Friday, December 24, 2010

Gabe's first Christmas

I'm hoping this year he spends more time playing with boxes and wrapping paper than he does with the toys, as that will give me free reign to just buy him boxes and wrapping paper next year.

He's a sharp little guy tho, so he might notice.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snow joke

Har Har.
I ended up watching the snow melt on Saturday - quite a fascinating experience. There was a visible line on the road dividing tarmac from snow and ice which progressed upwards at the rate of a few inches per minute. Every time I glanced out of the kitchen window at the outside table, another inch of snow would have vanished from the original foot. by 7am everything was totally clear.

I'm hopeful we'll get another drop of snow and that we'll be able to make it out on to the downs for some slidey action. Maybe next year. For some reason this reminds me of the winters of my childhood.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Long month

Yet, as days slip by, one has to acknowledge that life ain't getting any longer.

Or is it? According to Some Smarties at Harvard, Teleomerase production really does make a difference in mice. That had been artificially impared, but still.

Reproduction is the usual method for longevity of kind, at least until immortality becomes de rigeur. One has to wonder how much the effort takes off our mortal lifespan, as listening to Gabe's constant screaming probably lopped a good year off me this month. Hopefully the research will catch up around the time he gets a job.

It's been a chinese interesting month, after the wonderful holiday (tinted with the abject failure of STS 133 to launch). A possible change of focus of work, mid life crises abound, yet another bloody cold upon cold upon sickness. I went through a spate of crazy good ideas (if only I had a replicator/manufactory, I'd be halfway to rich by now - for prior art, picture gesture-to-text using rings and local positioning, no more typing or even swiping on devices, just wriggle your fingers) along with all the crazy AR stuff I've been blabbing about for years. I have a feeling that the RnD folks at work will crack some of that stuff, especially the AR world-geo overlay, just as soon as we get comfortable with the gyros in the latest handhelds. Tangent, but in a few years everyone will wonder just how the hell they ever managed without being able to sweep their mobile across a view and see - their friends (and their friends mood / bank account / waiting time ), their nearest cashpoint, the bus turning the corner 10 streets away, the nearest taxi/burger king/police station.

The other interesting idea I had tonight was consensual observation/reporting. I saw some dude tagging a window with spray paint, but was not in the mood to stop and challenge. If I had a mobile - that had video recording and geotagging - and if I could press a "tape this shit and send it to the rozzers" button - would that change society? "I'm observing you, dude. No point giving me grief, it's already on tape." We're nearly there with all the video capture that happens, but the leap to realtime is the discriminator. Think video 911 in reverse. Add another person (or two, or ten) and you've got some pretty compelling evidence right there, probably with enough capture to synth the whole scene back out again.

Corner cases and the opposite perspective are a goldmine, by the way. Think of every problem you ever bitched about and turn it on it's head - there's your opportunity.

The other dweller has been the constant niggle that capitalism really is crappy at resource allocation, regardless of the plethora of hype to the contrary. Surely it would be more efficient for society if people in their cars just gave folks a lift? Technology is certainly an enabler for that, as soon as we stray into AR, trust ratings (visible over your head, natch) and groupthink access to your public dataset. Yes, I would like a lift into the town centre. I'm not a crazy, and I might even be your new friend.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Saving up for Virgin, then.

This week has been a total rollercoaster - every day we've been planning to go the next day and watch the shuttle launch, each day edging slightly closer. Yesterday we were up at 4am in a huge thunderstorm, knowing our chances of seeing a launch that day were around 10%. Today we were up at 4.30am, with hopes of seeing a launch much higher - odds were looking to be about 60% that the wind and weather would allow a launch, without any other mechanical problems.

Sadly, the problems reared their heads just as we arrived at KSC on the coach, around 8.15am this morning. After a bit more analysis, it's been confirmed that the earliest the shuttle will launch is now November 30th. We'll be out of the country much sooner than that.

Still, unless you take a chance you're never get to see the cool stuffs.

God speed, Discovery.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Packing in progress. hopes high. Fingers crossed that american engineering is all it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just causeway

Nic managed to snag us causeway tickets for STS-133. If all the heavens align correctly, we are going to be treated to a view of the shuttle launching from around 6 miles away. Fingers crossed everything goes to plan!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gabe says ...

Ahhhhh ahhh waaaaaahh

Ahhhhh waaaaahhh ehhhhh waaaahhh ehhhhhh

hopefully shortly he'll be saying zzzzzzzzzz. Until that time, adieu.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The answer to life, the universe and everything

is 42.

Today, if one arbitrarily takes the Y/M/D digits as 101010 deserves to be known as Douglas Adams day, in my humble opinion.

and the question - well, that's the hard bit, isn't it?

I've been pondering this (for the majority of my life, as always) and I'm wondering if it's really as simple as ticking boxes on a list. For some people, it's travelling, food, company. For some people it's experience, music, adrenaline. For some it's solitude, peace, contemplation. Many things overlap, many things are mutually exclusive. Most people have different definitions of the things that go together to define their place in life, their destiny.

For me - adrenaline is high up there. Laddering in SC2 over the last month has been an experience like no other, although I'm not sure I actually enjoy it! Travelling is actually something I'm not hugely fond of, but arriving in new places is something I love. All things technological is definitely a defining part of the human experience for me, so watching the shuttle go up (fingers crossed) could well be one of my defining moments.

Next month is going to be cool as hell, that's for sure ;)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Teething trouble

I think we got off lightly the first couple of teeth - Gabe's been in a stinking mood for days now, crying and straining constantly.

