Microsoft: Where do you want to go today?
Microsoft’s Mappoint service will plan a route for you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do a very good job, as I verified myself on another route from Trondheim to Geilo in Norway:
G is for Google?
Google have an interesting new beta search page that suggests things as you type.
Men like to sit with their legs apart, as a quick glance at a train—or indeed anywhere with seats—will attest. Sometimes, women don’t understand this behaviour; occasionally, they think that it is unreasonable and selfish.
Manifestation à Bruxelles
I visited Brussels for a spot of Christmas shopping this morning. As I walked along Rue Neuve, I noticed that the side streets were barricaded with barbed wire and that the riot police were out in force.
Japanese cool stuff
“Many years ago, I sat down with a person—an American—who was trying to sell telephone extensions into the Japanese market. His sales pitch was that every family needs five phones—one for every room in your house. Japanese people looked at him and said, ‘Well, my apartment is so small that when my phone rings, I just reach across the room and pick it up.’ He wasn’t doing so well.”
It’s geeky and Japanese, so I can’t help but laugh at this Wikipedia article about “OS-tan”—cartoon personifications of operating systems and pieces of software. The operating systems are all female, whilst “Doctor Norton, an unspeakably lecherous old doctor, personifies the Symantec Norton AntiVirus software.”
Courtesy of Microsoft
Apparently, all the cool kids aren’t bothering with pirated versions of Windows XP any more. Instead, they download a time-limited evaluation version of Windows 2003 Server directly from Microsoft, hack out the time-limit code, and change some settings to make it suitable for workstation use.
Belgium’s electricity system would shame a third-world nation.
I’ve been saving up this morbid cartoon for today.
Letter to Apple
Whilst waiting for my iBook to come back, I decided to buy a new one with the intention of selling the old one when it came back. It didn’t go well. So I wrote a long letter to Apple’s European HQ in Ireland. You can read it below:
The ultimate workstation?
This is my new workstation, with three 17” TFT monitors running off two graphics cards to give a total resolution of 3840 by 1024 pixels. It’s running Ubuntu Linux. It was a little tricky to get triple monitors working under X11, but well worth it for the result.
Religious quote of the day
Quote of the day:
My iBook came back the other day from its second holiday at the repair centre in the Netherlands, about four weeks after I first contacted Apple. First, the good points: it works, and, this time, the specification is as it should be—900 MHz. The problem, however, is that the machine has been reassembled so badly that the entire bottom half of the machine is significantly and visibly warped, bowing downwards in the middle. It appears that the metal chassis is actually bent. I’m at a loss to understand how they did it. I can’t imagine that exerting that kind of stress on the internal components is going to do anything positive for their longevity.
When downloading a file from Sourceforge, it can be pretty annoying. First, what looks like a link only gets the mirror selection screen; then it tries to download it in the browser, which is inconvenient if you only want to grab the address to paste into a console on a remote machine or wherever.
Type and download at the same time
Abolish the apostrophe
Whereas the Apostrophe is most grievously abused these recent years;
Back to Apple again
The UPS driver has been here so often recently that he remembers me. He asked me if my computer didn’t work. I explained the problem. C’est pas normal, he agreed.
EuRuKo 2004 Part I
Other people have written detailed accounts of what went on at EuRuKo, so I’ll, er, leverage their effort by skipping the minutiae here. Nonetheless, here’s a quick run-down of what happened on the two days.
If you’ve had enough of poorly-targeted h3rba1 v!agr4 and breast-enlargement spams, I have bad news. Even the paranoid are now turning to bulk email to get their incoherent rants across to a wider audience. The following excerpts are from a very long message posted to the ruby-talk mailing list. The mailing list addresses the Ruby programming language, which makes this message extremely off-topic!
After my latest bad experience with Apple, I sent an email to MacInTouch. I’m gratified to see it posted on their report today:
More Apple incompetence
Good news: I finally got my iBook back from Apple, repaired with a new logic board.
Good news about my iBook
I called Apple again yesterday morning, only to discover that they had failed to dispatch my box for the second time. The woman with whom I spoke assured me that she would follow it up this time, and ensure that it actually went out.
