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Tuesday 18th of December 2007

Developer Lessons From Non-Developers

One thing of which the observant developer should be aware, is how the real world is designed. This will help them realize what problems can exist with code.

Upon alighting at the new Kings Cross International I discovered another example of very bad, real-world, design. Specifically, there is only one escalator for the 300+ people alighting from the train in the morning; plus there's stairs too close to the ticket machine (so when it's slightly busy the queue blocks the staircase), and the station is design for looks for than function, since more people now travel through Kings Cross because they can it's already showing signs of exceeding capacity.

If this were software, it would have crashed by now! :(

Thursday 13th of December 2007

Video of Minerva now available

A couple of weeks ago, the TV crew from zdnet arrived at my door to shoot a short video about Minerva. This has now been edited (by them) and stored (on their server).

Minerva Video

Monday 10th of December 2007

£100 Dell Server

Just in case you're thinking of jumping up and down over the £100 over that's been spammed everywhere at the moment, just remember that the actual cost is £173.90. Not £100. Everyone, including Dell have hidden extras. In this case it's VAT, postage, and VAT on postage.

Not that it's a bad price, just don't get carried away...

Monday 12th of November 2007

PVR review - Matsui M802PVR

This handles everything you'd need for a standard dual-tuner DVR: decent quality EPG, good visuals, good audio, sensible interface, and sensible handling.

What it lacks is the ability to easily record the same program at the same time every week.

There's also a couple of annoying bugs. The first is that you can't correctly record programmes from the EPG display using your "favourites" list, since it doesn't realise there isn't a 1:1 relationship between favourites and all. This annoyingly means you have to always scroll through every channel, even if you can't receive half of them.

The second is that is automatically deletes programmes without warning. I believe the time limit is 30 days, but am unsure. I'm going to try and extract the programmes by opening the case, and removing the hard drive, so will let you know how it goes.

Otherwise, a decent, and well-priced box.

Sunday 11th of November 2007

Biography Created

I finally got around to updating my biography with the talks and presentations I give. Steven Goodwin's Biography is now on-line!

Friday 26th of October 2007

Busaba Eathai Bird Street

This is basically Wagamama's for Thai food. And I mean that in a bad way. For starters, there are communal benches full of noisy diners, each raising their voices in crescendo in an attempt to be heard. Then, there's the beer which consists of 4 varieties of bland Asian lager - even Waga's stocks Asahi Black. But at least the food is decent, with only the calamari being stand out, but the beef I had was tender, the prawn starter was good, and generally decently edible. There's better Thai in London (Churchill's being the obvious example) but probably not in W1 for the money.

The biggest problem is with their focus being on the fast food, cram-them-in, mentality that pervades the place. For starters, the young upstart waiter will cram you into whatever space he thinks you deserve (probably based on your dress sense, height, religion, colour, or bra size, but who knows how their two brain cells co-operate) and leave you to rot. (Note to staff: don't sit people of my size next to the fat bloke - there won't be room for both of us on your little benches.)

Then, ask to be moved, and one "seating Nazi" will grunt and point you to another table. At which point, another seating Nazi will tell you that you're in the wrong and have to move - followed by a dressing down about not keeping him informed. (Note to staff: communicate amongst yourself before harassing the customers.)

Immediately after being re-seated (for the second time) a waiter arrived for a drinks order. "Give me two minutes, please." Ten minutes later, no one had returned, due to the aforementioned staff member being on a "chat break". Eventually we got a waitress to take our order. A different one brought the drinks. A different one brought the food. And a different one brought the bill. Not an issue in itself, but it makes them all look clueless as there's no shared memory or concern about your dining experience. See above.

So, what should have been a nice quiet post-work meal was a Fawlty Towers-esque display of customer mismanagement.

Food: good. Service: pitiful. Verdict: never again.

p.s. splitting the bill means splitting it into equal portions. There's no need to ask "how much on this?" for each card.

Tuesday 16th of October 2007

Beer Podcast - The Beer Create - is 6 episodes old

How do I manage it?

I wonder myself, sometimes...

Beer podcast

Monday 15th of October 2007

Tao of Steev - part 2

Humans become self-aware gradually. This must be "by design", as otherwise the shock of becoming  sentient would kill you.

The same is probably true at the other end of the scale. If you gradually lose your marbles, or die in your sleep, there's no time to realize the enormity of the loss of sentience. The same is true of those suffering tragic accidents. I guess this is also "by design"

So a tip for a long life - keep active, keep thinking, and keep living it.

Friday 28th of September 2007

Best 49 bytes evar...

echo "(SayText \"" $* "\")" | festival --pipe

This script, when used with Festival, and passed any number of arguments will speak those arguments back to you!