Here's hoping his teeth arrive soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Earn that gold

After being very scared to play online (mostly due to the insane adrenaline rush that comes with a game against real opponents) I girded my loins this evening and dived back into the pain that is the gold league.

After a 5 game winning streak, I think I'm finally improving (or their balancing is making up for the crappy run of games I had earlier in the month). I'm also pleasantly surprised at the quality (socially) of the opponents. They have all, apart from a couple of exceptions, been very sporting and nice folks. New friends on the list!

Friday, September 3, 2010


Starcraft 2 continues to suck my time down. I'm absolutely loving it, and beginning to get past the adrenaline-rush induced shakes that come with playing online competitors. I've gone back to basics with my strategies, and I'm beginning to get to grips with how to play again.

Gabe is starting to stand up - he pulled himself to properly standing inside his little baby prison yesterday. Not long before he's falling over regularly. I guess we'll need to get a bannister and baby gates sorted very soon!

A couple of weeks holiday has led to some painting and hopefully a nice spot on the wall for our incoming Charlie Harper.

Life is good!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Charmed, i'm sure

After watching yet another company breeze through tens of millions of pounds to make a game that I think I'd like to play but I'm not willing to spend 30 quid a month on; and after seeing another friend end up with their last month's salary unpaid and all the shenanigans that go with losing a job, moving house, etc; I have come to the conclusion that actually, I'm a very lucky bugger.

Sure, I'm naturally talented and smart and all the ladies want to be with me. But To have a career over (nearly) a couple of decades and not to be fired or part of an operation that burns to the ground - that's a charmed life.

Jimmy, I hope it all works out for you and your lovely missus.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


No blog posts so far this month because Starcraft II is out.

I've written up a couple more posts, but they need revisiting before revealing. Soon!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Finger food

My boy is a fickle customer - he laughs a lot, but it's rare that something that amuses him one day will elicit the same giggles the next day.

Today's giggles came by gently gumming the ends of his fingers while singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". He found this absolutely hilarious.

Making your child laugh has to be one of the best pleasures life holds ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adventures in the land of functional programming, part 1

I've been programming for a long looong time now, not only in years (over 30) but in terms of a proportion of my lifespan. I've had some formal training in programming while in the beginning stages of a degree course, but the vast majority of my time spent programming has been using techniques and knowledge that I've acrued through practice. I've made many mistakes, and in the beginning at least, I rarely had anyone telling me that my approach or technique was a bad one.

To give some perspective on just how far back we're talking here, my first programming experience was on Research Machines Link 380z machines at school. My first program was intended to print the time, but I managed to put a bug into a two line program, and instead of the time it printed "Tim" over and over again. Given that's my name, I was instantly hooked. It also shows just how terrible I was at ensuring my code was correct, and that's something that's barely changed over nearly 20 years of professional programming.

I've written in a variety of languages, starting with BASIC on a ZX-81 at my dad's house, followed by BASIC on a Dragon 32 at home (and similar experience with Spectrums and Commodore machines). I modified production code written by someone else while trying to complete a game on the Dragon, and had a foray into assembly on the BBC Micro and Spectrum.

Various diversions around making music (Soundtracker and Octamed being the instruments of choice) and graphics followed, before I wrote a program to generate horoscope birth charts, which was my last non-professional step before the games industry.

Writing games is very, very different to just about any other programming persuit. The hardware is always constrained compared to any desktop machine. The expected outcome of a game is something visually stunning, audibly impressive, containing animation, effects, and a whole host of other gloss while essentially performing a simulation of a world running to some constrained set of rules, and by the time I started programming games, this was all expected to happen in real time. In other words - assuming you've got an NTSC telly, you've got exactly 1/60th of a second to figure out the result of simulating 1/60th of a second of your game world and also to draw that result.

It's incredible just how much you can achieve in that timescale (especially so with modern hardware like the PS3) but even when I was writing game code for the SEGA Genesis, if you consider games like Lemmings that emulate the behaviour of tens of critters all walking around in a world - it's pretty darned cool. Of course, to get those results (including all the shiny graphics) you had to cut every corner possible, shave every instruction from the list of instructions, and cheat like a mofo in every action you took.

To give a concrete example - when writing Shadow of the Beast for the Mega CD, instead of accurately modelling what happened when the beast responded to the jump button (how heavy is he? how fast is he moving upwards? apply gravity for 1/60th of a second ... how fast is he moving now? where is his position now?) we simply had a table of numbers which we added to his current screen height, that looked roughly like this: 7,5,4,3,2,1,2,1,0,0,-1 ... Yes, I typed that list in by hand, and tweaked it a few times till it looked right. No, it's nowhere near an accurate simulation of a velocity curve, but who's counting?

Every action in a program has a cost, in terms of how much memory it uses and how long that action takes to perform. On the earlier consoles, even things as simple as multiplying numbers was a very expensive thing to do - if you could stick with multiplying by powers of two, that was a lot cheaper. Don't even think about using floating point values! And when you've got 8 memory registers and 32k of main memory to play with, then you make damn sure you don't waste even a byte of it (and sometimes you make damn sure you're not even wasting bits).

Pretty much every one of these tricks is actually terribly bad if you look at a program in terms of how likely that program is to contain errors and bugs. Starting from questions like, Is your math correct? (obviously, no!) but leading on to, is the program performing the same actions as it was a second ago? (well, no - I just wrote some self-modifying code there because I needed to reuse the memory, so it's definitely not). Is the data in memory you just created from that calculation the same as it was a second ago? (well, no - I re-used that memory to do something totally different a few milliseconds back.) Does that function give the same results when you give it the same input? (it should, but it doesn't - because that global variable there got changed by some other function elsewhere and now it makes the result twice as big).

