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25 May, 2010

End of life

Anyone else using Symantec AntiVirus Corporate edition v.8 (from, er, 2002, though the definitions are still updated)?

1 December, 2009

I can see again

Last night, I uninstalled Photoshop 7 from my PC.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  After all, I have Ps CS4 Extended too, so why waste the drive space?

19 October, 2009

.NET Framework Obstructant - again

Microsoft's at it again.  The most recent 'Patch Tuesday' updates, record-breaking in their extent, included an undeclared plugin for Firefox (that's plugin, not extension; they're different), related to the .NET Framework.  The first Fx users are likely to know is when a Mozilla error message pops up to warn of a security vulnerability called 'Windows Presentation Foundation 3.5.30729.1'.

25 August, 2009

Try that one

Apart from the bit about choosing a menu item at random, Randall Munroe has seen through my 'tech support' technique perfectly: I don't necessarily know how to resolve a problem my mother might be having with her PC, especially if it's an issue I haven't experienced before, in a package I've never encountered, but I do know how to approach the problem.  And it's not a complex approach.

12 May, 2009

This way up

This is boringly techie, and largely a note to myself, but I've discovered that Photoshop CS4 (Extended) doesn't play as nicely with the Photomatix HDR utility as Photoshop 7 did.

29 April, 2009


I need to password-protect a website; not difficult, but I need to use my employer's SSO facility, and hence someone else's code snippets.

15 April, 2009

Essential kit

Spent tens of thousands on audiophile-grade sound equipment, including vibration dampers for your fridge, but finding the music still isn't quite right?

25 March, 2009

New world order

When I upgraded to a new work computer recently, for the first time since 2003, I was obliged to upgrade some of the software, too.

12 March, 2009

Recharging innovation

It mightn't be the most spectacular breakthough ever revealed, but better lithium-ion batteries – smaller, lighter, longer-lasting and very rapidly recharged – really could change the world.

9 March, 2009

Competition still required

The idea of making Windows 7 modular, so users can uninstall (or at least disable) ancillary features like Media Player or Internet Explorer, is an excellent one, but only as a starting point.

8 March, 2009

Cyberpunk is here

John Nack reports on two instances of 'augmented reality', in which CGI interact with real-world objects.

26 February, 2009


The (rhetorical) challenge: by phone, to explain how to transfer music from a CD to an mp3 player when:

5 October, 2008

Cut down on trees

I'm glad to see the market has overwhelmingly rejected Dell's 'environmentalist' tokenism: rather fewer than 1% of purchasers opted to pay £1 extra per laptop or £3 per desktop PC in order to plant trees.

9 July, 2008

Note to those who can't access this

Hmm.  Slight flaw in that premise.

10 June, 2008

Early adopters' tax

Khoi Vinh uses the iPhone as an example of precipitous drops in the price of consumer electronics as the novelty wears off.

15 May, 2008

Feeling uneasy... very quickly

I installed my new broadband modem and service before work this morning, and it worked perfectly.  That can't be right; computers just don't do that.

13 May, 2008

Play nicely: IE & SP3 precedence

Just in case anyone still hasn't 'upgraded' to Internet Explorer 7, or, more importantly, those who have but are considering reverting to IE6, be aware that installing WinXP Service Pack 3 with IE7 already installed prevents subsequent removal of IE7.  If SP3 is installed before IE7, the latter remains removable.

2 May, 2008

Linux boot glitch solved

Last night, I almost went over to the brown side: I tried the Ubuntu 8.04 Linux distro.  I chose the Live CD non-installation because it claimed to leave Windows completely untouched, but it didn't mention that it would modify my boot log and BIOS startup procedure (probably obvious, in hindsight): each time I booted the computer, I had to choose which OS to load, even if the Ubuntu disc wasn't in the CD drive.

16 April, 2008

Au revoir, Bonjour

Apple's done it again.

10 April, 2008

I'll have that to take out, please

I use the free Zonealarm firewall on my home PC (not at work); it's more than adequate for my needs and did I mention it's free?

21 March, 2008


If I hadn't discovered this via Bad Science's MiniBlog, I'd have presumed it to be a hoax (or maybe it is and I'm too tired to spot Ben G's humour): software which, it's claimed, can edit individual notes within chords in audio recordings.  That's impossible, isn't it?

6 March, 2008

Don't think so

A colleague has just bought a new laptop, specifically choosing Windows Vista "because it comes with the full MS Office suite".


4 February, 2008

Open to new experiences

If I was the sort to live by maxims, one would be 'challenge assumptions', so without uncritically accepting everything as truth (far from it), I always value the receipt of fresh knowledge.

3 February, 2008

How to use in-ear canal headphones

I upgraded my iPod's headphones a few weeks ago.

13 January, 2008

So old!

Wow.  Five years since the release of SoBig-A and the point at which the objective of major malware outbreaks switched from malicious damage to commercial exploitation; from data destruction to botnet breeding.

24 December, 2007

Watch the pennies

Reporting a remarkable return to the concept of wind-powered cargo ships, The Register adopts a bizarrely pessimistic tone:

10 December, 2007

Keep still, damn you!

