Everything, Everything - August 2007

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Delayed Again
Friday 31st August, 2007 19:50
But only by 1hr 12 mins. I'm still going to miss the final of Big Brother.
Monday 27th August, 2007 17:43
For a while I thought I was going to be late for check-in. But I made it, and just before we boarded the flight was delayed by over 2 hours. Managed to get onto an earlier flight, leaving in a bit. This is why I don't enjoy travelling.
Monday 27th August, 2007 01:15
Despite most people ignoring my previous recommendations, such as House, here's another TV show that people should check out: Californication. David Duchovny's back in a great new drama made by US network Showtime, which is apparently coming to the UK on Five this autumn!
Saturday 25th August, 2007 17:37
Why do my earlobes really itch when I'm hot? I'm in a room full of PCs and five people, and it's very very warm in here.
Toshiba Bluetooth
Thursday 23rd August, 2007 16:18
My Dell laptop uses a Toshiba Bluetooth card. If you go to the Dell website and try to download the latest Vista drivers and applications for my laptop, it will give you a version of Toshiba's driver that's pretty much useless. You can fight with it for a bit, but ultimately you'll get nowhere. But at least Vista warns you about the program and gives you a (somewhat helpful) link to Toshiba's website. You can download what I think were slightly newer drivers from there (I didn't check the versions, but I got a funky little tray icon and it looked slightly newer), but it still wasn't quite working properly - I initially thought it could be an issue caused by UAC, but I'm not entirely sure it is. So after a bit more searching I managed to come across Toshiba's bluetooth download page on their German site, which has a multi language download (5.10.12 Windows 2000 / Windows XP / Windows VISTA) that was released on June 13th 2007. It's clearly taken them a while, but it looks like they've finally sorted everything out. I can even use the tray icon to disable/enable Bluetooth on my laptop, without raising any UAC prompts!
I Found U
Tuesday 21st August, 2007 19:34
I've heard it a few times, but never found out what it was. I've finally found it: Axwell - I Found U. It reminds me of several songs that I remember from the early 90s, but with good production values and some modern touches. It's good fun to play loud in my car.

"Axwell is probably one of the best house music producers in the world," says fellow Swede and occasional production partner, Steve Angello. With support from such illustrious DJs as Pete Tong and Judge Jules it peaked at number 13 in the UK singles sales chart. "I Found U" twists rave pianos, soul and electro into an all-dancefloor-conquering smash.

I love good house music.
Compact Disc
Tuesday 21st August, 2007 18:21
Shamelessly stolen from my lengthy comment on Yamahito's blog entry (on the CD's 25th birthday), I thought it was about time I copied it onto my own site for posterity:

The CD will probably hang around for a while for several reasons:
  • They're cheaper to produce than floppy disks and DVDs, and will continue to be used to provide (old) drivers with computer hardware
  • Modern music is still typically recorded in stereo, and albums are not usually long enough to justify a 74 minute CD (many albums are barely more than half an hour long). If people moved to surround sound then perhaps storage space would become an issue, but (sadly) most surround sound audio formats use lossy compression and will easily fit into a 650MB 74 minute CD.
  • People have them and use them for listening to music and it will remain a popular legacy format (like vinyl, but unlike MiniDisc or compact cassette). It's the same reason why many computers stil come with 3.5″ floppy drives. Places are starting to phase out 3.5″ floppies (which appear to have become increasingly unreliable and are easier to corrupt than older floppy disks), but they're still around, and the CD will continue to hang around too.
  • It's nice to have a physical copy of something, MP3s and other audio formats/files can be lost (accidentally deleted, hardware failure). Also, many audio files still use compression and digital rights. Some CDs use copy protection technologies, but not many of them (and they can often be trivially bypassed, which might be why most places don't bother with it).
I have noticed that Microsoft have moved away from CD based ISO images towards DVDs (for things like Longhorn, Vista, Server 2008, and even Office 2007), so TechNet/MSDN people burning them to disk will have to use a DVD-R instead of CD-R. This was a surprise to me for Office, as the files are small enough to fit onto a CD.

I think most people already use DVD-R instead of CD-R for exchanging files, and use the internet or USB pen drives for smaller files (I think it's about £5 for a 512mb drive). Once they become cheaper to produce than a CD or DVD, perhaps we'll see them given away with hardware (with recent drivers on?).