It's just one of the myriad of scripts I'm currently compiling as part of an upcoming HA presentation.

./say cyberdyne systems logging on

Tuesday 25th of September 2007

"I'm in love with the old world"

It's just one line from a Jonathan Richman song. I'm sure no one else will know or care about either song or artist, but he's been so influential you'd be embarrassed if I told you.

It's just one line spoken in a live version of Fully Completely by the Tragically Hip. I'm sure no one else will know or care about either song or artist, but they are wonderfully fantastic.

For the first time I made the connection between them. Knowing this is how scientists must feel when they piece together two parts of disparate theories, or equations. I feel a step closer to understanding music.

I'm now off to gush in peace...

Tuesday 18th of September 2007

Episode 2 of The Beer Crate is available!

The Beer Podcast for ale lovers the world over

I shall be blogging the tools and processes used in the future...

Friday 14th of September 2007

How can Diggers be so stupid?

There was an interesting piece of news yesterday - Valve
were recruiting a software enginner here. So it gets 1282 Digg's - all saying "Wow - L1nux Roolz", "Google OS here we come", "Valve have finally listened", "No more rebooting", and so on.

All this from one line saying "Port Windows-based games to the Linux platform." But which part of the games? The 3D client part, or the server part? It doesn't say in the ad, but the Diggers are convinced it's the 3D game. And they're already wetting themselves over the prospect of playing it.

Alas, not one line in the job spec asks for OpenGL, DirectX, audio, or any of the other topics involved in this area of games development. What it asks for instead is experience in "developing communications software" and informs us that the candidate will "Manage the operation of large clusters of machines". Does this still sound like a 3D game dev job?

No, me neither.

So, why is every post mentioning this simple fact Dugg down, while the rabid fan-boys using l33t sp33k have +37 diggs for saying this ensures the adoption of Linux.

No wonder we're in trouble.

Wednesday 12th of September 2007

Fun with Phone numbers

A friend of mine recently got a new phone number with a lot of '5's in it. It was one of these 'prestige' numbers which, like vanity car number plates, people pay money for.

This set me thinking about which un-prestige numbers would actually be prestige if you knew that 666 could be typed into your phone keyboard as 'Mom'

So I wrote a script that converts numbers into a regex for mobile keypads. You can find words with the simple command:

grep -i `echo 666 | ./pnum.pl` /usr/share/dict/words

Replacing '666' with the number. Remember that neither 1 or 0 have letters attached.

From here I wrote code to do the reverse. That is, one that converts words into phone numbers so you can find out that anyone with the name 'Steven' needs a phone number of '783836'. Use simply with:

./pword.pl steven

You can combine this as:

grep `./pword.pl zigzag | ./pnum.pl` /usr/share/dict/words

This will find all the other words that can be spelt with the same number of 'zigzag'. i.e. both 'zigzag' and 'wigwag' can be spelt with the phone number '944924'.

I'm sure this is useful information to someone... :)

Tuesday 11th of September 2007

The Beer Crate - A brand new podcast about beer has started!

My beer podcast has just been launched. The first episode is available from The Beer Crate website.

Please download it and make me famous :)

Sunday 26th of August 2007

Cenobitic - The book has been released!

Cenobitic - A Review has finally been put together, editted, and published through Lulu.

Whether this will make back the money I spent on digital tapes, domain names, and hosting, remains to be seen. But, I'm putting at the low price of £2.50 in the hope lots of people buy it in support (out of sympathy?) for the project. I shall probably release other books with different prices to experiment with "web commerce" thing!

Wednesday 22nd of August 2007

Companies that don't want my business, number 47


Why should I create an account, give them my details, before they even tell me the price of their goods, whether they're in stock, or how to buy one.

Tut, tut, tut.

Wednesday 15th of August 2007

Buy Zambia Kwacha's!

For £126.64 you can be a millionaire in Zambia :)

1.00 GBP = 7,898.20 ZMK

Just an odd little fact I'd thought I'd throw out...

Monday 13th of August 2007

Lego Menger Sponge

For those that have asked, the Lego Menger Sponge does exist! It's not quite as famous as the business card sponge popularized last week, but it does exist. Here's the link for the Menger sponge in Lego.

Saturday 11th of August 2007

New quiz available!

Again, using the QuizML markup language. This one is entitled, Words and wordplay.