Over the years, I've moved from simple to complex to insanely complex hardware, and from teams of one or two people to teams of 50 people. The largest programming team I've worked on had over 100 people actively changing code during the last couple of weeks of crunch.

The resulting code is a mess. Elegant? - sure. Fantastically clever? - sure. Brilliantly constructed given the constraints? always.

Correct? Never.

Every single game I've ever worked on had at least one bug in it when it shipped. Some have hundreds or thousands.

Of course, you can blame my lack of skillz as a programmer (and indeed many people have!) but ultimately the reason these bugs are there is twofold. First, the techniques and methods used to write the software mean the bugs are possible. Second, the techniques and methods used to write the software mean the bugs are mostly invisible except under certain circumstances.

There has to be a better way, surely?

If you're expecting an unequivocal yes, then you've obviously never written a program before. But there's options. See part two of this series for more details.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

One world, idiots

I bought myself a really tasty piece of kit this week, a Korg NanoKontrol. this little beauty lets me control various aspects of music via sliders, knobs and buttons while I play, and allows me to add expression to what is otherwise fairly automated music creation.

In the package I also recieved a coupon to get money off Ableton Live, which seems to be a fantastic piece of sequencing and performance software. I've been demoing it for a few days, and thought, why not? I'll see how much money the coupon gives me off.

So, I go to the Ableton shop, and find that I can buy their Ableton Intro package for 99 dollars or 99 Euros. Given that I'm downloading it, I'll take the 99 dollars, thanks! (A quick google shows that one Euro today is worth around 1.18 dollars). I then have the revelation that the coupon will either grant me 30 Euros off, or 50 dollars off.

Obviously, thinks I, this is a no-brainer! I'll buy Ableton Intro for 49 USD, I get some software, Ableton get a sale, everyone's happy! So I enter all my details.

At which point the website decides that I'll be paying in Euros instead, and reprices the coupon to 30 Euros rebate instead of 50 dollars, taking the grand total from £32 to £58.

Erm, no. No thanks. I'm not giving you twice as much money on a whim just because I live somewhere else in the world - we're talking about SOFTWARE.

So, no sale. Sorry Ableton - you had me on the hook, you had me putting the virtual box into my virtual shopping cart, you virtually had a sale - but you lost it at the last hurdle.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Where does the week go?

I started this week with good intentions, and ended up spending most of my time writing music and playing with my new NanoKontrol.

Still, I managed to get the cable run sorted from downstairs to up, even if I didn't manage to get anything under voice control yet. I'm not too far off!

It's amazing how fast a week goes ...

Monday, July 12, 2010

All tied up

A week on holiday brings with it a clear horizon and the promise of getting stuck in to all the work I've been thinking (and talking) about for the last six months.

I've got a spool of cat5 waiting to be put to good use and some cable trunking. Next up, I need to figure out where to drill and which floorboards to lift, both upstairs and down. I'd like to have some neat RJ45 sockets linking the upstairs and downstairs, and I'm also thinking of putting a media/compute server somewhere out of the way and that's probably going to mean I need to get some power and network cables under the stairs.

I've also made good progress on getting some hooks into the Microsoft Speech API - PySpeech looks like it'll do most of what I want, although I'm not sure if I can feed off the voice recogniser without it interacting with the operating system at the same time. The accuracy seems good for phrased dictation, but not so great for single word command sequences which may screw with my plans. I might have to break my command strings into discrete flows and make each stage gate on a selection of similar sounding words. I'm also unsure of how it interacts with different speakers.

Hopefully by the end of the week I'll have the infrastructure in place to voicerec from the bedrooms and the living room, and possibly one item in the house under voicerec control - I'm thinking of starting with an IR transmitter for the various media boxes. TIRA and USB-UIRT both look viable, although I've yet to find a UK reseller. If anyone knows of an alternative option please enlighten me - I'm basically looking for a transmitter/reciever box that connects via USB and has some form of programming API, with the intention of recording button presses on my existing remotes and playing them back to control my satellite and tellybox.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Every week has one WTF in it

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

although my weekly WTF frequency is considerably higher now Gabe's around.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Local minima

There's a guy who lives over the road from us. Even though we've been living here 6 months, he's never bothered calling, welcoming us to the neighbourhood, anything like that.

He's quite happy to park outside my house, tho. Rather than reverse into his own space, he'd rather drive forwards into the double space outside my house and park in the middle of the two.

That's about as lazy as you can get.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And justice for all

the Finns have just declared that broadband is a legal right for every citizen.

This may seem like fantastic news, but on closer inspection one has to wonder if it will simply mean more people spouting pointless trash on Facebook.

Still, the future starts here and all that. Good for you, Finland!

Leadership and solitude

I stumbled today across an interesting lecture given to students at West Point earlier this year.

I should probably get a copy of Heart of Darkness, I've not read it yet.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Faster pussycat

Virgin are now trialing speeds via DOCSIS 3 of over 100Mb/s (and touting 400Mb/s as feasible). I'm torn.