We'll probably eventually see people move away from dedicated portable storage devices (especially write-once formats) when all their devices have ways of communicating with each other (and built in forms of internal memory, like most mobiles and digital cameras already have). Many mobile phones already contain most features you could require (radio, music, video, camera, internet, voice, large internal memory, calendar, contacts, alarm, timer, games) so the need to move files around may be less important.
Tuesday 21st August, 2007 17:04
Someone joked about Big Brother on the Digital Spy forums:

I'd like them to just take it off air. That'd be an actual twist, not like all these limp excuses for twists they've had all series. No final night, no fireworks, no crowd, no Davina, no interview, no press. Just "Please leave the diary room by the door on your left". The End

I couldn't help but smile. Given how fickle American networks are and how quick they are to drop a show due to bad ratings without giving it a proper conclusion, it's the sort of thing you could actually see happening in the US, but probably not in the UK.

The annoying thing is that I've read many great suggestions on the forums, which could make Big Brother far more interesting. Some of the best ones I've heard are:
  • Start with a big prize fund and decrease the pot every time a housemate breaks a rule (this could be done at Big Brother's discretion, so annoyed housemates couldn't repeatedly break the rules to intentionally reduce the pot; although such a housemate could be removed for their consistent bad behaviour)
  • Every time a housemate talks about nominations they lose a nomination that week, if they already have no nominations left they are automatically put up for eviction
  • Failing a weekly task results in everyone being up for eviction (and a standard food budget); passing a task will gain the housemates a luxury food budget and nominations will occur as usual
  • Whatever housemates say in the diary room remains private and is never repeated to anyone in the house
I might add more when I remember them. Feel free to leave your ideas as comments.
VMWare Resolution
Tuesday 21st August, 2007 14:29
Note to self (as I've had to do this a lot over the years, but never written it down):

Start Regedit
Select the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\\SYSTEM\\CurrentControlSet\\Control\\Video\\{device id}\\0000. (Use the device ID that has a key "Device Description" of VMWare SVGA II)
There are a load of Resolution.x lines, add a new "Binary Value" 1 higher than the highest resolution. Eg Resolution.11
Enter the binary value of: 31 36 38 30 78 31 30 35 30 which is ASCII for "1680x1050"
Close regedit and reboot.

For other resolutions you can use the following numbers keys: ASCII Value
30 0
31 1
32 2
33 3
34 4
35 5
36 6
37 7
38 8
39 9
78 x
Add To Favorites
Tuesday 21st August, 2007 14:20
This still pisses me off (far more than it should), as it's probably quite a trivial thing for Microsoft to change (or should I say fix?). When you view feeds in IE7, you get the usual options of opening links, opening them in a new tab, in a window, the good old "Save Target As..." and the often useful "Copy Shortcut", but for some reason IE7 disables the "Add to Favorites" option. Which is annoying, because sometimes I see an item/entry (often just a summary of the article) and I want to add it to my Favorites and possibly read it or mention it later. I don't know why they did that, as they know the URL and the link contains text that can be used when adding it. The option's enabled when you view a web page, so why disable it here?

Add to Favorites
Tuesday 21st August, 2007 12:49
Joe (playing with a stapler): "Hurry up, or do I have to put a staple in your ear?"

Me (typing an email on his laptop): "I don't think that's going to be quite as motivational as you might think"
How Much?
Tuesday 21st August, 2007 12:39
The Sun reckons that Amanda's destroyed her twelfth £2000 microphone presumably costing Channel 4 £24,000. But The Mirror claims she's cost Channel 4 at least £4,800 as the "clumsy blonde has now broken 12 mikes - dropping her latest in the bath" and that each piece of equipment "has a minimum £400 pricetag". Quality reporting there. I suspect The Mirror might be closer to the mark.
Sunday 19th August, 2007 23:53
I added the Lolcats Facebook application a while back and spotted this, which doesn't really fit into the usual linguistic style, and it's also an intelligent photo (I wonder how many people don't fully appreciate the joke, although I think something like "livin in ur quantum box" would be a better start). Anyway, it made me smile, so enjoy:

Quantum Cat
MMS Sucks
Saturday 18th August, 2007 13:40
Why are mobile networks still so unreliable? I can send a text message to anyone anywhere and as long as it's a valid mobile number and their mobile is turned on, it will be delivered. Even the other side of the world (I can send a text to Australia and get a delivery report back within a few seconds). But sometimes I will get charged by my mobile operator for sending photo messages to my own number, even though I never receive that photo message (the rest of the time I get the photo message). If I send them to another number, it doesn't always get delivered. If I send them to another number, sometimes they get delivered, but the user has to view a web page on their mobile operator's website (because their SIM doesn't have MMS enabled). And sometimes I can send a photo message to someone, but only some of them go through (and it's not a content problem, as the images can be taken by the same camera with the same settings). Similarly, I can sometimes receive a photo message from someone but not receive subsequent photo messages from them.