Thursday 26th of July 2007

QuizML - version 2 - Now Released

I've finally managed to snatch a few moments away from work to fix the issues in the original QuizML format. For those that don't know, QuizML is a way of representing question and answers in a structured manner. There's nothing ground breaking in this, if we're honest, but it's conveniant since they can be transformed with XSLT to produce either question, or answer sheets. Or, for the simpletons, a multi-choice question sheet. :)

Version 1 of QuizML is now official deprecated.

You can download sample QuizML files and XSLT transforms at http://www.bluedust.com/pub/quiz.

As a special bonus I created a transform for interactive HTML, which you can preview at http://bluedust.com/quiz/.

As previously, both quizes present can be used freely under the CC attribution license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/.

Saturday 21st of July 2007

I'm writing this blog entry just to say...

...I'm writing this blog entry from my new PC.

There's a few things I need to do under Windows before it gets Linux all over it :) But I thought I'd just mention that it's now 18:05, and I got the machine physically connected at 17:15!

Apparently, when Vista is pre-installed it isn't setup and it still needs to determine your machines specifics. While it does the first part of this process the screen remains unchanged for several minutes. I know; everyone has already blogged this, but it's my turn ;)

(Oh, and I've already had explorer crash on me.)

Museum Article Released

I have taken the proverbial plunge and decided to freely release my 7 Saintly Virtues of Museum Curatorship article.

This is one of the few pieces from my standard museum consultancy blurb to be made available to the general public. I'm not sure if the public are interested in the quality of their museums, or not, but I am! And I'm hoping that this will re-establish dialogue between museums and their visitors.

Portions of this article were adapted for a piece in the Summer 2007 edition of Museum Practice.

Friday 20th of July 2007

The Tony Blair Legacy

As mashed-up by yours truly...

The Tony Blair Legacy


Tuesday 17th of July 2007

Tea at Fortnum and Mason's is very overated, apparently

This, I have been reliably information, is not a patch on the Dorchester. F&M don't refill the sandwiches, scones, or tea :( The ambience isn't as good, either.

Alas, I'm not noteworthy enough to be able to make such comparisons, but it's nice knowing people that can :)

Monday 16th of July 2007

Smokefree conversion

My latest YouTube video, "Smokefree" is a disappearing a cigarette in a ball of flame, magic trick. If was taking with my stills camera and converted to MPG with the command line:

C:\downloads\mplayer> mencoder -ovc xvid -xvidencopts bitrate=1000 -oac copy -o output.mpg -noskip -mc 0 -vf eq2=2.2 input.mov

The eq2.2 brightened the image. The other arguments are the standard conversion processes from MOV to MPG. Additionally, I needed to extract the audio, re-save (through Audacity), and combine with the movie maker titles before I'd made the final clip.

Wednesday 11th of July 2007

Facebook ban the elderly!

I was just playing around with the register page of Facebook, and entered a birthdate of 1/1/1910; which is perfectly acceptable for any 98 year old person, born on News Years day. It, alas, told me to enter a valid date. Mmmm. Discrimination? Or just shoddy ideals?

Friday 29th of June 2007

Amateur Mathematics : Integral bricks

Euler found a brick with integral diagonals on the faces, when the lengths of each side are 44, 117, 240. I too have found this solution.

Euler didn't manage to find a brick with integral cross diagonals (i.e. w*w+h*h+d*d).

And guess what? Neither did I! All the way up to 1000x1000x1000.

But I did manage to find some other examples of Eulers problem. Alas, none were smaller than the original solution.

44 x 117 x 240 (Euler's original)
85 x 132 x 720
88 x 234 x 480
132 x 351 x 720
140 x 480 x 693
160 x 231 x 792
176 x 468 x 960
231 x 160 x 792
240 x 252 x 275
252 x 240 x 275
351 x 132 x 720
468 x 176 x 960
480 x 504 x 550
720 x 756 x 825

England goes Smokefree on July 1st

Not that anyone needs telling, but since I'm unlikely to be around to blog it on Sunday I'll point out this video clip now, Smokefree magic.

Thursday 28th of June 2007

Amateur Mathematics : Any zero tests

Neither the numbers 2^33 and 5^33 contain any zero. This is quite odd considering the product of 2 and 5, the base is ten, and the number of digits used; 8589934592 and 116415321826934814453125, respectively.

33 is probably the highest number where this is true. AFAIK, no one has proved this to be true, so I empiracally tested all values up to 10000 and failed to find one. Under 33, however, there are 9 results: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,9,  and 18.

FWIW, the numbers at 10000 have 3011 and 6990 digits in them.

Tuesday 26th of June 2007

Amateur Mathematics : 3435 = 3^3 + 4^4 + 3^3 + 5^5

3435 = 3^3 + 4^4 + 3^3 + 5^5

Either this is only the number with this property (as some sources say),
or the only one known (as most imply) but a quick program confirmed
there are none under 99999999.