Still waiting for a box
Eleven days since I first called, and four since my follow-up call, I’m still waiting for the box to arrive from Apple in which I am to send my computer back for repair. At this rate, actually repairing it is going to be a very minor part of the total time taken.
Weaselballs.com has the funniest marketing pitch I’ve ever seen:
Ruby on Rails
Someone (a fan of my socialist-propaganda-influenced graphic style) suggested that I should make a logo for Ruby on Rails. Apparently, David Heinemeier Hansson (known for obvious reasons as DHH), the developer of Rails, is paying someone $1000 to design a logo.
I’ve been working on a new design for this site. It’s a slight evolution, but I think that it’s a bit more stylish than the current design:
Via a text ad on Google, I came across this interesting, albeit dubious, site: Spin Wave Technology from the Vasant Corporation. They claim that their research “concludes that a few devices could generate economically free energy”.
After waiting a week for the box to ship my iBook for repair, I phoned Apple again today.
My iBook is broken. I had thought that I was safe, but the dreaded logic board problem raised its ugly head at last.
Please wipe the sink
One thing really puzzled me on my flight back home last week. On every passenger aircraft, they have the same plaque above the sink: “As a courtesy to the next passenger, may we suggest that you use your paper towel to wipe the sink.”
Seoul Part III
I’ve been remiss in writing the final chapters of my travelogue since getting back last Thursday. I’ve been eating and sleeping a lot; it seems that I have a lot of energy to recover. The story continues...
Seoul Part II
I visited Gyeongbokdong and Insadong on Sunday. Unfortunately, it was raining heavily, but we escaped into a tea house and tried a selection of obscure brews touting dubious health benefits. I had a particularly interesting and bitter tea that was actually rather delicious once you became accustomed to the bitterness.
More photos: Busan and Seoul
I took plenty of photos in Korea, too; here is an edited selection:
Seoul Part I
My five days in Seoul were very enjoyable. In fact, I spent so much time enjoying myself that I didn’t have any time to write about it. So here it is, delayed and a bit at a time.
Busan to Seoul
I haven’t written much since arriving in Seoul, but don’t worry—I’m still alive and doing well.
From Shanghai to Busan
In order to get from Shanghai to Busan, I had to get up extremely early. The flight was at 9 am, and in order to spend the requisite two hours in abject boredom at the airport (sadistic bastards that the airlines are) I had to take a taxi at 7 am. To get to the airport at that time in the morning, my only option was a taxi, which meant that I had to leave the hotel at 6.
Last day in Beijing, and back to Shanghai
It’s the last evening of my China trip, and I’m sitting in my hotel room with a few cans of beer and a pack of boiled chicken’s feet with chili. I actually developed a taste for them in Birmingham of all places, and the only non-obscene expression that I can say in Cantonese is “fong zao yart long”—“one plate of chickens’ feet”. These ones are not bad at all for a vacuum-packed snack from the convenience store. Remember: chickens’ feet are a delicacy. Basically, that boils down to: a chicken gives you a whole body’s worth of meet, but only two small feet. Ergo, the feet are rarer and more valuable. Cynically, you might argue that, by the same token, that the chicken’s beak is even more of adelicacy. However, the feet actually are tasty, in spite of the fiddly tiny bones.
I achieved a minor ambition today: I ate dog. It is surprisingly tasty, actually. The flavour is full, but not overpowering. I don’t know why Fido doesn’t turn up on the dinner table back home. Well, I do... some people get upset by the idea of eating dog. I’m not one of them, as you can tell!
Along with about half of Beijing, I had an agreeable wander around Tiananmen Square and its environs this afternoon. It really is big and imposing—yeah, I know: it’s meant to be that way!
Shanghai to Beijing
I am now in Beijing, taking a break in the hotel lobby before I can check in at midday for a much-needed shower and change of clothes.
My first two days in Shanghai
Have a look at the accompanying photo gallery!
I made it safely to Shanghai. The flight wasn’t as bad as the reputation would suggest, although the food was decidedly mediocre (mystery meat noodles).