I have two e-mail signatures set up in my work account.  One, designated 'Office', is simply my job title and postal address (omitting my phone number) and is used for ~80% of messages.  The other, 'Forwarding' is a covering note I attach when, yes, forwarding e-mails sent to me as 'webmaster' but more appropriately handled by other staff.

5 December, 2007


I use ClearType, the Windows font-smoothing utility, on my home PC, so it's slightly odd that I hadn't thought of applying it to my work machine until now.

13 November, 2007

Fair marketing

Hmm.  Windows CE, Windows ME, Windows NT.  And what does ce-me-nt spell?

30 September, 2007

Selling out now cheaper & quicker

Not that I wish to advertise for them, but Amazon has just cut the expected delivery time of the new 80GB iPod by 4-6 weeks, shaved £6.30 off the price, and added a free FM tuner to the deal.  I particularly want to mention that the revisions don't seem to have been applied to existing orders so if, like me, you'd already ordered, it seems sensible to cancel and resubmit a fresh order.

31 August, 2007

Gracefully declining

I don't unreservedly accept Jack Schofield's computer-related advice published by the Guardian, but his argument seems credible on this issue: one can safely decline the monthly download of Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool whenever it's pushed by Windows Update.

30 August, 2007

Record smashed

Wow.  Not only have my work e-mail accounts received over 1,000 sp*m messages within the last 24 hours (that's after the institutional filters have supposedly stripped out the rubbish), the total is a fifth of the way to the next thousand: 1,206 since ~14:00 yesterday.

25 August, 2007

Alien probe

I hadn't thought to right-click on 'Start' on this PC before accidentally doing so a moment ago.  Unsurprisingly, it provides a context menu, but it's the first time I've seen it.

'Explore All Users'.  That sounds a little... invasive.

22 August, 2007

Blocking Firefox?

Ha!  Neil reports a 'campaign' by certain website owners (well, one owner, anyway) to 'fight back' against those of us who block adverts (using the invaluable 'AdBlock' or 'AdBlock Plus' Firefox extensions) – by blocking access by all Fx users.  If he feels able to reject ~20% of his traffic, fair enough.

15 August, 2007

Cooler than I thought

According to the BBC, fan-based computer cooling is limited by air-flow problems.

As the spinning blades waft air over a chip, the molecules nearest to the chip can get stuck and remain stationary, hindering the cooling effect.

14 August, 2007

I'll see what I can do

Windows tells me that rebooting with a floppy disk in the drive is a malware risk, and that I should remove it before proceeding.

21 June, 2007

For your convenience

Useful tip from Jack Scofield at the Guardian, for those without the latest version of MS Office (or, like me, no word processor, spreadsheets or database packages installed at all):

14 June, 2007

Clipping errors

Ever experienced a cryptic Windows error message, needed to copy the exact phrasing or appropriate hex code (to pass to a help desk or to try a web search), and found that one can't select and copy text in the error message box?

31 May, 2007

Nowhere fast?

The Guardian offers an interesting, if necessarily superficial, summary of the 'state of the art' in next-generation car engines, whether hydrogen-based, more directly powered by electricity, or a modification of existing technology (biofuels).

22 May, 2007

Woo without wires

I didn't catch it myself (I was too busy stressing about css... yes, really) but last night's 'Panorama' TV 'documentary' on the alleged dangers of wifi transmitters in schools seems to be receiving near-unanimous criticism as bad science.  Even the BBC's own website seems to be distancing itself from the programme.

18 May, 2007

In contrast

So far as I'm concerned, contrast is one of the most important aspects of digital image processing, and one with which I've occasionally struggled.

10 May, 2007

To the point

Do people care how environmentally friendly their PC is?



18 April, 2007

In't memory cheap?

My current USB pen drive is faulty; nominally holding 2 Gb, it registers as 'full' after 50 Mb or so, and it routinely corrupts data.  It's less than a year old, so I checked the Amazon website for advice on returning it for replacement.

17 April, 2007

My Word

I'm in the very happy position of being able to avoid using word processors, spreadsheets, databases and slideshow-presentation software for work, so MS Office barely impinges on my consciousness from month to month.

28 February, 2007


I've just had a conversation with an aspiring techie who used the phrase "Control-F" twice in the context of looking for something in a non- computer-related context.  I was plainly supposed to be impressed by his knowledge of elementary Windows keyboard shortcuts.

Aw.  Isn't that sweet?

24 February, 2007

Bry aiacbvvv

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22 February, 2007


I've always been mildly impressed that one can put a CD into a PC's CD-R drive and have the audio player automatically identify the content via a global database.

21 February, 2007

Go whistle an iTune

One of the main reasons I have a Creative Zen mp3 player rather than an iPod <spit> is iTunes, the management software associated with the latter.

That's one barrier less: Lifehacker explains how to run an iPod without having to use iTunes, perhaps even without having to install it at all.

20 February, 2007

See the light

According to the BBC, the Australian government intends to ban 'traditional' incandescent lightbulbs in favour of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs.

1 February, 2007

My computer. Mine.

Alternatively, like me, just turn automatic Windows Updates OFF completely and remember/make a note to check the Windows Updates website* at a time of one's own choosing on or about the second Wednesday of each month, to catch the Second Tuesday releases.