MMS has been around for a long time. There were (according to the OMA) 105 operators that supported MMS in 2002, which jumped up to 200 operators in 2004. We're now in 2007, we have mobile handsets that play video, have touchscreens, several megapixel cameras. But we can't always send a photo message to each other. And I'm not even talking video, I'm talking an image, a simple JPEG image. Sometimes it's because the mobile hasn't been setup correctly, sometimes because the operator has changed their settings (but not done a push so the user has the option of automatically installing the new settings), but most of the time it appears to be an unreliable network operator. Which includes my own.

If mobile operators want users to download premium content, they have to make it a more reliable experience. I came across a study a while back that said something like 64% of users will stop using a service (e.g. internet browsing, photo messaging) if it doesn't work for them first time. And they're right, if a photo message doesn't work, I might try again with that person, but I probably won't. I'll probably copy it across to my laptop later on that day using my USB cable (or bluetooth if I don't have it on me) and send it via email or MSN instead. It's not as convenient, but at least I know it works (and it's free).
Fire, Flood... Plague?
Friday 17th August, 2007 19:54
I've read this sort of thing on the web in a few places, and it made me chuckle at the time:

Well, since you have been PM. I'm starting to wonder whether Mr. Brown if you really are Frank Spencer-esque. In just four weeks the UK has endured, 2 foiled terror attacks, 1 weird fire-ball attack on a Scottish Airport. UK flooded twice. Due to housing built on flood-planes, and many years of government blind-eye syndrome. This has cause total misery and potential human threatening diseases to the areas affected. All this in 4 weeks! I'm half expecting a plague of locusts to hit the UK shores

So I wasn't too surprised when I heard tonight's report on Midlands Today about how we could be about to face a plague of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes need still water to breed, so as flood waters recede and puddles form, this can provide a breeding ground for them (this usually takes up to 4 weeks). They're responsible for the spread of diseases like malaria.

Perhaps it's all just a bad coincidence, but it's not the best start for Gordon Brown.
Location, Location, Location
Tuesday 14th August, 2007 01:18
I was surprised to read that Britons are prepared to pay thousands of pounds extra to have a house by the sea. Despite the threat of rising sea levels, and the recent flooding we've had, it seems that people are prepared to pay extra to live near the sea. Call me crazy, but I want a house on a bit of land that's pretty high up. Somewhere that isn't on a flood plain, somewhere that won't disappear underwater if/when sea levels rise by a couple of metres. Mind you, sea levels aren't going to catch us off-guard like the recent flooding, so you could probably sell your house every few years and slowly work your way backwards, away from the coast, as the sea creeps closer.
Soccer AM
Tuesday 14th August, 2007 01:07
I was watching the highlight show of Soccer AM with my brother earlier tonight, and I miss Tim Lovejoy. Andy Goldstein is missing that confidence and sharpness that Lovejoy had. Helen's trying to pick up the slack, but it's the wrong dynamic. Soccer AM was never an equal partnership like Ant and Dec, it was more like Batman and Robin. You can't lose Batman and hope to still have a series. Helen did her best to carry Goldstein, but the material wasn't really up to much either - probably because Lovejoy wrote a lot of Soccer AM and also because a lot of the crew (Fenners, Tramp and Sheephead) left for his new show on Channel 5. The first soccerette this season was Michelle Smith, whose interesting fact was that she can have plenty of fun in a lift. Goldstein stretched it out with a huge number of cut sequences: the photos she submitted, the photos of them in a lift, the parachute jump, the fake landing, and even an interlude with supermodel Paula Hamilton teaching him how to strut his stuff. As he walked up and down the catwalk with Michelle, it underlined what a poor substitute he is for Lovejoy. Soccer AM has been dealt the same fatal blow that many other morning shows have encountered. The Big Breakfast was Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin, it lost its way when Chris left, and continue to crash and burn once Roslin departed, but they got lucky with Johnny Vaughan and Denise van Outen. Can Soccer AM find the right foil for Helen Chamberlain?
Thursday 9th August, 2007 17:49
By the time most people read this*, I'll have had 50,000 downloads of my UK Radio Player gadget for Windows Vista's Sidebar!

I haven't had a chance to work on it for well over a month now, but I'm on annual leave next week and haven't thought of anything exciting to do yet, so I might work on it a bit more for a small update (lots more stations, some new graphics, change the default skin it starts with).