On the one hand, these kinds of speeds are exactly what the modern internet is waiting for. By modern internet, I mean a couple of simulaneous high-definition media streams (for comparison, BD bit rates are around 40Mb/s). One isn't enough? I hear you ask - but in my house there's two of us, and occasionally we'd like to watch different content at the same time. Alongside this, a couple of torrents or background tasks soaking up another 20-50Mb/s seems perfectly reasonable to me - not all the time, just some of the time. A sustainable peak 100Mb/s looks like nice headroom for bursty usage that occasionally gets close to that - after all, you'd not expect to drive a car that struggled to hit 70 mph, would you? Honestly, I manage just fine on my "lucky to hit 5Mb/s" connection, just like I manage ok on my pushbike even though my car can top a ton with ease. A 100Mb/s net feed would be like heaven.

On the other hand, the fact it's Virgin fills me with dread. Their AUP and traffic management policy both suck, along with their happiness to give your details to all and sundry while running deep packet inspection on your traffic. Shudder. Let's take their current "XL" 20Mb/s service as an example. If you take their traffic cap in the evenings - 3.5GB before they drop the throttle to restrict your network performance by 75% -  you can max out your connection for the grand total of 24 minutes before they choke your internet for 5 hours. 3.5GB is a lot of data, you say? Sure - but if you're getting an HD feed at BD bit rates, that's 12 minutes of your movie and then you're gasping for bandwidth.

One would hope that on faster lines, their traffic caps would rise (and indeed on their peak XXL product, there's no traffic caps - hooray! but every other plan has one - boo!). However, at this point the numbers just start looking ridiculous. What *is* a reasonable cap when your bandwidth is 100Mb/s? is it 5GB in one block? 10GB? 50GB? Just what the hell are you going to be doing with all that data anyway?

The obvious answer to this question is - binning local storage, and treating the net as a media library. Which is the ultimate end game here, let's be honest. Physical media and local media storage just don't make sense when you can have what you want, when you want, where you want - and who wouldn't want that? Local temporal cache - sure. Plastic disks or tape cassettes? No thanks, I've got boxes of the damn things in my loft.

The real paradigm shifter isn't consumer behaviour though. It's producer behaviour. Always-on video feed from home to wherever you are. Sharing your local CPU resource with the cloud (and potentially monetising that CPU dead time). Acting as a legitimate seed point in a distributed file system. Participating. This is what your machine (or local network) will be doing once everyone has always on connections that approach fractions of a gigabit every second. This is the cool shiznit, and it's not far off.

Of course, the chances of me getting it any time soon are non-existent - from recent experience, I have enough negative telecoms karma to cause any order I place to vanish into another dimension. At least I'll get to watch other folks use the internet like we've always dreamed it would be.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New balls please!

After watching the Mahut - Isner match for a few hours, which is now heading into a third day 
One can't fail but be hugely impressed by their sheer stamina and dedication. They've nearly put as much time into that game as we used to put into a full Kara run when we started playing!

Great to watch, and probably a good place to stop - I'm sure there were a lot of folks in the crowd who needed a wee, a pint and some strawberries.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Teeth and wisdom

I'm not exactly sure what the definition of wisdom teeth is (and no, I'm not going to wiki to look it up, that would be both cheating and a buzzkill).

Gabe's first tooth is now protruding far enough out of his gum to give you a nasty nip when he bites down. it's not particularly visible, but damn can you feel it.

Given teeth and wisdom go hand in hand (or at least, one hopes they do), here are a couple of links to wisdom for Gabe to read when he's older.

May he be as wise in life as I was stupid, and may he never fall flat on his face because he wanted to hold onto a cigarette and a pint of beer more than he wanted to protect his good looks.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chinese blog spam

When will it ever end? As a father, won't someone please think of the children?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Opening one's eyes

Tonight has been one of those serendipitous occasions where everything one reads is relevant to one's current situation.

Thank you, Fark, for providing exactly the thread I needed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Easy life

Chores done, clothes put away, dishes clean, garden watered, recycling sorted.

Tune created, Prince of Persia and Metal Gear 4 sampled.

Easy life!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How to say Incompetent in six easy downpayments

Addendum - Again, after speaking to Colin and David in customer services, they have resolved this issue (and this time within 15 minutes of me contacting them!). These guys rock. If only the rest of the BT customer services could be as effective. 

After the exemplary treatment I've had at the hands of the BT special division who can actually speak english and are obviously based somewhere near this country, I thought I'd keep my bile in check, but seriously - this is beyond a joke.

British Telecom - you are evidently run by a malicious computer with no regard for human feelings. Because if you're not, the alternative is too ridiculous to comprehend.


If you are, then they're doing a fine job.

If you are not (and I honestly hope to god you're not) then WHAT THE HELL.

so after the total trauma that was moving house (see parts one and two here), I thought that since, you know, we actually had a phone line, that would be the end of the worries.

No, says BT. I will ensure that you are totally dissatisfied with the experience. So although I paid for all associated charges and the like, three months ago I got my phone line disconnected. When I finally managed to get through to someone in Bangalore or wherever the hell the BRITISH Telecom (the hint should be in the name, surely) customer services department was, they informed me that I had missed a bill and was late paying it, and had consequently disconnected my line.

Which bill, says I?

The one that we sent yesterday, says the CS rep.

You do realise that we don't have teleporters for the postal service here in England, says I? I haven't even seen the bill yet? and it's Sunday? The post won't arrive until tomorrow at the earliest? Am I making a shred of sense here?

Oh, I understand that, Sir, says the CS rep. However, you were late paying for the line connection charge on your last quarter too, which is why we've disconnected the line.