12 January, 2007

A nerd/geek meme

Discovered via Neil, this could be brief....

10 January, 2007


So a relatively minor manufacturer of non-essential consumer electronics has announced another product of no relevance to approximately 95% of the global population.

And this is newsworthy?

27 December, 2006

Small can't be beautiful

My mother and her partner, D, have been cursing his brother for days, for 'fobbing-off' D with a 'free-sample' mp3 player as a proper christmas present.  It's so small that it just has to have been a free gift with petrol or something.

26 November, 2006

Quick Launching programs

If it's mentioned in Lifehacker, perhaps it isn't quite so well-known as I'd thought, so....

3 November, 2006

In awe

Remember the photocopier I commented on a few weeks ago?  We've just had a brief induction session about it (if users need training, that suggests the usability needs work – I'd argue that the operating technique should be intuitive).

28 October, 2006

Don't connect

Neatly saving me the need to visit Wales this weekend, my mother has purchased a new PC.  I'll have the pleasure of configuring it in a couple of weeks....

3 October, 2006

One small step

I don't have much to say about it, but there's an interesting article in the Guardian about the possible harvesting of tiny energy sources, such as footsteps or vibration induced by passing trains.

14 September, 2006

My Explorer; mine

Another Thursday, another Windows tip discovered via the Guardian's 'Ask Jack' column.

7 September, 2006

Configure AutoPlay

Maybe it's only me, but I find it irritating that my PC autoplays music CDs, as I want, but also attempts to autoplay every other type of CD-R or CD-ROM I insert into the drive.

1 August, 2006

Working the M$ way

By default, WinXP lists the contents of the 'My Pictures' directory as thumbnails in Windows Explorer and 'File->Open' dialog boxes.  Some may like that, and it can be enabled for other directories containing image files, but I prefer the file details (name, size, type, date & attributes) to be displayed, so disable thumbnails and choose 'Details' view.

2 July, 2006

What's in your mailbox?

Everyone uses Thunderbird as a mail client, right?  Thought so.¹

28 June, 2006

It's here. Sort-of.

Good news: my new PC arrived yesterday.  I've only got as far as deleting the preinstalled sample software and starting to install the software I will want, so it's a bit early to comment on performance, but it's looking good up to now.  I have been able to configure the interface to resemble WinXP Pro (which, the way I have it, looks like a stripped-down Win98).

26 June, 2006

Stripped quick

Apologies if everyone already knew this, but does everyone know it's possible to download a standalone edition of the Quicktime player, omitting iTunes?

It's mentioned in the (very) small print of the standard Quicktime download page, or available via a Google search for 'quicktime standalone'.

21 June, 2006

Which OS?

My new PC will arrive with WinXP Media Center Edition preinstalled.  However, I'm unlikely to use it as a 'media centre', and can obtain a (legitimate!) copy of XP Pro from my employer for free.

Anyone have any recommendations about whether I should?

21 June, 2006

Impulse buy

When I bought my first PC in 1993 or '94, it was a big deal: too expensive to pay-off all at once and since I was a student, my credit rating was insufficient for the finance agreement.  In effect, my mother bought me a PC, and I paid her each month.
Buying my second PC, in 2001, was a shocking anticlimax.  It was almost too easy to buy by debit card, and my immediate reaction was 'is that it?'.  Weird feeling.

21 June, 2006

Displacement activity

The Guardian provides a brief update on the current state of electric cars available in Britain, essentially concluding that the technology for 'zero-emissions' motoring is progressing rapidly, but there's an image problem (blame 'Top Gear') and in finding locations where one can plug cars into the domestic electricity supply for recharging.

13 June, 2006

Can't live without it

When I bought my mobile phone in October 2004, it came with an initial allowance of call credit.  I obviously took to the 'always on' phone culture, as I've just topped-up my credit (by the minimum amount) for the very first time.

7 June, 2006

Complacency spawns zombies

There's a spare PC in my office, very occasionally used by visiting staff.  Before today, the last time it was switched on was in November, so it hasn't been kept up to date with security patches.  The result is that it wouldn't allow someone to log in this morning, as it's a potential network vulnerability.

5 June, 2006

Pop the balloons

Dislike the yellow 'speech balloon' notifications displayed by WinXP when printing, disconnecting USB devices, or breathing in a non-MS-approved way?  Of course you do.

11 May, 2006

Live for today

Last night, my sister told me that though she was considering buying a mp3 player, she probably won't, as such devices mightn't catch-on, and/or might be superceded by some other technology.  Seriously.

26 April, 2006

Cleaner baseline

In the near future, I plan to buy a new computer.  I'll want it to arrive with a bare-bones software preinstallation of WinXP, device drivers and absolutely nothing else.  This means I'm unlikely to consider buying from Dell*, as their systems come with numerous software trials and other junk to be deleted for optimum performance.  I could uninstall them myself (or, more likely, just FDISK the whole thing), but shouldn't have to, and I don't wish to endorse the 'sp*m bundling' practice.