Onward to China
It’s the last day of my very busy trip to Japan. So busy, in fact that I had a spreadsheet just to organise myself. I travelled Osaka–Tokyo–Osaka–Fukuoka–Osaka–Tokyo–northern Shiga–Osaka. I took the Shinkansen six times in total. I probably spent as much as 24 hours on various trains during these two weeks. I saw a lot of friends, and it was really very enjoyable.
I’m off to Japan tomorrow morning, to arrive on Friday morning local time. I think I’m ready, although packing for four weeks is quite a challenge.
Whether, like me, you hate the crass spectacle that is the Olympics, or even if you don’t, you surely won’t like their link policy.
I can’t believe I’ve missed this gem of an online comic that appears to have been going for the past eight years:
Brussels flower carpet
I went to see the Flower Carpet in the Grand’Place of Brussels yesterday. It’s very impressive: almost the whole of the square is covered by turf and flower petals, arranged in a Horta-inspired pattern.
Taking the Eurostar? Read this.
It used to be cheaper to buy Eurostar tickets online on the Eurostar website by choosing “Belgium” instead of “United Kingdom” on the opening page of the site. Evilly, the country choice page sets a cookie to prevent one from going back and comparing prices. (Granted, it is possible by clearing browser cookies, but it’s not easy for an average user, I suspect.)
On the Termine page on this local website of a German political party is some rather scary news (at the bottom of the list:
Exclusive! Dr Evil’s latest weapon is a satellite to destroy Canada!
Well, they may not have caught Osama or Mullah Omar, but at least one dangerous international criminal is now safely behind bars.
I finally took advantage of the fact that I was eligible for Irish citizenship. A trip to the embassy with my birth certificate, €70 and four weeks later, I received this:
Point and drool
Joel Spolsky’s book on designing computer interfaces is good reading, but this part made me pay attention:
I feel like I’ve just wasted a day of my life.
My mother found an old document, and I’ve scanned and reformatted it as a web page, keeping to the original format as closely as possible (old-fashioned semicolon spacing and all)—all with XHTML+CSS. It’s about my great-grandfather and great-great-uncle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne–based wood and stone carvers, and gushing in its praise of their work. I’m not sure exactly where it came from; the page I scanned was reprinted from an original article from 1934, but was obviously somewhat newer.
Signs of the Apocalypse
Lesser known signs of the Apocalypse, number 317:
Bush shoots self in foot
Go to http://www.georgewbush.com/ and watch Dubya’s latest campaign video. ( Direct Quicktime link.) It features such choice lines as “The President is a miserable failure” and “He betrayed this country” along with images of Hitler.
This is a lovely spoof on the discovery of a “deadly and pervasive” new element:
Cory Doctorow has published the text of a detailed, witty, and well-argued presentation that he made to Microsoft Research:
Great leap forward
This is the most pointless invention that I’ve seen in a long time: the wi-fi surfboard.
No oil painting
This is the first image that I tested my scanner with—it was the first flat, coloured item that I found. It’s my address book that I’ve had since 1999, on the cover of which I drew a picture of a koi carp, based on a simple painting that I saw on the bottom of a Chinese noodle bowl.
I was feeling burned-out today. In fact, I’ve been feeling like that all week, after expending a prodigious amount of effort on the search engine I’ve been developing. Around 3 pm, I started a long spidering job on the server, and decided to take the rest of the afternoon off to recuperate.
When fonts go bad
This is what you get when something really goes wrong with KDE’s font settings (under Mandrake Linux 10.0):
GIYF. When I first encountered that abbreviation the other day, I was left scratching my head, wondering, “WTF?”
The Japanese counting system, like the Chinese one on which it is based, uses groups of four zeros rather than three as the basic unit for counting large numbers. The primitives from ten onward therefore proceed thus:
A couple of weeks ago, Isamu Kaneko, a Japanese software engineer and research associate at Tokyo University, was arrested for programming. The reason? He wrote the extremely popular (in Japan) anonymous file-sharing program Winny.
It’s been a while since my last update here; twelve days, according to the date below.