Monday 25th of June 2007

Amateur Mathematics : An Introduction

I've recently been reading David Wells' Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers. It's a disturbingly enjoyable book, listing every number with either a curious or interesting quality. For example,

3435 = 3^3 + 4^4 + 3^3 + 5^5

My one minor concern was that I wasn't quite sure if the text meant no other could exist, or none had been found. Since this was discovered in an age when "computers" meant human beings with an abacus, no serious mathematician would bother looking for alternatives, and no other programmer would be so bored over the weekend, I decided to fire up my compiler and have a quick look for this, and several other open-ended problems.

Details to follow over the next week.

p.s. the most curious and interesting fact about the book is that only the numbers 120 and 121 are on pages 120, and, er, 121.

Sunday 24th of June 2007

Dinner time on the 5th June 2007

So what happened?

It was 12:34, on 5/6/7.

And I was too busy to notice :(

Thursday 21st of June 2007

Computer games ratings explained

Basically, it's all about boobies.

You can use 'em when you're young, play with 'em when you're 16, be filmed with 'em when you're 18... but put some pixilated versions in a game and Jack Thompson will ban you from ever knowing they exist.

Wednesday 30th of May 2007

Wonder Boys

Wonder Boys

I've been a bit late in announcing it, but this is an animated computer movie made in 1984 using a ZX81, and a home-made organ. I was 11.

My voice is now two octaves lower, and my scripting is much improved. Fortunately...

Friday 25th of May 2007

Home Automation web sites

Since my bookmarks seem to disappear, I'm blogging the sites I often use to buy my X10 kit. No connections to any, and no endorsements to found. (Until they pay me...)





The Longest Palindromic Word Is...

Malayalam, with 9 letters. Pathetic, huh! Not the just because it's so short, but also the Unix dictionary doesn't have all the interesting words that do contain longer palindromes.

So, using a quick bit of perl lifted from the web the look for palindromes within a file:

perl -nle 'tr/A-Z/a-z/;$m=length();reverse(substr($_,($m/2)+($m%2))) eq substr($_,0,$m/2) ? print : next' /usr/share/dict/words

The output can then be piped in some code to find the longest line of output. I used the code from the longest word typeable with one hand:

awk '{ printf( "%5d: %s\n", length( $0 ), $0 ) }' | sort -r | head

Giving me:

9: malayalam
7: rotator
7: reviver
7: repaper
7: deified
6: terret
6: semmes
6: renner
6: remmer
6: redder

Now to find a bigger dictionary...

Tuesday 22nd of May 2007

Cenobitic on YouTube

Cenobitic, the worlds first open source movie is now available on YouTube.

Watch Cenobitic on YouTube.

Created with CC video, music, editted on Free software, discussed over email (mutt on Linux servers), and with the web site and blog (www.cenobitic.org) hosted on Free software also. Oh, and the film script and process was discussed openly, allowing the public to affect the outcome.

Monday 21st of May 2007

You can’t be too careful

Having a web page is probably the most complex of the 'simple' tasks available. The typical process pipeline would begin with DNS, converting a human-friendly name into an IP address, and would be registered through one of the many registrars on the Internet. This IP address would connect, via your ISP's address block, to your public router or load balancer, routing valid traffic (and only the valid traffic) to the appropriate machine on your network. This machine could be a GNU/Linux box, an embedded device, or an arbitrary, standalone, application that just happens to open a suitable port. This machine relies on the server software and (sometimes) the underlying operating system to determine which files are available to which users.

And at every stage there's software involved that could be bugged, broken, or suffering planet-sized security flaws. Each configuration file gives an opportunity for human error, opening the holes wider. Every registration service discloses a little more of your private information to the general public. With so many steps involved, is it any wonder that problems exist?

So, there’s a chap in Michigan, let’s just call him “Steve”, who’s into porn. Big time. He likes mature women, black women, and something called “big bubble butt” porn. Whatever that is.

I know his address, phone number, hobbies, the music he likes, and even what his coffee table looks like. This took one step—typing a simple term into Google.

I then typed one piece of information into whois—and I think you all know which this was—and now I have his full name, photograph, work address, and number.

Let’s face it, this was too easy. I’ve done white hat hacking before, and found the security flaws and issues that any self-respecting hacker would know. What is outlined above can found by any self-respecting web surfer without even trying. There’s no attempt on the part of “Steve” to hide it, and as he’s made everything open to the public, it might not even come under computer misuse. It’s akin to looking at his public notice board, rather than breaking down his door to read his diary.