28 March, 2006

£1 million per go

I realise that it was a 'suicide mission' experiment and that the 'nominal trajectory' of Saturday's scramjet test in Australia was vertically downward, but it still feels odd to read the final sentence of the following as successful:

25 March, 2006

It's in the box

Grr!  Isn't annoying to buy an item of audio/visual equipment and be told one has to buy a cable to go with it, then get home, open the box and find that the required cable was already provided?
It was only a nominal amount of money (~£3), but it's still cheeky, and another reason to avoid high-street retailers which try to boost their profits by what amounts to deception.

20 March, 2006

Keyboard error error

My PC has been overheating rather too frequently recently – whenever a task required more than a minute of sustained activity or whenever the room temperature exceeded 17°C.  Hence, I thoroughly cleaned inside the case last night, removing a disturbing amount of slightly greasy fluff from all the fans and the heat sink.  Not pleasant, but I'm sure it'll make a difference.

9 March, 2006

Computer says turn here

Barrow Gurney is a quiet village in Somerset, five miles outside Bristol.  It has one main street in a valley with a traditional pub, post office and a few houses, and one tiny lane leading to a church and a mediaeval convent converted to a manor house in the 16th Century. It sounds quaint.
However, this 'rural idyll' has suddenly been ruined by up to 10,000 vehicles passing through each day.

8 February, 2006

Do it later

Maybe everyone else is familiar with the Windows XP Scheduled Tasks utility, but those, like me, who hadn't heard of it might find this useful.  Lifehacker explains how to make defragging a routine, scheduled task.

7 February, 2006

Dynamic fluids

Photorealism in CGI is something which I find particularly interesting (and attractive).  I think certain lighting effects are improving but still need development, as does the truly convincing depiction of humans, but in terms of fluid dynamics (waves, flow, splashes and bubbles in liquids, plus fire and smoke/airborne dust), I think we're already there.

[Via BoingBoing.]

19 January, 2006

Smart power

This is a good idea: a 'mains panel' (multi-socket bar used to connect multiple plugs to a single wall socket – what are those things called?) with an extra feature.  Plug a computer power supply into the indicated socket of the 'One-Click' bar, and printers, scanners, etc. into the other sockets.  When one switches off the PC, the bar cuts power to the peripherals.

17 January, 2006

Apple's fault

Heh.  Today's 'User Friendly' identifies the 'true' reason people seem to be buying less music.

12 January, 2006


If my Creative Zen's 'shuffle' mode is so (pseudo-)random, why have I heard next to nothing but Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and pre-1975 Genesis this morning?  Weird.

Ah; by writing this, I've broken the spell: Ian Anderson's singing about menarche (Jethro Tull: 'The Curse').

12 January, 2006

Naming process

I love the name of these sound-isolating earphones: Griffin EarThumps.  Very Narnian.

I can't help wondering about how, and why, that name was selected.

9 January, 2006

Comprehensive troubleshooting

J. is currently printing out a few documents over the network, using the colour printer attached to my PC.  I've never used it, so though it's several months old, this is the first time colour ink has been drawn from the cartridges.  The initial result was a little scratchy, so I've opened the 'maintenance' software to run a colour test.

7 January, 2006

Device Failed To Connect

It seems guitarist and composer Robert Fripp has recorded the 'sounds' (Start Windows, Exit Windows, Default Beep, Critical Stop, etc.) for Windows Vista.

5 January, 2006

Shut up

My mobile phone has no ringtone.  Or rather, I've switched it off, preferring it to indicate an incoming call by silent vibration. An obvious consequence is that if I don't have it on my person, I don't know it's 'ringing'.

25 December, 2005

TLA transfer

If anyone's been tempted to rationalise a library of home-recorded (i.e. from TV) VHS video tapes to DVD, Wendy M. Grossman at the Guardian offers a guide to getting started.  It's drastically cheaper than I thought, so I might give it a try.  I plan to buy a new PC in the next few months, so I'll bear the hardware requirements in mind.

15 December, 2005

Does it matter how I feel?

'Emotion recognition' software has 'proved' that the Mona Lisa is definitely smiling, concluding that the subject of the famous portrait was 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% angry.

The part of the article which caught my attention was that:

... software capable of recognising emotions just by looking at photographs could lead to PCs that adjust their response depending on the user's mood.
Why?  What purpose would that serve?  Would it just be a gimmick, or is there some genuine advantage I'm failing to spot?

14 December, 2005

Ooh - open source! So what?

It's taken me almost a week to notice it, but the Guardian ran an article last Thursday which questions some of the tenets of faith of the open source movement, particularly the concept of a large user base leading to fewer bugs, or even merely more bug reporting, than in 'traditional' packages.

2 December, 2005

Too big?

Arcologies, vast buildings each housing populations the size of large towns and even whole ecosystems, have been a familiar element of cyberpunk sci-fi novels for decades.  With the news that the world's tallest building (at the time of writing), Taipei 101 in Taiwan, is so heavy that it may have reactivated a dormant fault and triggered earthquakes, might such mega-skyscrapers remain solely fictional?

23 November, 2005

Here we go again

For years, web designers have been struggling with IE-only varients of html devised by Microsoft not so much failing to comply with but completely ignoring industry standards.  They characterised it as 'extending capabilities' (<marquee> tag, anyone?), but it was just ****ing annoying, and anything worthwhile can be done by remaining within standards.