And then I'm thinking of doing a giant leap. The version number may have to jump to 1.4.0 to show how much of an improvement it will be, but the plan is to add support for Real Audio streams (if people have Real Audio installed). And then my gadget really will piss on all of the other radio gadgets! ;)

The guy behind the BBC Radio Player gadget has announced that he's working on a new version (finally, after over half a year), which is another reason why I'm tempted to do something big myself.

*I'm only 100 off right now
Funny Wall Message
Thursday 9th August, 2007 15:06
I saw this earlier today on someone's "Wall" on Facebook and it made me laugh:


............| \\
...\\___ A BOAT_____/

which probably makes you pretty angry. I'd be pissed too.

Fucker came out of nowhere!
Funny Joke
Tuesday 7th August, 2007 09:04
It's a bit of an old one, but it made me smile this morning: what's the difference between a Britney Spears music video and a porno? Better music in the porno.
Peep Show
Sunday 5th August, 2007 00:29
My brother introduced me to it. I'd seen the adverts for it on Channel 4 years ago, but never got into it. Now I have four seasons to catch up on. It seems pretty good so far, and reminds me of the sort of crap that goes through my head.
Time Travel
Saturday 4th August, 2007 01:45
Davina mentioned something about time travel on Big Brother next week, and a quick bit of searching with Google has helped me come up with the following:

The Daily Star (I know, I know...) said back in May that the eye logo holds the key to a sensational new time-travel twist planned for the new series. Two versions of the eye have been revealed by Channel 4 - one in black and white, the other in multi-coloured, and there's a reason for the resemblance to the test card seen in the TV show Life On Mars.

Half the housemates are set to take a trip back in time, just like detective Sam Tyler in the BBC sci-fi drama. Although it sounds like housemates will be transported back to the '50s and not the '70s. Half of the housemates will apparently live in a drab house (the beds in the halfway house did look pretty basic), where they will have to survive without any mod cons. They will have to survive on basic '50s rations, with just a small hob to cook on (I can't remember what the halfway house kitchen looked liked, but I think it was fairly basic?). There will be no fridge-freezer, no vacuum cleaner and only a tin bath to wash in.

The Daily Star claimed that the rest of the housemates will be living in modern luxury. Which fits in with what heatworld are saying, BB is throwing them a no-expense-spared pool party, complete with super-chic poolside bar. The article has pictures of the finished bar, which explains why the original construction photos showed the large room and the bit of the pool going under the wall (I figured it was just so cameramen could put equipment down there to see what's going on underwater).

I don't know if the DS article is pure fiction (quite likely?), but the Heat article sounds legitimate except that it doesn't appear to fit in with what Davina said.

Anyway... Get Carole Out!
Home Sweet Home
Friday 3rd August, 2007 20:23
It's nice to have an internet connection again. The hotel I was recently staying at had such poor internet access (unreliable, slow DHCP, lots of retransmissions) that I was going online using my mobile... at a stunning 9.6kbps (a fraction of 56k modem speeds, and an even smaller fraction of the connection I'm currently using).

I hate to say it, but I'm getting into Facebook. It's all Caz's fault, she told me to join it a while back but I only signed up the other day, and now I'm catching up with lots of old friends from uni (well, I'm reading what they're up to, I'll send them messages at some point). I'm not usually a fan of these sorts of sites, but this one has me interested. Yamahito has also been talking about their RSS feeds, which they've just introduced. All sites should have RSS feeds. RSS is great.

While I was away, I noticed an article on The Register about a presentation at Black Hat. The presentation was basically about session hijacking, a well known threat. The difference was that they were pushing how easy and insecure it is to hijack sessions when someone is reading their Google Mail (or Gmail if you're not in the UK) over a public wireless access point. Even when they use SSL! Yes, that bit caught my attention too, but it turns out they didn't find a weakness in SSL, the problem is (like most popular sites) the username and password is sent over HTTPS but the rest of the user's browsing is done over HTTP with the session cookie passed in the clear. Once someone sniffs your cookies, they can generally perform session hijacking with most web sites. The reason why it's fairly low profile is because most people connect to the internet through a load of cables and switches, which makes it difficult to sniff the HTTP data. The moral of this story? Never trust public wireless access points. If you decide to use one, you should never use HTTP to do anything important like check your email. Personally, I tend to use wireless access points to connect to another machine (or two) that I have on the internet using Remote Desktop (which, by the way, can easily be configured to use SSL to avoid Man In The Middle attacks), and then do anything important on there.

Double eviction on Big Brother tonight! Who else is excited? Oh, just me? I suspect it'll be Shanessa and David that get evicted tonight. I hope it's them.

The Simpsons Movie is a lot better than I expected it to be, it almost makes up for how poor seasons 16 and 17 were. Almost.
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