This is, of course, the line connection charge that had already been waived because I WAS MOVING HOUSE AND THE ONLY REASON FOR CONNECTING A NEW LINE WAS BECAUSE ... WELL ... I HAVE NO GODDAMNED IDEA. But regardless of the logic behind it, I didn't owe any money at all at this point. Having the phone line disconnected was slightly frustrating, to say the least.

Various calls to India in vain,  but a direct call to the folks who originally helped me install the line and the issue was (I believed) resolved, and the line reconnected.

(As an aside - the internet was working just fine during this debacle.)

So this quarter's bill has just arrived. and on THIS bill, I've been charged for late payment (£7.50) and an "other one off charge" - £17.62 for reconnecting the line after the disconnection.

you've just charged me £25 quid because you're incompetent, and obviously have no way of tracking why, when or how any of the actions you take occur. All of the relevant details are in your files. So why charge me? Am I a problem customer? Did I do something to someone in BT in a former life that I'm not aware of?

Assuming that something dubious would happen this quarter, I'd overpaid my bill (I'm not sure if I'd paid 10 or 20 pounds, but I wanted to ensure I was in credit to stop any line disconnections this time around). I guess I'm too much of a cheapskate when it comes to being in credit.

This is not a huge amount of money. I will not starve this month if I need to pay an extra 25 pounds. I will, however, be cancelling the service just as soon as I possibly can because you know what? I'm furious. I'm actually furious. I'm paying for a telephone service that I hardly ever use simply so I can get ADSL and it's raising my blood pressure and shortening my life expectancy, and nothing is worth that.

(Edits have occurred to remove swearing ... I should know better, really.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Moral lessons for my child, part three

I think this is the third one - I forget. One, many, ...

Anywho. Gabriel, here's another sparkling lesson for you to learn once you're old enough to read.

Happiness comes from within.

Sure, you can buy experiences that will make you happy for a short while (in a variety of forms) - but if you're not happy in general, buying things won't fix that. In fact, it's likely to make it worse, especially if you go into debt (even for a day) to get that fix of whatever.

If you want to be truly happy, be comfortable with your own company. The easiest way to do that is to be honest and decent with those around you - treat people with respect. That way, you'll find that you don't stay awake at night worrying about things you did or said. You should be able to spend a day alone without feeling wierd about it, and you should be able to do things on your own; make a phone call, go shopping, see a movie. Sure, doing those things with company is more fun - but if you can't manage it with just yourself as your crowd, then you'll never be truly happy.

If you want to be truly happy, make sure you can live with the regret you'll get from something that could go wrong. If you can deal with the consequences, do the deed! Never be afraid of taking a chance - but always think it through first. I have plenty of regrets, but if I had to do things again I doubt I'd do much differently. It's better to regret the things you have done than the things you haven't.

If you want to be truly happy, then find the happiness within yourself and give it to others. Even if they don't want to share it with you, it doesn't cost you much.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


plagiarised directly from a comment by KingOfTheMoon on Slashdot.

For anyone who is interested in working in my industry - if you can't trot this out (in the language of your choice) then you might be better looking elsewhere.

    UP VAR!!1
        I HAS A ANZER ITZ ""

           YA RLY ANZER "Fizz"


           YA RLY
              VISIBLE VAR
           NO WAI
              VISIBLE ANZER




Saturday, April 24, 2010


When men were originally figuring out civilisation, democracy was as much an experiment as a process. In Athens, males who had earned the right to vote were citizens, and all citizens were expected to participate in the governance of the people. Important posts were filled from the pool of citizens by lot - effectively removing all of the ridiculous expensive machinations that we see in our political machinery in the UK today. Anyone who was interested could be involved, but being interested didn't start you on the road to overwhelming power or control over your fellow man - it simply meant that your voice was relevant.

We've lost many aspects of true democracy in our current electoral system. Most British citizens have a vague understanding who represents them. Most British citizens probably don't know what their representative stands for, or if indeed they actually represent their views. Most laws are discussed by some minority of the total Representatives. Most Representatives vote along the lines their party dictates, rather than with the majority view of the people they represent. Most laws are aggregates of confusing, and potentially totally orthogonal, legislation - often bundles of smaller rulings to one end with something unrelated slipped in there that goes under the radar.

Given the way they vote, given that there is absolutely no demand of accountability (i.e. checking that when they vote they vote for you) - is it any wonder that our political system is mostly steered and fought for by moneyed interests and the media? Do you have the time and effort to put into trying, single handled, to steer a political agenda?

I think there are better ways to run a society. Technology has the potential to be an enabler of a true direct democratic process. It has the ability to inform and corral results with no bias, and it has the ability to provide a platform where any relevant voice can be both heard and counted.

I'll be putting some effort into establishing my vision of that platform over the coming year. If you're interested in helping, please get in touch.

(Addendum - the gender bias in this post is pretty evident on second reading, which is both of historic interest and something I find disagreeable. rest assured I believe that men and women should have an equal voice in society.)

Stepping away from the surf and setting up on the beach towel

My wife and myself are taking a break from Facebook - partly because it's a vampyric timesuck nightmare with very little payoff, and partly because it has all of the drawbacks of being at a large party and none of the benefits. Of the various time sinks I've "invested" in (recognising that something to which you devote time for no tangible reward can hardly be termed an investment) it's probably the worst - at least with WoW I was levelling up.

The weather here is about as fantastic as one could hope, and we have an adorable son who is becoming more interactive and vocal day by day. Spending time with him really is an investment. I'm hopeful we can do more of that and less of the internet trawling.

Monday, April 5, 2010

War is not a game

Wikileaks today released unedited footage from a gun camera of what is described as an Apache helicopter.