Now it seems MS are ****ing about with proprietory 'extensions' of RSS, to be used by IE7 and WinVista.

20 October, 2005

Space fleet

It'd be a bit cheeky to say I'd already thought of this, but, well, the basic concept had occurred to me.  Admittedly, it's a fairly simple idea; the difficult part is implementing it.

14 October, 2005

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling...

I've just spent well over an hour installing a new mouse on my office PC.

Just a mouse; couldn't be simpler, right?  Only if I could live without a scroll wheel, as that wasn't working.

30 August, 2005

Reuse, not recycle

I started using computers just as 5¼" floppy disks were giving way to 3½" diskettes, so I only have a couple of the former type lying around.
If you have more, and are strangely reluctant to just throw them away, here's a good idea: slice off one end, remove the magnetic disk, and use the envelope as a LP-style sleeve for a CD.

[Via Boing Boing.]

18 August, 2005

What’s on your Start Menu?

A quick Windows-only meme, via Neil (again):

In WinXP, Windows lists your most frequently/recently used programs on the left-hand side (assuming you’re using the new-style start menu).

12 August, 2005

Smart card

I'm about as impressed by this as were Lifehacker and the NY Times*.  The very best inventions are the simple ideas, which simplify one's life.

The memory card manufacturer Sandisk has produced a new model which plugs directly into a computer's USB port.  No USB between the camera and computer, no memory card reader  The card itself is 'about the size of a postage stamp', but a hinged section folds down to present just the essential contacts, omitting the bulky housing of a standard USB plug.

Wonderful idea.

12 August, 2005

Relying on thin ice

One of the advantages of ISS (tech support) at the University is that everyone has a pet project, an area of expertise perhaps only tangentially related to his/her job description.  I'd like to say it's deliberate and encouraged by managers, but it's more just a default reaction to everyday requirements.

Unfortunately, these extracurricular specialisms soon become core to peoples' de facto roles within the system, and when one person is off work, everything falls apart – there's no formal support for, say, troubleshooting Java, only one man's personal interest, and if he's unavailable, enquirers are out of luck.

8 August, 2005

End of the film

I wouldn't shop there anyway, but it's kind of momentous that Dixons, the major high street electronics retailer (which began as a chain of camera shops) is to stop selling 35mm (analogue) cameras.

28 July, 2005

Progress, eh?

In 'the old days', one could apparently buy a newspaper by throwing the money on the counter and taking a paper, without even breaking stride.  Nowadays, it'd have to be scanned, the money would have to go through the cash register, and the cashier would probably want to put it in a bag.

27 July, 2005

Couldn't happen to a better company

So Time, aka Tiny, aka The Computer Shop, aka the Granville Technology Group has gone bust, citing "continued price deflation in the personal computer market", according to the BBC.


26 July, 2005

Weedy logic

The BBC reports that a herbicide-resistant weed may have developed naturally alongside, and possibly as a consequence of a GM crop trial.

23 July, 2005


So the 'next-generation' of everyone's favourite OS is apparently to be called 'Windows Vista'.  Can I say now, over a year before the anticipated shipping date sails past without a hint of being fulfilled (that's the usual hype-building release technique, isn't it?), that that's a awful name? 

Thanks.  It sound like something a car manufacturer would reject for its latest not-remotely-funky pastel hatchback.

27 June, 2005

Odd sell

In the middle of 'From Hell' (which, incidentally, failed to impress) last night, Channel 4 showed an advert in which a woman was pleased to have split from her boyfriend, as it gave her material to compose a song, record it, and burn it to CD-R, with fame and fortune to follow.

The advert was for Windows XP, and irritated me.

13 June, 2005

A new dawn for graphic design

Why not download a beta copy of Microsoft's new Photoshop/Illustrator substitute, codenamed 'Acrylic'?  Go on; it's from Microsoft, so it's bound to be quality software.  What could go wrong?

Sorry; I'll have to stop there, as my howls of laughter are disturbing the neighbours.

26 May, 2005

Q,W,E,R,... er...

Specially for show-off touch-typists happy to spend $80 on a new keyboard: Das Keyboard.
Amongst the precision features is the fact that the keys are entirely blank.  Yep, all 104 of them.  It's a fully-functioning keyboard, but unlabelled.

14 April, 2005

Hot pebbles

There's a fascinating article in Wired (Sept. '04) about the potential for a revolutionary revival in nuclear power generation.

9 March, 2005

Astronomical images

Images derived from astronomical telescopes are made available in the International Astronomical Union's FITS format, which is fine for professionals using dedicated software, but less accessible to amateurs and those wanting to use images for entirely different purposes, such as graphic designers.
Hence, it's great that the ESA, ESO and NASA have released a Photoshop plugin, the FITS Liberator (who the **** named that?), which can convert their images into a more usable format.

Expect to see more astronomical images (no double meaning intended) in artwork and advertising.

