lets you browse through the files to play them or do it via the tags.
If your tags aren't right, cough, then being able to browse through your own structure (blues / comedy / rock / indie etc...) is a godsend.
There's also an inbuilt FM radio which I have to say I've not played with yet, but looks like it'll do the job nicely. Handy for the news on the way home.
A nice colour screen which resizes photos on the fly for you to look at, nice added feature but no benefit to me. I can see how it could well be useful if you're on the move coupled with the voice recorder to take notes.
Also lets you read text files via the screen, though I'd imagine that'd be a battery draining PITA.
All in all I'm in awe of the H10, fantastic bit of kit and came in at around £160 from ebuyer.
As a side bonus my old mp3 CD player is now in the car for the wifey, with the wee tape adapter thing she now has albums on the move.
As for a wee poll, what music player do you prefer / think is the best then?

Thursday 5 January 2006

A look back at our earliest blogs [Beej]

A trawl of recently resulted in the discovery of about half of the infamous "Missing 150", our very first blogs on this site in 2002. I've converted these ancient blogs into XML (by hand! ouch) and now they're live on this site.
Our blogstats show that we're up to 887 total blogs from 827, total comments are now 5440 from 5116, and the oldest blog in existence is blog #8 dated 06 Jun 2002.
There's some amusement to be had looking at our oldest blogging contributions to t'internet, and saving you the effort here's some highlights:
  • Blog #8: NOW LET'S MAKE SURE EVERYTHING WORKS VIA REBOT - little does Slim know the trouble he causes by suggesting, "how about a feedback system, so my fans can leave comments?". IRC and e-mail blogging indeed came first, followed by web blogging a few months later in 2002. Public blogging was ultimately pulled in March 2005 because of 'the casino twats', but realistically we must blame Slim.

  • Blog #16: EEDERS WHO HAVE CREATED NEW NOUNS - Lurks kicks off a corker of a blog, explaining what it means to 'do a Shinji'

  • Blog #72: AM I TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT? - Lurks asks the question "Is it normal to have a mid life crisis at 31? :)" after one of those silly nights on the piss in London when he loses his coat/cash/gadgets at 414 (...again!)

  • Blog #77: NOTHER DREAM OF AN AIRCRASH - not suitable for children, Am braindumps a rather bleak story of how he "seems to have these weird repeat dreams about plane crashes". Readers will be pleased to know that our finest champagne-quaffing legal mind is still with us and regularly flies to the Cayman Islands to check his bank account.

Wednesday 4 January 2006

Do you know who^^^what you are? [Am]

Attention all clanners;
This is a free one hundred question Briggs Myer personality test which then provides you with a personality assessment based on the errr Briggs Myer system. I did this and it scared the crap out of me how close the assessment was.
Test yourself and post yourself up (all will become clear)
We're all more than a bit impressed with this.

Tuesday 3 January 2006

Easing into 2006 [Brit]

So here we are. 2006.
As most of the UK office based workforce returned to their cubicles, I thought I'd share some of things I've discovered already.
First off and contrary to the opinion I held for most of the latter half of 2005, the PSP absolutely rocks. I bought out completely impulsively as I stood in Victoria station on Christmas Eve wondering if Useless Rail would ever get me back to the folks before the Age of Aquarius.
I picked up a GigaPack (including Pursuit Force which sucks badly) from Game and about ten minutes later was up and running. It really is a joy this shiny slice of plastic, and being somewhat frustrated that nobody has bothered to port World Of Warcraft to my new toy, snapped up Archer Maclean's Mercury which has kept me amused for aeons now and a couple of others, neither of which get much of a look in.
Of course being a fickle techie fellow, I'm not particularly fussed with single use devices when I can have multi use, so the fact that the PSP also plays music and has a highly workable web browser (the wireless capability of the thing is dreamboat scrumptious) tickled me in all the right places.
Next up, and in my quest to find the perfect book to read whilst on the tube (allowing time for my brain to consider the latest devilish Mercury puzzle) I stumbled across The World Accordng To Jeremy Clarkson which is essentially a collection of his columns from various editions of the Sunday Telegraph.
JC is one of those "love them or loathe them" types, and I've always had something of a fondness for the car mad giant of non-PC commentary, so tucked in greedily to this, his first book effort (I believe) and it's brilliant. With his usual aplomb and laissez faire attitude to Other People's Opinions, he lays into everything from the space programme to Austrian border guards - and more than a grain of (sometimes uncomfortable) truth shines through on many a page.
I also did something about my continuing Fasthosts situation - possibly the most expensive hosting company ever to see the light of day. After two years or so being fleeced for every last byte, I've moved everything over to which was an insanely painless process and moreover, a cheaper one too. Dedicated server, 1,000GB transfer per month, excellent control panel *and* good support? Sure, they're American but hell's bells! I know a few EED know these guys already (from when they were called Rackshack) but for someone who's been watching cash leak away for sod all its the hosting equivalent of the road to Damascus.
Lastly, I've discovered what its like to become a true cat person. The not-so-small kitties (Ellie and Robot if you must know) are now five months old and well versed in getting precisely what they want, when they want it. Whoever said "Dogs have owners, cats have staff" was bang on the money, but when you've got something that looks like this pawing at you at 6am, what are you supposed to do?!
Cats FTW

Monday 2 January 2006

Best Bond Film Ever [Beej]

It is traditional that with some regularity The Man Down The Pub, or maybe one of those terrible programmes on Channel 5, will raise the important British question about who is the best James Bond actor, and which is the best James Bond film. There is also an argument for Best Bond Girl, but no matter how much you argue the point about Jill St. John's norks, Ursula Andress always seems to win.

So, side-stepping the Best Bond Actor discussion for now (and the subject of the new fella) I've been braindumped some ideas about what's good and not-so-good about the twenty-ish Bond films so far.

The criteria used to quantify and rate the quality of the Bond films is as follows:

  • Plot: is it an interesting and exciting spy thriller?
  • Villain: should be foreign with some sort of disfigurement
  • Henchman: Oddjob or Jaws good, speccy twat bad
  • Bond Girls: films with no proper totty are lame ducks (see TND)
  • Car: Does Universal Exports issue an Aston Martin, or something German?
  • Underground lair: true megalomaniacs have a lair, not a stealth boat (see, er, TND again)
  • Q Branch: Omega watches and jam trousers
  • Theme tune: Madonna can fuck off and all

Looking at these vital Bond elements, I've narrowed the list down to a selection of five Bond films whose ratings I've made out to be something like this.

PlotVillainHenchGirlsAstonLairQThemeDr. No (1962)xxxxxGoldfinger (1964)xxxxxxThe Spy Who Loved Me (1977)xxxxx1xxxThe Living Daylights (1987)xxxxxGoldenEye (1995)xxxxxxxx
1 Not an Aston but a Lotus Espirit. Qualifies.

So coincidentally, there's a Bond film here from each decade. Except for 2000 onwards, where I'm afraid so far we've had nothing but shiny floors and big explosions. You left at the right time Mr.Broz! Those writers still haven't given you a worthy sequel to GoldenEye.

Sunday 1 January 2006

Electric Death and the 1000 blogs [Lurks]

This is a placeholder. I'll write it later. Honest.