The barrier to entry (pardon the pun) is too low.

So, who’s to blame?

Friday 11th of May 2007

Lego Machine Gun

A mere 8 years after making and filming this, I finally got around to making the video available on-line.

Ok - so I had to wait for someone to invent YouTube first, but hey, it's available at least!

Lego machine gun - clip 1

Lego machine gun - clip 2

Thursday 19th of April 2007

Ever hate your quality assurance guys?

Well, go to Google image search, type in "QA" and hit enter.

Note the first image :)

Or, if you're in QA, you'd probably write:

Steps to reproduce:
-Open Web Browser
-Go to http://www.google.com
-Type 'QA' into the search field
-Press Enter
-Click link to 'Images'
-Note first image

(All credit goes to Jon from work)

And thanks to Tor that repeated the joke with "programmer" in the subject field!

Wednesday 18th of April 2007

An odd X10 problem

I recently did nothing. Nada. Zip. But strangely, certain X10 light sockets stopped responding to my RF remote control. They worked when controlled from the PC, but not the remote. And no wiring in the house had changed, and no new devices where added.

The solution was to move the TM13 (RF to X10 gateway) elsewhere.

The reason was that my NSLU fileserver and its hard drives were plugged into a socket tapped off a spur from the upstairs light. This hadn't caused a problem before, but randomness caused it to introduce interference to the line, thereby blocking the X10 control signals.

Consequently, instead of working fine with 1 NSLU and 3 HDs, it now only worked with 1 NSLU and 1 Lacie HD PSU - any other HD PSU (without drive attached) caused the signal to stop getting through. It would also stop working if the HD PSU was in any socket other than #4 on my 4-gang.

By moving the TM13 into the next room, the X10 signals were added onto another part of the main supply which reached the lights, before the interference generating NSLU.

I was consequently able to add my HDs back, and both lights and server are working again.

Thursday 12th of April 2007

A Week With Technology

For those that have read A Week With Windows, this is the companion piece that covers my non-Windows grievances during my week off. It, too, also intended as therapy, and to seek solace, comfort, and sympathy. But I don't expect I'll get any!

The most annoying hardware problem involved my monitors. Specifically, my main Windows monitor, which was intermittently switching itself off all week, only to die in an insipid whimper on Friday. With no spares, no transport, and no time to get a new one delivered before I returned to work, I was forced to move the 19" CRT from my Linux box to the Windows machine. Although my headless Linux machine is still useable (thanks to Cygwin, putty, and a X Window Server) it's not the same. If there's a bad time for hardware to die, it will make the most of that opportunity.

My laptop screen was also playing up throughout the week. But in truth, it's been a bit dicky for the last couple of months.

My new phone should have been my pride and joy, after my old phone kept cutting conversations in half, but it wasn't. To begin, it refused to accept my sim card. No reason for this was found, but repeatedly removing and re-inserting it, it eventually allowed me to login. Being one of the new Walkman phones, I wanted to test its music capabilities, so I plugged in my lovely Sennheiser's and... watched the phone hang. This is a temperamental bug, with no obvious repro steps.

After music, came video. Or not, as the case may be, since I couldn't view any video placed on the memory stick of my phone. This is annoying because, as you can guess, the memory stick had 256 MB free, and the internal memory had about 17 KB. So that feature's worthless! Who designs this stuff?

The next piece of technology to break was my X10 remote control. This lets me control my lights from the comfort of my bed. Plus, with the aid of some software running on my (Linux) server, control the song and playback volume of my MP3 jukebox. I even bought some replacement batteries, but to no avail, so it's a formally broken unit. Plus, since this isn't the most common of appliances, I have had to order on-line. It's taken a week to arrive, but I have now received a replacement... which doesn't work in the evenings, for some reason. You forget how much these little pieces of technology add to the enjoyment of ones automated house, and how much they're missed when they don't work.

One final problem was the slug; aka the NSLU2 that I use as a fileserver. I'd bought a new drive to spread the load, and opted for a 400 gig beastie from my local supplier. This required the NTFS modules to be loaded. Despite the apparent belief they worked and were stable, I found them to be otherwise. They hung the machine with disturbing regularity, and crashed the Windows clients that were connected to them. I consequently unloaded all the drivers, and reformatted it to FAT32 using Partition Magic, since Windows is crippled and doesn't support such large disc partitions.

Apart from that, the slug has operated flawlessly for the last month, although a power cut on Monday meant I'd got a broken FAT on one of the other drives. Not that I realized it at the time. And only when Windows rebooted itself, and corrupted my disc, did I realize there were bigger problems.