[Via User Friendly]

11 February, 2005

Security tagged frame

Smartwater is an aqueous solution containing uniquely-identifiable microdot particles.  Painted onto valuables, it provides a UV-detectable tracer linking recovered stolen goods to their owner.
However, Bruce Schneier has spotted a slight flaw:

The idea is for me to paint this stuff on my valuables as proof of ownership. I think a better idea would be for me to paint it on your valuables, and then call the police.
[Via Boing Boing]

9 February, 2005

Lip-service split

The Register reports that:

Prime Minister Tony Blair happily confessed his technophobia to MPs. The exposure of Tone the technoklutz is scarcely news, but for most categories of MPs' questions it is ordinarily good form for the Prime Minister to at least feign a knowledgeable and informed stance. But IT's okay - it's an exception because nobody can programme a video machine anyway, hah hah, right?
No comment required on this hopelessly misplaced attitude - I hope.

7 February, 2005


The New York Times has an article about the consequences of excessive complexity in cars.
Many modern cars are very similar, and stable, mechanically, as that aspect of design and engineering is fairly mature.  The major differences, particularly between luxury cars, is in the software monitoring the mechanical systems and providing extra 'convenience' to the driver and passengers.  As these electronics and software are often 'cutting edge' and may be inadequately understood by drivers and indeed mechanics, an increasing number of problems are either software-related or caused by faulty sensors on otherwise functioning mechanical systems.

16 January, 2005

Situation normal

Sal makes an interesting observation about the positioning of the logo on the forthcoming bargain Mac: it looks 'cool' (his opinion, not mine) in publicity photos, but in actual use it'll be hidden by a monitor or the wrong way up if the unit is stored on its side (as the target market are likely to do).  As Sal said:

The audience for this logo positioning is not the users, but other designers.
Which neatly encapsulates a primary reason why I don't want a Mac.  'Cool' is trivial.  Paying a premium for 'cool' is ludicrous.

14 January, 2005


Jack Schofield at Guardian Online warns of a bizarre feature (that's 'feature', not 'bug') in WinXP.

I loathe the default fluffy 'Tiles' display in Windows Explorer, so have it set to remember my preference for 'Details' view.  Yet by default, WinExplorer will remember these view settings for 400 views, then revert (or randomise, it seems...).

Tweak XP provides a registry hack to make it 2,000 views, but why does it reset at all?

[Update 20/01/05:  Feedback on that Guardian article mentions that SP2 raises the default to 5,000, but a) many organisations, including my employer, bans the installation of that 'upgrade', and b) my question stands: why does it reset at all, ever?]

12 January, 2005

Still unimpressed

The BBC says:

Shares in Apple fell 6.4% on Tuesday after long-standing market rumours were confirmed when it unveiled a low-cost computer at the annual MacWorld event.
I don't really see the logic behind that.  I certainly won't be buying one, but I don't see why investors regard the new products so negatively.

1 December, 2004

Rating criteria

I'm still finding BlogExplosion worthwhile, but one feature I haven't used much is the blog rating facility.
I don't think it's fair to judge an entire website from a mere 2-3 minutes experience of someone's most recent writing.  Anyone could be going through an anomalously bad patch, or an atypically good one.  If I encounter the same blog a few times, I might be tempted to vote.

30 November, 2004

You HAVE to be joking

These mousepads are ergonomic, and a valuable insight into contemporary Japanese culture - honest.

Not want.

[Via Boing Boing - don't say it]

23 November, 2004

Tech-support generation

Though referring to the US-only Thanksgiving holiday, Newsweek is quite right in its observation that a central aspect of the modern family holiday is the repair and reconfiguration of parents' computers by their adult children* during our annual visit to the family home.  We, the 20-30somethings, are the tech-support generation.

I know I'll be installing key software on my mother's PC in December, and reminding my sister to bring her laptop when she visits, so I can do hers, too.

23 November, 2004


Tokyo is built over a network of rivers and waterways, which causes problems during heavy rain, especially in typhoon season.  Hence, the subterranean G-Cans Project features a network of truly massive conduits designed to collect and dissipate flood waters.  The largest underground waterway in the world has five 32m diameter, 65m deep concrete containment silos linked by 64 km of tunnels, 50m beneath the surface.  Huge 14,000 horsepower turbines can pump water into the outlying Edogawa River at a rate of 200 tonnes/sec.

21 October, 2004

Function over form

Jef Raskin, a creator of the Apple Mac and inventor of the click-and-drag interface, is interviewed in today's Guardian.  He makes a point with which I fully agree (with one exception, noted in the quote) and have mentioned before:

20 October, 2004

More TV - or rather, less

A new tool has been invented.  The 'TV-B-Gone' universal remote serves one simple purpose: it turns off almost any television.

When activated, it spends over a minute flashing out 209 different codes to turn off televisions, the most popular brands first.
This will be of tremendous use in waiting rooms, bars, even elevators and urinals, according to the Wired article - public locations where advertisers and purveyors of audio-visual 'wallpaper' attempt to impinge on one's consciousness.


10 October, 2004

What's in the box?

anonymous mobile phone packagingI've deliberately obscured the company logo at the lower right of the box top, but apart from one word in that tiny blue rectangle, there's nothing whatsoever on the top or sides of the box to give any clue about the nature of the contents.  The product doesn't appear in the illustration, which bears no relevance to the contents.

Turn the box upside down, and it's revealed: a Nokia 1100 mobile phone.  So why hide it?  This seems to be rather poor, or at least odd, marketing.

