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Friday 30 May 2008

The UK government's false green policies [Beej]

Buying fuel - it hurtsssssss! Here's one of many gripes on the hot topic:

Britain’s diesel prices are the lowest in Europe before tax – but the highest once tax has been added on, official Government figures have revealed.

In Britain the average pre-tax price for diesel was 48.8p per litre during April, but that spiralled to 116.6p per litre at the pump. This means taxes account for a mighty 58% of the total price.

The Tories said the latest statistics showed that the Government could not blame international fuel costs for sky-high prices at the pumps.

A Treasury spokesman denied that fuel taxes were too high, saying they were justified because they were green and designed to reduce carbon consumption.

In less than 10 years, driving has suddenly become so very bad. It's killing the planet (isn't it?) but fortunately the Government are doing something about it! Yes, they're raising taxes so that now we think twice about about our habitual driving. Well, oh genius green-minded Government, I still need to go to work in the mornings and buy food at the supermarket. I work in the next town, there's no bus or sequence of buses, and there's no train station let alone a train. So like pretty much everyone who doesn't live inside a city, I still need my car.

Taxing drivers for buying fuel is said to be a green policy. It is supposed to make people drive less. Thus spewing out less evil CO2, thus saving the previous planet.

Except for the teeny-tiny problem that it isn't a green policy, and it isn't saving the planet.

iTunes TV Shows [Spiny]

This is a small JavaScript I knocked up to fix an annoyance with iTunes.

When you import a load of videos they always default to being movies. There is no option to bulk edit the video kind or season for several video files at once.

To use the script, just select the shows in iTunes you want to set to "TV Show" and double click it.

You can also set some or all of Season, Genre and Show by running the script via a shortcut and specifying

Show="Family Guy" Genre=Comedy Season=1

for example. Note that of you have spaces in the show name, you'll need the double quotes.

In other news, movie rentals are coming to the UK iTunes store soon \0/.

Friday 16 May 2008

Pride before a fall [Brit]

With a little over 47m people and nearly three times the landmass of the UK, Burma is not a small country. For years it has operated in near isolation - ruled over by a military Junta who probably consider Roland Joffe's The Killing Fields as something of a near perfect training tool, and as they have done so, we've watched from afar.

Of course, since there is little in the way of natural resources worth a plunder and it is surrounded by some fairly major Asian nations (India & China) "The West" has pretty much left it alone - occasionally popping up to issue a useless resolution decrying the abuses the Burmese suffer at the hands of their regime, but thats pretty much it. Dictatorial barbarism and abuse of power is legion in Burma, yet I expect reruns of Fu-Man Chu would cause more interest.

We now see of course that Burma is seriously in the shit, with tens of thousands dead and millions more seriously affected by Mother Nature. What we also see is just how desperately ineffective and positively disinterested anyone is unless there are riches and rewards to be had.

The Burmese Junta have virtually refused entry to specialist rescue workers who, under UN mandates various are deployed around the world ready to assist in the event of a large scale disaster. This is (logically speaking) inexplicable; the Burmese are unable to help themselves, and bodies are simply piling high. Medium to long term management of such an event (with respect rehabilitation, diseases, food & water, etc) will also be out of scope for the Junta - all of whom are the epitomy of selfish, ruthless, mind-numbingly idiotic moronism.

It has already been mentioned on various media outlets that the (in)actions of the Junta are tantamount to genocide; indeed, the United Nations (a more useless and self obsessed organisation I could not hope to Google) has powers to raise, debate and ratify unilateral action in situations very very similar to what we're seeing now. They don't of course.

The Burmese Junta should be ignored, and aid specialists and equipment deployed into Burma, protected by armed escorts. If the Burmese Junta interfere, they should be removed... this level of disaster is way beyond politics and polite memorandums when it becomes so terribly clear that those responsible for the safeguarding of their own people are so utterly incapable of timely, useful action.

Contrast the situation in Burma to the recent earthquake in China; yes the cynics may say that the reason for such a massive response in such a quick time is linked with the forthcoming Olympics, but I suspect not - I suspect this is China doing what it does best; looking after it's own people (of course, the definition of "looking after" is historically subject to interpretation).

Maybe if someone suddenly discovers oil underneath Rangoon, we'd sort this stuff out.

Thursday 8 May 2008

Fancy A Free 25Gb Online Storage? [Spiny]

Though that got your attention :), now here's now.

You've heard of hotmail (not hotmale!) and probably,, Microsoft's cloud computing effort. This is the revamp of the old MSN spaces stuff offering Google like apps such as mail, and calendar.

Well, as well as some other cool stuff, one thing they do is a bit of free on line storage called SkyDrive. So, basically if you have a messenger id or windows live id (which used to be called .NET Passport) then you have a free 5 gig that you can upload files to. You can also create private, shared or public folders as you see fit.

Didn't the title say 25 though? Yes it did. You can obviously create as many windows live ids as you have the patience for, but the crucial thing is that you can link these together, so signing in under one id signs you into all of them. Not only that, on the SkyDrive management page, there's a handy little drop-down where you can instantly switch between your linked IDs.

So, the end result isn't 25 gig of contiguous space, more like five 5Gb on line hard drives.

SkyDrive is still in beta, so expect more features to be added. For example you can't upload folders at the moment, only either individual files, or by dragging & dropping several files onto a special uploader ActiveX control.

Still, s'free eh?

Saturday 3 May 2008

The ultimate HTPC keyboard? [Muz]

So, I'm thinking about setting up an HTPC to feed into the telly; no doubt the vast majority of the clan have sorted this shit already, but I've always been a little slow. Anyway.

The main thing about an HTPC, I think, is having a small, unobtrusive keyboard, and some sort of integrated touchpad/nipple/trackball. No one wants to piss about with laser mice on the sofa arm or something lame like that.

After some Googling, I came across this lot, who appear to do all sorts of crazy keyboard variants. The one that interested me in particular was the Periboard 701; top one on this page.

As you may have guessed from the name, it's wireless - but that's not all, dear readers. It's basically a laptop keyboard, complete with numpad on the main qwerty keyboard that you enable with an 'Fn' button, and a touchpad below the keyboard itself. Another nice touch is that the right hand side of the touchpad emulates a scroll wheel - you slide downwards to scroll down, upwards to scroll up. It's very responsive and easy to get used to.

As with any SFF/laptop style keyboard, there are a couple of keys that are out of place, concessions made in the name of compactness. The '\' key is now next to a shortened spacebar, and home/end/pgup/pgdn are in a vertical line at the right hand side - I hit 'home' by mistake a couple of times while trying to backspace. The touchpad is also fairly close to the space bar - I've found myself left clicking with my thumbs by accident a couple of times, but I appear to have retrained myself around these niggles fairly quickly over the course of typing this blog. (Pictures of the layout to come when I can find my camera).

Hardware wise: it comes with an RF dongle the size of a thumbdrive (no Bluetooth craziness here) and just emulates a standard keyboard/mouse, so no need to install any drivers. The keyboard itself is powered by 4 AAA batteries (supplied). The range on the thing is pretty mental too - typed several lines into IRC from 10 meters away through a couple of walls with no problem whatsoever. Overall, a superb bit of kit.

What's that? Where can you get hold of one of these marvels? It just so happens that Micro Direct sell them for a little over £40 of your English pounds, and what's more, they accept Google Checkout. What are you waiting for?