I am in the process of checking the entire disc set, and wondering whether I can afford to buy another hard disc. Perhaps it's just me, but hardware is just too flakey.

Wednesday 28th of March 2007

The “Drac in a box” scam - aka the gothic clothing scam

Introducing the "Drac in a box" scam - aka the gothic clothing scam.

I’m not really sure whether to call this the "Drac in a box scam", or the gothic clothing scam. The former because that’s the company that caught me out with it, or the latter because it is the uniqueness of that style of product which allows the scam to operate. But anyhow, here’s how it works.

Part 1. You start with a typical, legitimate, business with a bricks and mortar presence that takes orders of the Internet. They correctly advertise “secure purchasing”, and with a credit card as the payment method you should have some return from your credit card company should anything go awry. To most, this is normal.

Part 2. Build a website that mentions the uniqueness, rarity, and one-off-ness (if there is such a word) of the product. Indicate the 4-6 week waiting time for the customisations to take place, and so on. Most people err towards the 6-8 week period before following it up, just in case it’s lost in the post. (The fact that all goods are apparently shipped by recorded delivery means the “lost in the post” excuse can’t be used, but at this time the customer is unaware of that.)

Part 3. The credit card is charged immediately, and not at the time the product ships. On its own this is not unlawful, but since the credit card will not help you after 120 days have passed from the charging, the proverbial clock is now ticking.

Part 4. A couple of weeks after the order has been placed, and the money taken from your account, a confirmation email is received. This is time mis-direction, as you now believe it’s on its way, and start counting the 4-6 weeks. It also lulls the buyer into believing there’s a caring human on the other end. It also establishes email as the preferred form of communication, enabling the company to claim “lost emails” later on in the process.

Part 5. When you complain about the lack of goods, the scam company mentions supply problems, delays in sourcing quality materials, or whatever is necessary to keep you quiet. Again they highlight the uniqueness of the product, believing you’ll wait longer if there’s the promise of a better quality product at the end. This takes another 4-6 weeks. Each email will be answered within a week or so, adding to the total time taken, but cleverly hiding the extra weeks when nothing arrives.

Part 6. When/if the customer enquires again, the company will promise to look into the matter right away. You smile, and relax. You wait another couple of weeks. Again, the email delay trick (EDT) is employed here.

Part 7. On enquiring about why the post hasn’t arrived, you are met with a stony silence. The company refuse to answer emails, phone calls, and appear to disappear off the face of the planet. You give it a day or two – remember how slow the original emails where – and nothing happens. You call the credit card company…

Part 8. Upon totalling all the week delays for email, the two bouts of 4-6 delivery times, and the extra delays that have been artificially introduced into the pipeline, you are now complaining about a transaction that occurred over 120 days ago. The credit card people cannot (and will not) help. And, surprise surprise, the scam company don’t respond either.

Yours – very bitter about this,


Tuesday 27th of March 2007

BigFraction Released for Java

BigFraction holds arbitrary precision fractional numbers held in numerator
and denominator. This ensures no precision is lost during calculations. Both halves of the equation are stored using the Java BigInteger library, so fractions can be as large as necessary.

Check it out! BigFraction Java Library

Link back to BigFraction Java Library Announcement (i.e. this page :)

Monday 26th of March 2007

You've Got Spam!

666 items, in fact. How appropriate!

Friday 23rd of March 2007

Sony's 10 Biggest Blunders

Every company has problems. Some have big problems. Others have really big problems. And no one is immune. So, on the UK launch day of the PS3 - while everyone else is singing Sony's praises - I am going to take a quick review of ten fairly major problems in an attempt to balance the rampant fanboy irritants that will be all-pervasive today.

Only the biggest blunders, IMO, will be covered, so your favourite (such as the PGR car image being used to promote GT4) might not be covered here. Remember - this is a history lesson for PR agencies and companies alike. And for the rest of us, it's a just a bit of fun!

31 October 2005 : Sony Blunder #1 : Rootkits

Mark Russinovich discovered a rootkit hiding on a CD he'd recently purchased from Sony. This would report your listening behaviors back to Sony and lead to class action lawsuits against Sony for violation o f privacy. The patch that Sony later released could also render your machine worthless because both it, and the original DRM technology, was badly written. Many already knew that DRM was bad and unworkable, but this really proved the case.

27 February 2006 : Sony Blunder #2 : PS3 Delays

Delays are common and expected in the technology field. But when a company continually says there is no delay, but continually acts is if there is, some of us have a problem with their honesty. From the 27th Sony removed its gag and started to admit there might be delays. They made further announcements on March 6 et al.