It's interesting that when I pointed this out to my work colleague (and friend!) Laura, she identified the type of product immediately - the packaging seems typical of phone manufacturers.  Perhaps this isn't such odd marketing for a potential customers already familar with the conventions of the market sector

Yes, I've finally bought my first mobile phone.  More on that in a later entry.

24 September, 2004

Kicking the underdog

I meandered into the Guardian's Gamesblog a few minutes ago, out of mild curiosity.  I like SimCity (1-4), Tomb Raider (2, 3, 4, not especially 5, haven't tried 6 yet) and will probably try The Sims 2 once retailers start to offer it at a discount in a few months.  In short, I'm a very occasional gamer, so the fact that there's a 'Playstation vs. the rest' rivalry was news to me.  Resident Evil (1-3) was probably my favourite game ever, but I haven't touched a PSX since ~1998.

17 September, 2004

Fetishising rodents

Microsoft have released a black leather IntelliMouse.  Want!

Damn.  That's just the name of the colour, unless the dark red version really is made of crimson fire.  Ow.

22 July, 2004

Butt out

I've just bought a laptop/portable computer on behalf of my sister.  I thought spending £1,000 of someone else's money would be more enjoyable....

22 July, 2004

Don't buy from Time!

Another computer-related topic, discovered via Neil.

It has emerged that Time (aka Tiny, aka The Computer Store) despatch new PCs with no boot discs and locked modems which will only connect to a single ISP, Supanet - part of the same company.  If a customer wants a boot disc, that's obtainable via the £1/min support line for an extra £50 (and which merely wipes the hard drive and resets the factory default settings).  If customers want to use a different ISP, that's an extra £60 to 'de-optimise' the modem - or follow this advice to do it for free.

Better still: never, ever buy from Time.

22 July, 2004

Tuneful techs

A survey reported at The Register (found via Neil) correlates IT professionals with their musical tastes.  I'm not quite sure whether the stereotypes overlap for those of us who don't fit into the quoted categories.  For instance, my role might be described as web design/admin/support, whereas my musical taste is for contemporary (not 'classic'!) prog, (some) death metal, and dark ambient.

12 May, 2004

iPod mini colours 'show personality'

I don't have one.  Ha!

6 May, 2004

Nearly there

Computer graphics have been steadily improving and approaching photorealism, but whilst the rendering of shapes and textures is already astonishingly good, my main criticism is that the lighting is rarely quite right, ruining the whole illusion.

Research by Dr Henrik Jensen, Assistant Professor at UCSD's Computer Graphics Laboratory is beginning to change that.  His innovation is to calculate the absorption and dispersal of light within materials like marble or skin.

26 March, 2004

Kind of perky for a corpse

I've just read a mock obituary for the CRT monitor, and wondered how long it will take for this apparent obsolescence to filter down to me, both at home and at work.

Then I noticed that the article is already almost three years old.

24 February, 2004

Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?

I had major problems getting online this weekend.

19 February, 2004

Mac users are wired; sorry, weird

I've explained earlier that I wouldn't wish to use a Mac, for aesthetic reasons rather than any criticism of their performance, and because I dislike the culture of 'my Mac is my friend'.  The response to this hoax (original story here) illustrates exactly the sort of thing I could never buy into.

A Mac is a computer; an inanimate tool, for ****'s sake.  Overwhelming emotional attachment to an object just seems unhealthy.

28 January, 2004

Bizarre spell checking

For no apparent reason, my spell checker wanted to change the phrase '... sky cleared...' in that last post to '... skyclad...'.  It's not even as if 'sky' and 'cleared' were misspelled.

Bloody hippy coders....

19 January, 2004

Not again...

Something odd happened when I switched on my PC at work this morning.  It booted okay, I logged in, it displayed the usual 'loading personal settings' message, then went blank, displaying the mouse pointer against a plain black background (that could have been my wallpaper, but I doubt it).  I could move the mouse, but there was nothing on which to click.  Ctrl/Alt/Del didn't work, I discovered that this new PC doesn't have a 'reset' button, the 'Off' button didn't respond, and there's no power switch on the base unit, so I had to reboot by unplugging at the wall - not ideal.
It wasn't a one-off bad boot, as the same happened again twice more.  I rang Staff Help Desk, who'd received a report of exactly the same symptoms on a PC in the English department, two floors away but in a contiguous building.  Nothing odd was showing in the network logs, so a tech would have to investigate.
Terrific.  A week after receiving my new PC, and that after three month without a work computer of my own, the new one was out of action.

15 January, 2004

What does your 'friend' wear?

Some people decorate their computers; at work, Helena has a bat soft toy on her base unit and an Emily the Strange wallpaper.  My mother's base unit has a plastic cartoon mouse (you know: the symbol of cultural imperialism designed by a dead alleged anti-Semite) attached by blu-tack, and the monitor wallpaper is a photo of (ahem) me, almost hidden by as many desktop icons as she can find.  The monitor of Alizon's home PC has a purple fur trim.  I don't actually know what H. uses as wallpaper, but her PC is a laptop, so the opportunity for physical decoration is limited.

15 January, 2004

What about The Opposition?

My disregard for the Mac 'let's be friends' ethos doesn't mean I'm pro-Windows - far from it.  With each revision, Windows becomes more obtrusive and downright interfering.