Media Markt Madness
The German chain Media Markt is a fairly good place to buy computer hardware and accessories. It’s cheap and well-stocked. There are a few shops here in Belgium, and I’m looking forward to when their new branch in the centre of Brussels opens in the near future.
How to find anagrams
Here’s a very quick method for finding anagrams that I came up with this afternoon. It’s fairly straightforward, but also very efficient and, I think, interesting, so I’m sharing it here.
According to Donald Rumsfeld, the Darth Sidious of American politics, the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was “fundamentally un-American”.
European Democracy? It would be a good idea
(With apologies to Gandhi.)
He’s a Bad Man
Although the fact that George W Bush is a dangerously misguided and incompetent president ought by now to be glaringly obvious to anyone with a functioning cerebellum, this clip shows that he’s just as much of an oaf at a personal level, as he wipes his glasses on someone else’s jacket while she’s still wearing it:
I’ve been working on a search engine, and one of the issues that I had to consider was how many bytes to allocate to page indexing. I decided to consult the master. The search engine that I’m making isn’t scanning the whole internet, and so will not approach the number of pages that Google is indexing, but it gives me an idea.
TV for Pets?
The BBC always used to show an advert to try to persuade people to pay the TV Licence, a charge which has never been popular. Perhaps because it’s inequitable and regressive, or perhaps because it’s a lot of money, people don’t like paying it.
Chris Pratley, one of the Microsoft Office developers, has written a very interesting blog entry, in which he explains how Microsoft Word tied up the Japanese market.
No Sexual Intercourse?
Powered by Windows?
Here’s a crashed motorway sign:
The sky was exceptionally beautiful tonight.
Explosion in the DPRK
It appears that 3,000 people have been killed or injured in North Korea in an explosion caused by a train full of gas crashing into a train full of petroleum. I doubt that we’ll see much more information coming out of that secretive nation.
Rock ’n’ Roll ’n’ Crash ’n’ Burn?
The RAC Foundation has put out a press release about the effect on safety of listening to music whilst driving.
This is a Demonstration
I spotted this spider on the wall as I came home. It seems pretty unlucky.
Marathon Bus Journeys
I saw an advert on the wall of the tram today, promoting bus journeys to assorted European cities at very low prices, including this:
Conspiracy or Incompetence?
From 1910 to 1945, the Greater Japanese Empire occupied the Korean Peninsula. Various bespoke-tailored theories were constructed by tame anthropological historians to claim that the Korean and Japanese races were two closely-related branches of the same tree (Oh, what irony! How different from the modern treatment of ethnic Koreans in Japan!) whilst political means were extended to attempt to graft Japanese culture onto Korea—teaching the Japanese language instead of Korean in schools being a good example.
Bicycles are a common mode of transport in Japan, thanks to several factors: high population density means that many journeys are too short for a car but too long to walk; cars are very expensive to keep and run (parking charges are astronomical in the cities); finally, most cities are built on flood plains (the only habitable parts of three-quarters-mountain Japan) so there are few hills to struggle up.
I spent a fantastically relaxing week in England. The first four days I spent in London, where I spent lots of money on the inexcusably overpriced Tube. Not everything in London’s expensive, though: I spent a happy afternoon wandering around the Tate Modern gallery (entrance £0), although to my infinite disappointment, the nudes gallery was closed for renovation. The recording of The Now Show was extremely funny, although completely different to how I had imagined it just by listening to the radio.
The Tribulations of Public Transport
I had a dreadful journey home tonight. The trams were crowded, and it was made worse by one passenger whose girth exceeded her ability to control it. Now the trams are bad at the best of times: neither braking and acceleration have the same fine-grained precision of a car. Accelerator and brake both have only two basic states—on or off—and the G-forces exerted as the vehicle moves between these states would turn the stomach of a Cold War MiG pilot.
England, Here I Come
From tomorrow until 7 April, I’m going to be in England.
How to Ritually Disembowel Yourself
Ignorami often refer to it as hari kiri or, even worse, harry carry <shudder>. Hara kiri (腹切) is more frequently called seppuku (切腹) in Japanese—the kanji are the same for both, but the order is reversed.