The craft opened fire on a group of 8 men, killing all but one. That man attempted to crawl away, and was very nearly removed from the scene by a black van. Before his rescuers could get him in the van, the helicopter opens fire again, destroying the van and killing some of the occupants.

Listening to the comms chatter reminds me of some of the more gory games of Modern Warfare or Planetside I've played, and were it a game, I could empathise with the testosterone, fury and hatred that's evident in the video.

It's not a game. It's footage of an event that occured in 2007. Two Reuters journalists were killed by the american forces captured in the footage, and children in the van were injured (and were incredibly lucky not to be killed). The other civilians in the footage were not so lucky.

To see this kind of footage live is disturbing - not so much because of the actual video content, I've seen that and worse many times before in virtual environments. No, the most disturbing content is that these are people - real people - and those responsible for killing them are treating them as much less than that - they are treating them as targets, as some "unknown enemy". They talk about the victims, before during and after the shooting, with a complete lack of respect. They glory in the murders they commit.

Regardless of the justifications and motivations for this invasion, one has to watch this footage and appreciate that this is, ultimately, the end result of paying people to kill each other and giving them guns and bullets to do it with. People die. Real people die. there will always be collateral damage. There will always be mistakes. There will always be bloodthirsty angry men willing to direct harm and anger at people they don't know, to justify that act later as "the right thing to do".

One has to also wonder - why was this event covered up, and blatantly lied about by the forces in charge? If they lied about this, how can you ever trust them when they describe all of the other events in Iraq; or indeed every other war they have engaged in? This is not a new event - covering up mistakes and process is just about standard practice with most militaries these days. 

Here's some links for posterity - I suggest you only watch if you have a strong constitution.

Wikileaks has been persuing this video for a while now (weeks at least, but most likely months) - why has no other newspaper, reporting service or reputable mainstream media provider not been trying to uncover the same information? What has stopped them from digging?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Other Operating System

I own a PS3, which on balance is a fantastic piece of kit. I really don't watch BluRay movies much, but I play a lot of games and I watch a hell of a lot of TV, mostly streamed off the network from my PC (and shortly from my media server once I get one set up).

For anyone who still watches broadcast telly - you have no idea how fantastic on-demand TV is. Watching a season of something to catchup is just bloody brilliant, and movies on demand just can't be beat either. Of course, this being the UK, it's virtually impossible for me to legitimately pay for a service that provides the experience I currently enjoy (either streamed via my PC, or directly to my PS3). I'm sure it'll arrive in the next couple of years (most likely in some form similar to Hulu and Netflix ).

I also enjoy listening to Spotify - i'm incredibly close to being a paid-up subscriber. If I could get it on my PS3, then I'd pay tomorrow. (and by PS3, really all I mean here is "on my telly box what lives downstairs").

Fundamentally then, I have a supercomputer acting as an audio and visual media server connected to my lovely big plasma, and all is (very nearly) good.

All i'm really missing is a VNC connection back to my PC, and a few other nice web utilities. I should be able to do most of this via the PS3 browser, but in daily use it's great for - well, browsing, and not much else. It's certainly not functional as a web platform - crappy flash support, no HTML5, etc. What it does have (for the next day or two!) is the ability to install another operating system (basically, some flavour of linux).

Finally biting the bullet last week, I prepped my PS3 for installing Linux so I could use a decent browser, get VNC support, and all the other pleasures of a proper operating system on my tellybox. I forked out 50 quid for a nice mini bluetooth keyboard/trackpad combo. I really was super-looking-forward to this.

And then just before April Fool's day, Sony decide to remove support for Other OS.

If only this was an April Fool story. It might even have been mildly amusing.

The justification appears to be that Sony are worried about piracy on their console, and consider the ability to launch another operating system a security risk. What they seem to have missed is that although there is an outside chance that this could be used to break the security on their platform, there is a very large installed base of users who actively run Linux on their machines for a variety of reasons, pretty much all of which are perfectly legal and reasonable (for example, academic research).

So, I've gone ahead and installed Linux before I take the plunge and remove the ability forever from my system, just to see what I'll be missing. Shame on you, Sony. Most definitely not shiny.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

For the future

Two posts to come some point in the future - early vs late (and the work/life/time implications of this) and moral lessons for my child part two.


With age, comes great forgetfulness.

I would very much like to carry a notebook, ideally one that read my thoughts without any transcription effort. I've had 10 good ideas this week and only had the opportunity to capture two on paper.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The fucking music industry

This rant is for you, Mrs Pepper. 

All you music industry leeches, just fuck off and die. Seriously.

Music costs fucking NOTHING to make and NOTHING to distribute. I know, I've done it. I have a CD out there from my younger days that 5 FUCKING MILLION people bought. All told, I paid a couple of hundred quid for the hardware and it took me a few weeks to write and record.

Do you see me moaning and bitching that people could possibly listen to those tracks? NO! I got a real fucking job and earn my ongoing wage through continued hard work and effort.

People whistle a tune, do you want to fucking CHARGE them for it? People like a tune you've made, does that mean you get a free ride forever?

Not any more, you fucking leeches. Too late, you missed the boat to change your business model. Keep your manufactured Pop Idol dross, keep your new signings that no-one wanted to listen to in the first place, keep your payola radio slots, keep your fucking tedious repetitive heard-it-all-before stable of five thousand artists who all sound the fucking same.