15 January, 2004

The Computer is NOT my friend

Because a computer is central to my job, people seem to assume I actually like computers.  That's not the case; I have as much affection for a computer as I do for a screwdriver.  It's a tool, simple as that.  Do carpenters *like* saws?  My interest is in what I can achieve with a computer, rather than having the slightest interest in its inner workings. I have a little more interest in software, as that more directly influences what I can achieve; it is oddly pleasurable to learn something new about Photoshop, but again that's because it opens new opportunities for creativity.

15 December, 2003

Virus found

McAfee's routine periodic check found the 'JS/NoClose' virus/Trojan in my TemporaryInternetFiles.  No big deal; cleaned immediately, but noteworthy as my first infection in a very long time, thankfully.

12 December, 2003

Nurture your CD-Rs

It seems 'mainstream' CD-R users are finally catching on to info long known by those of us who trade concert recordings on CD-Rs: that CD-Rs aren't remotely 'permanent' and need careful treatment. The claims of manufacturers (10 years lifespan, even 100 years) aren't realistic; artificial aging tests don't seem to simulate typical use & storage conditions adequately. Three points highlighted by recent online press articles are fundamental to audio trading:

4 December, 2003

Everyday genius

Mildly interesting promotional site at Honda UK, where visitors are asked to vote on the most influential (I think - it's not specified) of ten shortlisted everyday items: can opener; ballpoint pen; stapler; tap; zip; corkscrew; bra; teabag; light bulb; toilet.
Which do you regard as the most important/most influential on everyday life?

28 November, 2003

DreamWeaver unraveled

I've decided: I don't like DreamWeaver.  It doesn't have anything like the type and level of functionality that I appreciate in HomeSite.  DW is particularly bad (slow) at accessing files across the campus network, and it's not good enough for editing html directly in code view.  Maybe it's better in WYSIWYG format, but I don't care; I don't work that way.  Hence I'll be dumping DW asap and returning to HomeSite.

24 November, 2003

It's here! Sort of...

When he visited last week, technician Rob suggested I should book my new PC in with ISS (tech support) for it's initial configuration, even though it was still on order, so that by the time it arrived I'd be some way along the queue.  Well,  I'll still be close to the foot of the waiting list after only six days, but it's arrived!
There's no real point in opening the packaging yet - a beige box is a beige box, to me, so it's not exactly like a second birthday.  At least in sealed packaging it'll be reasonably safe, which is important because I'll have to store it under my desk until needed, and I've no doubt it will receive a few accidental kicks.

19 November, 2003

Nearly there... but not quite

When I came in this morning, my (temporary) PC was off.  I'd no idea whether it was a power-saving automatic shutdown, or a 'helpful' porter, but it means last night's hard drive transfer failed.
Having just looked, it seems the PC was set to power down after an hour of inactivity - I'm surprised the transfer process didn't count as 'activity', but I've changed the setting anyway, to 'never off'.
I've spoken to Vince again, and he's going to sent the files again this evening.

18 November, 2003

Nearly back in business

Just spoken to Vince, and he's going to send all my data and config directories (i.e. all but  OS & program directories) from the copy of my old hard drive to this one, overnight.

Tomorrow will be my first 'normal' working day in almost three weeks.  Three weeks without a computer, for the person most directly responsible for maintaining the University's web presence.  Considered that way, it's appalling.

18 November, 2003

A working PC, on my own desk!

Luckily, my day wasn't as pointless as I'd expected.  At about 10:30, a technician called in to configure 'my' (L's old) PC, so by early afternoon I was making progress, installing Photoshop, DreamWeaver, etc. (and happily crippling M$ Office).  I should be more-or-less fully operational again tomorrow.  I'll need another technician to transfer at least some of the contents of my old hard drive to this temporary one, but I should be able to deal with the backlog of routine web editing, if not the ongoing projects.

6 November, 2003


Not much to say about this article discussing hyper-realistic digital human models, other than to offer the link and mention it's a subject that's interested me for several years.

6 November, 2003

On to Plan 'C', it seems

When L. received a new office PC, she kept the old one, to work from home (probably true!).  Since I don't have an office PC at all at present, she brought her old one back to campus for a while.  Unfortunately, the network configuration wasn't quite as she'd thought, and I can't log in as myself.  This prevents access to files in my network space and top-level server admin directories that aren't even visible to other users, and understandably L. doesn't want me logging in as her, with access to her e-mail, etc.

5 November, 2003


Nope, it's dead. I've just spoken to Vince about my PC, and it's beyond hope.  The hard drive works okay, just so long as it remains in a bucket of dry ice.  At room temperature, nothing.  This is compounded by a major fault on the motherboard, which renders the whole thing too expensive to justify repairing.
Vince is going to copy the entire contents of my hard drive to some network space, where it can remain until I obtain a new PC, so I haven't lost anything, which is some compensation.

3 November, 2003

Sick PC

I thought the problems with my office PC had been resolved, but according to technician Vince, it's still throwing up (error messages) and he's still working on it.  He says he'll let me know when it's repaired (neatly pre-empting my e-mails for progress reports...), but at least that implies it is repairable.

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