Throughout 2006 : Sony Blunder #3 : Limited Backward Compatibility

In addition to announcing delays for the PS3 launch in Europe, Sony also managed to omit the entire continent in their strategy. As well as forgetting to mention that Europe exists, they also announced that it would play fewer PS2 games than the Japanese version.

Autumn 2006 : Sony Blunder #4 : Exploding Batteries

Despite knowing about problematic batteries since October, 2005 (yes - 2005!) Sony continued to sell laptops that could explode at any moment. They also permitted Dell to sell their laptops with the same batteries. Ok - so Dell probably came off worse, and colluded with Sony, but knowing shipping a product that will destroy a users precious data is hardly good PR. Is it?

24 October 2006 : Sony Blunder #5 : Closing gamers favourite, Lik-sang

Lik-Sang is forced to close its doors after Sony realize they're better at seller PS3s and PSPs than they. Particularly since Lik-Sang included power supplies that didn't destroy machines, where as Sony... well... see Autumn 2006.

11 December 2006 : Sony Blunder #6 : Flogging the PSP

Zipatoni, floggers working at the behest of Sony, get busted when their paid-for-blog "All I want for xmas is a psp" is exposed as a shill to lure customers to the PSP by the marketing department masquerading as a couple of fanboys. They even resorted to removing comments that highlighted the charade. The marketing department must think that every potential customer is as dumb as they are for even trying to camouflage this!

19 January 2007 : Sony Blunder #7 : Blu-Ray and porn

The biggest selling point of the PS3 is Blu-Ray. The biggest selling point (pardon the pun) of a new media format is porn. So why Sony decided to ban it is probably down to the same thinking why they banned porn from their Betamax format in the 1980's. And you can all remember where that went! Sony still deny this by saying they're not against porn, it's up to the licensees of the blu-ray what they do with it. But they also mention that anything they don't like will result in the removal of said licenses.

2 February 2007 : Sony Blunder #8 : Want a PS3? Only if you buy a PSP, too!

Sony teamed up with HMV to provide a "special" launch deal for the PS3. This required you to buy a 4gig PSP pack as well as two games (total cost, 675 gbp) to get a PS3 on launch day. If you didn't want to buy a PSP, then you wouldn't get a PS3. This took those in charge a few days to realize the banality of this idea, and withdraw the offer and promise to level the playing field.

1 March 2007 : Sony Blunder #9 : Gagging journalists

Sony blackballs Kotaku for reporting rumours as, er, rumours! They didn't acknowledge the rights of the free press, the backlash that would occur, or the problems with coercing and threatening journalists into being their PR flunkies. They did, eventually, realize their mistake, but not until the nay-sayers had a field day.

23 March 2007 : Sony Blunder #10 : Releasing the PS3 at... how much???

Despite all the negative publicity, harassments, complaints, and problems with the PS3, Sony are still adamant they will sell it at 425 gbp, or 599 euros. This is despite the same machine costing the equivalent of 252 gbp in Japan or $599 in the states, which translates as 300 gbp. And for this extra 125 gbp we get delays, less backward compatibility, less free speech, more intelligence-insulting marketing... etc...

Wednesday 21st of March 2007

Windows Tip of the Day

Go to Start-Shutdown. When the dialog appears, hold CTRL+ALT+SHIFT and
press Cancel. Explorer will cleanly unload all of it's resources and
shutdown. To start it back up, open Task Manager (CTRL+SHIFT+ESC is one
way) and go to File-New Task and run 'explorer'.

Thanks to whomever sent me that! I found it in my archives, and thought it worthwhile to post here.

Tuesday 20th of March 2007

Backus dies


PRINT *, 'Farewell John W. Backus'


* End indeed ...

Sir, I mourn your parsing...

Sunday 18th of March 2007

My Perfect House

It would be in the country, with a long drive and large garden; not because I like them particularly, but so I’m a long way from my neighbours. The countryside would also give me enough space to have a couple of secret passage ways and hidden rooms, along with a special node #0 room, from which the house will be automatically controlled.

It would include the usual collection of living room, breakfast room, and dining room. The kitchen would be oversized, with pantry, cool room (for cheese - a culinary passion of mine) and an attached utility room and stairs down into the (wine) cellar. Another culinary passion of mine.

Naturally, any property of mine must have a home cinema, computer room, study and connected library. This is in addition to the recording studio (with live and drum rooms) I expect. A play room would also be nice, since I’m still a kid at heart, where the Lego would live.

Finally, there should probably be bedrooms! Five sounds like a nice number, each with on-suite, and walk-in closet for the two main master bedrooms. One will be designated a “snore room” :)

Transport links are unimportant, since if I can afford that house, I’ll have enough money to hire a chauffeur ;) Now, does anyone know of such a place on the market for less than 200K UKP?