Apparently Panorama tonight was about the music industry. I haven't seen it, but I bet Simon Cowell or Louis fucking Walsh was on there moaning about how they are not rich enough. Fuck off.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bounce bounce bounce

Bounce bounce bounce!
Bounce bounce bounce!
Bounce bounce bounce!
Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce.

this is Gabe's favourite song this afternoon, sung in time to the bouncy chair going up and down.

If you wish to sing along : C E G, C E G, C E G, hi-C A G F E D C.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I don't owe you anything, internet guy

I visit a variety of web-developer type blogs and news sites over the course of my average week, and there's a repeated theme (which ties into all this ACTA and digital economy furore over the last couple of months) which goes like this:

"Ad-blocking is bad. I make my living off you seeing my ads."

Pardon me, internet guy, but I don't owe you anything. Not one red cent. If I want to improve my browsing experience by refusing to download your adverts, that's my business and my business alone.

If you don't want me to see your content, don't publish it on the internet.

If you don't want me visiting your site because the traffic costs are too expensive for you, then put in a paywall. You will immediately benefit in the reduction of traffic costs because chances are very high I'll not be back.

If you want to publish content, and attempt to make a living off that (and it's possible, I've seen many people who do) then great - go for your life. Don't think that gives you a right to dictate how I use the internet. If you can't make a living because people are not clicking on your adverts, that is your problem not mine. If putting your content out there is too expensive for you or is not making you the money you want ... change your business model.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The affordability of being

If you live in the UK, then elections are (finally) looming. I say finally, because we've been in the power of an unelected leader for the last couple of years, which stinks of every bad kind of politics there is. Much as I loathe Gordon Brown and everything he's done to set this country down the path to destruction over the last decade, at least we'll have the chance to rectify it.

Of course, that relies on everyone making the effort - making a statement, and (I guess, if one is to subscribe to our outdated and notably ineffectual and feeble electoral system) making a vote.

I'm strong in my political beliefs, and I think fairly well informed. I'll certainly not be voting for Labour or Conservative. This will probably render my voice mute, but short of wholesale destruction casting a vote is the only way to be counted.

Are you informed? Do you know where our money goes? do you know who your local MP is? Do you know what they stand for, and whether they come close to representing your views when you vote for them?

If you don't, here are some links that you will hopefully find enlightening. Use at your discretion.

Look here for budget info (
Look here to find out about your MP, including their voting record (

I'm not going to attempt to sway your vote, but in the name of the noodly one, please be informed about your choice. Make it count for the right reasons.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Body of evidence

When I was younger, I'm pretty sure my mother and father took a multitude of photographs, and most likely some video, of myself and my older brother. As far as I can ascertain, very little evidence of these media exist. I do have memories of my father running slide shows, and I know that my stepfather was interested in photography at various points in our youth. Where did these vanish to? Are they stuck somewhere in albums, boxed in a loft? Have they been jettisoned as irrelevant artifacts of our younger lives?

I'd like to think that those images would have value to myself and my family as time goes on. The older I become, the more value I place on my place in the world and my story within it. Scattered moments of staring at family albums when I was 12, feeling persecuted and terribly embarrassed, would probably hold huge emotional relevance to me today.

Gabriel will, for better or worse, most likely not face that fate - unless the interwebs and society as know it change fairly radically, or Flickr / Picasa / Facebook suddenly decide that the cents worth of disk space I hold from them in exchange for targetting their adverts is actually considerably less valuable than now. Most likely he'll come of age in a time where all the photographs, video, audio and other media that we've captured of him will persist in some form that will literally be embarassingly easy to find. Creating that media is as trivial as it has ever been, indexing it slightly less trivial but still not a terribly onerous task.

To parallel the effort I'd have to put in to discover my former selves captured in chemicals, I'm going to forgo providing any links. Gabriel, if you're reading this - it's all on the internet somewhere ;)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Prune juice

I think an explosion is imminent.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Babies and the common cold don't mix

My son Gabriel has had the pleasure of a cold for the last week, and it's certainly made him a miserable little bugger. And who can blame him - I've had (one assumes) the same cold, and it's made me a miserable big bugger, along with laying me out for the weekend. If my mother had not been visiting, I think we'd have had the archetypal weekend from hell.

Two things have been cycling through my addled brain all weekend. One - who the hell did I catch the cold from? Two - what is it that makes it socially acceptable to go out amongst the masses and spread your fsking plague germs around so that I end up catching your lurgy?

There's a few culprits, starting with my wife's mother who was so desparate to see her new grandchild that she came to the post natal ward in a flu mask "so that she wouldn't spread her cold". Not subtle! Then there's the selection of scummers and vagrants who travel on my beloved no. 50 into the centre of Brighton. Coughing your lungs up over the seats in front of you seems to be jeu du jour.

Of course, even in my workplace which is populated with intelligent hardworking folks, there's a collection of people who simply must attend even though they are visibly leaking fluids.

One would surmise that the elementary mathematics (1 person off for 5 days = 5 days of productivity lost; 1 person off 2 days, spreads cold to remaining 30 staff, who are each off for two days before struggling back in to work = 62 days of productivity lost) would be enough to persuade firms to persuade their employees to stay the hell away.

Are the lemsip adverts really that convincing? or is it the stories of doom and gloom in the Daily Mail about how many millions of pounds are lost every year to people pulling sickies?