I must confess to being fascinated with North Korea—not, I hasten to add, as a place I’d like to live, or one whose politics I share. Rather, I just think that it’s a very, very strange place.
I’ve been rather relaxed about losing my job with the implosion of my employer, and here’s why:
I’m proud of the BBC for this article on McDonalds’ ill-conceived foray into children’s clothing.
The McGurk Effect is quite extraordinary. When you hear “ba” and see “ga”, you think that you’re hearing “da”.
No Dog Food for MS
From Slashdot: “Microsoft has published a competitive guide on OpenOffice.org 1.1 vs Microsoft Office”.
This is a random diversion.
I’m finding lots of interesting stuff through my new improved news page, such as this incredible finger-detecting circular saw technology (via Boing Boing).
Water on Mars
This is pretty big news, at least for me.
I really enjoy my job. I have a good boss, nice colleagues, and work that interests me. I don’t have to wear a suit, and I’m not required to get up early.
Stockings? No, spraypaint!
Proving that technological advances are not always useful is this invention: spray-on tights (or stockings, or nylons, or panty hose, or whatever they are called in your part of the world).
I thought that this New York Times article (via LanguageHat) was really interesting: an Iraqi-American has devised a simplified version of the Arabic alphabet that can be used in either direction (right-to-left or left-to-right) and in which each character has a single glyph.
I’ve just finished a massive overhaul of my news aggregator page. It now orders items according to date rather than by source, so the top items are always the newest ones.
I went to Ikea the other week. I’m not proud of it, but...
Sexual Politics in Japan
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Japan to the, er, 19th Century. As reported by the Mainichi Daily News,
(Not even remotely) “fair and balanced” Fox News broadcast a commentary on the BBC/Gilligan/Kerry affair that has to be seen to be believed.
Any comment I could make on the Hutton Inquiry would be redundant next to the analysis of far better informed pundits.
How stingy is your ISP? I did a few calculations.
Yet More Airline Craziness
I didn’t realise that air travel security was such a rich topic. It seems like I underestimated things. A woman carried a stun gun and a knife through security without anyone noticing:
More Airline Madness
No sooner have I finished my last outburst against the ludicrous, oxymoronic phenomenon that is air travel security de nos jours than I find that I’m not alone in my scepticism.
Gotta Collect ’Em All
I reckon that the Euro coins are a bit like Pokémon for grown-ups. See how many different countries’ coins you can collect! At the moment, I have coins from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and—inevitably—Belgium.
The Year of the Monkey
This is so completely ridiculous that I don’t know where to start. A girl, going through a security checkpoint, joked to the staff, “Hey be careful, I have three bombs in here.”
Oh Point Oh Oh Oh My God
I found it in the free newspaper this morning, but I haven’t seen this news item anywhere online. Apparently, the Turkish government are to present a parliamentary bill seeking to introduce a new national currency to replace the absurdly cheap lira, the butt of many jokes:
N——’s accidental transposition of the spelling of strawberries conjured up a whimsical image in my mind, so I had to run off a quick sketch in Photoshop:
New Phone: T610
I bought a new mobile phone, a Sony Ericsson T610, earlier this week. My previous phone was a Siemens S35i, quite a capable handset, although mine had developed an intermittent fault that would cause it to cease communicating with the SIM card about once a day. That, and the fact that it had no support for newer technologies like GPRS and Bluetooth, prompted me to go for a new one.
Two-Headed Fluorescent Fish
This Ananova news report really caught my eye. According to the story, some Taiwanese scientists have accidentally created a fluorescent fish with two heads:
The pick of my recent browsing:
For some reason, I can’t sleep tonight (this morning). My loss is the internet’s dubious gain, I suppose.
How Do You Pronounce That?
Make Not a Fool of Thyself
From The Register:
(No, I’m not referring to John Ashcroft’s bizarre obsession.)
Bush in 30 Seconds
This is really good: the finalists for a competition to select an anti-Bush TV ad.
The World’s Most Pointless Activity?
Nobly resisting the temptation for ribald humour, I present you this link on how to shave your cat’s nose. Seriously, what’s up with some people?