Wednesday 14th of March 2007

ffmpeg to convert DivX to mpg2

This will allow you burn movies onto VideoCD discs, or stream them to a MediaMVP device if your server isn't fast enough to transcode the data. I use it for the latter.

The command line:

ffmpeg.exe -i original.avi -target pal-dvd -b 6000 -aspect 4:3 -s 720x576 -acodec mp2 -ab 224 -ac 2 -mbd 2 -sameq -async 1 -y converted.mpg

EDIT: I now use the -sameq option to improve the render quality significantly.

Sunday 18th of February 2007

Cheese Tastings

Just some notes I haven't got around to posting...

Name Tasting notes Price UKP/Kg
Cathedral City Wonderful! 7.65
Davidstow Cheddar Creamy 7.79
Seriously Strong Cheddar crumbly 7.18
West Country cheddar (Taste the Difference range) texture of wensleydale 7.39
Sainsbury's own brand slightly crumbly 6.75

In order from great, to acceptable when nothing else is available...

Saturday 17th of February 2007

MediaMVP Radio Stations - Manual Configurqation

For those that don't know (as I didn't when I woke up this morning!) the method of including internet radio stations on the MVP is easy. Create a text file containing a URL on a single line, of the stream you wish to play. Then save it with a .mvp extension, and place it somewhere on your harddrive. Then, use the standard search folders tool to build the catalog of these ready for the MVP.

I assume shoutcast.com is still the "one" to use; it certainly has enough material to keep you entertained for a year or three!

Monday 12th of February 2007

New FSM Article

Drink was the first great leveller, as it brings everyone to the floor eventually. The second was the Internet. Everyone can be published, listened to, and promoted giving freedom of expression to the masses. Community-driven development is the third leveller, as it allows anyone to affect a project that's important to them, as either a programmer, artist, writer, or web designer. Alas, the leveller in this case engenders a flat uninteresting landscape because these self-assumed polymaths reduce everything to the best they could manage. And not the best that can be achieved.

Read more:
The three great levellers

Tuesday 30th of January 2007

New database highlighting the wonders of everything

Everything can be accessed from the info page of this web site!

So for the list of the list of talented americans go to http://bluedust.com/info/default.asp?id=The%20list%20of%20talented%20americans

And for the list of my own funny jokes try http://bluedust.com/info/default.asp?id=My%20list%20of%20funny%20jokes

And so on...

Fun for all the family :)
TIP: Try without the ?id bit
TIP: Hide the URL with smallr.com or tinyurl.com

Wednesday 24th of January 2007

CSI: A Time Investigation

So, I wondered, how much of this TV is taken up with the investigation of crime scenes, and how much comprises of city fly-bys, science effects, and music to perform autopsies by?

Not that there's anything wrong with it, I mean. I just wondered.

So, on one typical episode (i.e. last night's) I sat with a digital timer (thanks, Mum - that Christmas present came in useful afterall!) and a notepad.

Basically, watching the show takes 54'16 of my life, but thanks to credits/adverts/science bits/etc contains only 33'39 of content. That's nearly 38% of padding. It breaks down thus:

Or, if you'd prefer to consider the programme alone:

So know I know. I can get on with my life again...

Tuesday 16th of January 2007

Mental Bentalls!

Who'd have thought that such a major department store would have such an ill-considered customer returns policies?

It turns out the pair of earphones that I'd been bought for Christmas had to go back; I'd wanted headphones. Alas, upon returning to the store the cretin (for it was he; unhelpful, as well as rude) said they couldn't be returned due to policy. "Which policy?" I hear you ask, the one on the notice behind the till... obscured by all the sales promotional boxes, and invisible to anyone lacking a pair of binoculars or supersonic sight :(

The next line of the conversation didn't help matters either:

"So am I supposed to know about that?"
"It's on your guarantee", he chirply replied.

"The guarantee!" Of course it is, why didn't I think of that!

True enough, there on the guarantee is the phrase that earphones cannot be exchanged due to hygiene reasons. And of course, you only get the guarantee once you've paid for the item! Can anyone tell me why this is legal?

However, the hygiene issue doesn't come into the question, thinks me, since the box is still sealed. That's got to be the kicker ending, right? Wrong! A shrug tells me there's going to be no refund today.

So, the moral is, don't buy at Bentalls. Don't buy earphones from Bentalls. And certainly don't try make a reasoned argument with half-witted shop staff that barely look old enough to shave. It's just frustrate you!

(and no, I haven't calmed down yet!)