Whatever the reason, one of you bastards gave me and my son their cold. Shame on you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Junk DNA is IP circumvention

Postulate one: while in the process of copying (or otherwise cloning) coded media, one can state that some minimal subset of the whole (not necessarily a workable subset of the whole) cannot constitute a meaningful proportion of the original media, meaning that it cannot be classed as a copy. Take the canonical case of a single bit of a movie file. At some point, the sliding window will represent some meaningful proportion of the original work, much like a collection of grains of sand becomes a heap, but there is established law in many societies that dictates fair use cases of subsets of media considerably larger than a single bit.

Postulate two: one can create a second work, larger than the original coded media, but containing the original coded media. If large enough, the original coded media can be contained in a form that is difficult or expensive to extract without relevant information, and potentially virtually invisible without relevant information.

Postulate three: if one exposes the entirety of the second work, yet restricts the relevant result of a copy or clone to only the sections of the media that correspond to the first work, then one can be said to have not copied the second work at all (by only allowing a restictive selection) but actually given access to the entirety of the first work.

Is junk DNA an IP circumvention mechanism?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What the hell are you all afraid of?

According to security services, a terrorist attack is highly likely.

Where? no idea.
When? no idea.
Who? no idea.
Why? no idea.


after all, you might see something suspicious and foil a terrorist plot all on your own.

What the hell is the point of this story? What the hell is the point of this supposed terrorist threat scale? Why does the government want us to live in a state of fear?

Answers on a postcard please.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A week in the life of

The last week has been pretty crazy, to say the least. I'm utterly in love with this new little man in my life, although I have to say the crying thing really isn't my cup of tea. What are my cup of tea are all the other little noises, the twitches, the bemused looks. When he lies staring at me while I rub his feet.

Gabriel is a boob demon, and while we're not trying to establish patterns just yet, we're noting down when he feeds (mostly to check he's getting enough and that Nic gets some rest when she can). Today he fed twice overnight, and is now heading up for his "every hour and a half" routine that he has been in the last couple of days.

I'm a lot more relaxed than I thought I'd be, and even (dare I say it) less tired. Nic is still pretty exhausted, but she's slowly learning to sleep when he sleeps and snatch the occasional 30 minutes or so when I can keep him occupied when he's awake. It's a learning game for everyone, I guess.

We both had a moment a few days ago - myself on Wednesday, Nic on Thursday - where we were sleeping with him in our arms and fell asleep ourselves, to wake up to a soundly sleeping baby. Both of us instantly went into panic mode - "Oh my god, the baby isn't breathing" - And then realised that actually, he was just fine - super snug, in fact. I think that's the first step down the road of not being terrified that he's going to die every waking moment. Hopefully we can continue down that road as he gets older!

The start of the last week was just hideous. Nic's labour was long, ended in an episiotomy and a nasty tear and a forcep delivery when we'd hoped for (but not explicitly demanded!) a c-section after the first few hours proved a very labourious (if you'll pardon the pun) exercise. I have a feeling that Royal Essex County were running at, and possibly well past, capacity on the day Gabe was born, as the moment he was born pretty much everyone vanished from the room, and we were basically left to our selves for the next day.

When we did finally move downstairs to the post-natal ward, instead of the private room we'd been promised the day earlier we ended up on the ward with three other mothers rotating in and out of the beds around Nicky. No space, very little privacy, constant noise, and hardly any staff around to help out with the process of moving Nicky out of hospital and back home. She was getting no sleep at all over the nights, and was only managing to sleep when I came in to hospital and walked Gabe around. Of course, this being brighton, fathers have to go home at 8.30pm and are not allowed back in to visit till 10am the next day, so Nic put up with three days of this before finally flipping.

The last day in hospital was simply ridiculous. We demanded to leave, and it took the entire day (from 9am to 6pm) to arrange Nic's medication, have a doctor finally come and check over Gabriel (yes, three days after he was born!) and to sign the paperwork. All available midwives appeared to be in triage mode, and it looks like teaching new mothers to breastfeed is higher up the priority list than organising and signing discharge papers. Eventually I had to collar a midwife and follow her around until she sighed, went into the office, signed a piece of paper and gave it to me.

When we finally got home, Nic was super-emotional (understandably) but got a few hours sleep in between feeding, and excepting the occasional crazy moment she's been steadily improving sleepwise and moodwise up to today. We even had visitors yesterday, which with Jay and Sal was ok, but with Nic's sister and kids - well, just a bit too much stimulation I think.

I'm now proficient at sip-feeding, bottle-feeding and changing shitty nappies. like Jason said, it's really not so bad after you've done it once - it becomes more a routine thing.

And the boy himself? he's just wonderful. he's noticably more alert today than last week, very energetic, and hasn't lost any weight between birth and today. he eats incessantly - we put him on a bottle of expressed milk last night to give Nicky a break, and he ate and ate and ate, well past the point of full, then spat a load of it up on my T-Shirt before demanding more boob from mother. Wonderful stuff!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I have a son!

The last 48 hours have been a combination of the most boring, exciting,scary, fantastic, revealing moments in my life. literally minute to minute things changed, and while my wife suffered through a fairly hideous labour, the end result is beyond belief.

I'll post later on the more mundane revelations of the whole affair; of which there were many, including the sudden change in midwife process from pre to post birth, the neighbour in the post ward with her 6th spawn ("11 if you include my partner") and the ridiculousness that two inches of snow brings to life.

However, today is the birthday of my firstborn. Here's to you, my excellent son.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snow day

I love snow, and we've had another dose of it. I wish I was on holiday.

While the council didn't manage to grit our road, at least they've been kind enough to deposit a pile of grit at the bottom of the hill for residents to use.

I hope it clears before the baby decides to come, otherwise we're in for an interesting trip to the hospital...