tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Collapsing the waveform

Work is decreasing as projects finish, or at least phase ones complete. The Essential Business Guide is up, although I have some more work coming up on it. The p2b Brighton and Hove search engine has just gone up, so if you look now you can get a sneak preview before the formal launch tomorrow.

I got the CUHP links pages up today, and some amends for another project that should soft launch tomorrow or on Friday. In fact I managed to get a hell of a lot done today, and make the full Farm meeting. I'm just hoping I can get some decent relaxing in over the weekend... War of the Worlds has opened and I haven't seen Batman Begins, so it looks like some Hollywood stupidity might be on the cards, and some bike riding if I can get my damned gear cable adjusted properly (thanks for the advice, Alex)

Tomorrow is another full day, with a load of work booked, the p2b launch, and a Brighton Bloggers meet in the evening. I think what I'm doing is not so much burning the candle from both ends, but melting a nice new dent in the middle as well.

Biting off more than I can chew

The month has been a bit of a mess, work-wise. I've been working on three major projects and several minor ones, which is great, but I've both mis-managed my own time and allowed it to be mis-managed by others extending what they want, which isn't.

Added to this, due to lack of cashflow from previous months work (partly due to them over-extending, and one project that has fallen to bits because of others working on it) I wasn't able to go to my friend Nick's wedding, which was no doubt what's known colloquially as "a fucking blast" and I'd have loved to go to partly for the massive party afterwards and partly to see Nick and meet his fiance/now wife.

Instead I'm working through weekends, not getting enough relaxing in, and not getting to bill on projects that haven't quite finished yet. Over the next couple of weeks I need to clear off the work that's hanging around, exert some control over clients who keep extending briefs, and generally sort my life out so I can get a break in and enjoy the sun.

Normally, I'm not too bad at balancing what's happening in projects. Hopefully having a break will let me catch up on my sleep and re-exert some sensible behaviour on what I'm doing, and also what I can and can't do for the people I'm working for.

One reason why Google is better than Yahoo

A few minutes ago I was trying to look up an odd term which describes how the eye adapts to low light conditions.

I knew it was called something like the 'pkunje shift' but I couldn't remember the exact spelling, and I couldn't find it in the index of Bruce & Green's 'Visual Perception', so I searched for the rough spelling...

I tried on Yahoo and couldn't find anything, no doubt due to my bad spelling. On the off-chance I tried on Google and up comes the correct spelling as a suggestion: 'Did you mean: purkinje shift'

Now that's a pretty damned good spell checker tool, picking up on an obscure phrase from neuroscience and matching it with my badly spelt version. Yahoo is a good portal, but it's still got a way to go with all the little things that help make searching easy.

Glastonbury will have wi-fi

I'm not off to Glastonbury, but my landlord is, and he's taking the internet with him...

Moving Edge are wiring the festival to the internet, and local free wi-fi group Pier to Pier are connecting up the fields with wi-fi so concert goers will be able to access the internet from their tent / mud warren (delete as applicable.) Richard's part of both and I'm sure he's fitting in looking forwards to it between equipment tests and running around getting baby-sized tents.

Personally, I'd rather leave the computer at home when going to something like Glasto, but for internet addicts it'll be a boon, and I'm sure something cool will come out of having a connection in a relatively anarchic area.

Online petitions

The earlier online-petition-against-online-petition is a great comment on how pointless most online petitions are. I think they have no affect on the people they are trying to influence as it's too easy to sign up to one multiple times, and two minutes out of the day of someone sitting in front of a computer for nine hours isn't exactly a lot of effort.

However, I hope the on-running pledge against ID cards in the UK will be taken seriously. It is trying to show how many people do not want an ID card, and who will also resist it being brought in, both by passive action - not signing up for one - and also positive action - donating to a legal fund to fight the cards.

They have 4,034 people signed up at the moment. If you live in Britain, don't want an ID card and you feel strongly enough to donate to the cause, I urge you to sign up. You do not have to have your name on the public list if you don't want to. This is a way to help convince politicians to think again about voting ID cards and centralised databases in to being, a plan that has many faults and few positives for the British population.

Clarkson

Apparently Oxford Brookes University want to give outspoken car journalist Jeremy Clarkson an honorary degree. Someone has set up a petition against this on one of the proliferating petition sites out there. This is apparently because of Jeremy's views on "social responsibility and stewardship of environmental and public resources"

Someone posting this to the BNM list has caused Olly to set up a petition against the petition

Having looked at the signatories of the original petition, you could hardly call all of them serious, but I've still put my name down on the petition against the petition. I may not agree with everything Mr Clarkson says, but I like the way he thumbs his nose at the politically correct brigade and is happy to say that, yes, driving V8s is fun!

F1 at Indianapolis 2005 = farce

The Formula One race in Indianapolis has just started, with fourteen of the twenty race cars pulling off in to the pits to retire at the end of the parade lap. We have Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi still in the race.

This is because Michelin, who provide the tyres for all the cars that have retired, brought a batch of tyres for the weekend that turn out to be dangerous on the high speed corner which is a feature of the lap. They wanted to either use a different batch of tyres, or have an extra chicane added to the track - or at least that's what's being reported. They sent a letter to the teams saying not to race on the tyres, so the teams now can't, partly due to the highly litigious nature of America - if there's an accident due to the tyres and someone gets hurt, the team will be liable for the accident.

So... three teams 'racing', two of them by far the slowest on the grid. Good for Minardi and Jordan's advertisers, not good for all the fans in the stadium who've paid a lot of money to be there, and not good for the TV advertisers, as people will be turning off all over the world.

Although Michelin should be punished due to their poor engineering, apparently partly due to the new 'diamond cut' surface of the race track, this has made the whole sport look silly (well, even more silly than the silliness inherant in twenty grown men risking their lives racing each other in souped up cars.)

All that will happen now is F1 will be slated in America, and lots of fans have missed out on entertainment. It seems many of the people involved have forgotten what pays for the sport, and what makes it a sport to begin with. The word 'farce' is being bandied about in the interviews, and that sums up the situation perfectly.

Client mention on telly

Whilst watching Top Gear last night I was surprised to hear Jeremy Clarkson mention one of my clients, a hotel in Chipping Norton which used to be owned by Keith Moon.

Being waved at by a tall, hairy journo as he scoots past in a fancy car might not be the best endorsement in the world, but I'm sure they won't have minded the mention.

Apples goes Intel for Macs

As mentioned all over the place (e.g. news.com) Apple is doing a deal with Intel to use Intel's processor chips in Macs from mid next year onwards.

This has caused quite a bit of fuss with some people. Lots of people seem to think this means OS X will run on any PC. This ignores quite a lot of the difference between a PC and Mac. The Mac has a different motherboard, and it can continue to have a custom motherboard in the future, including chips that OS X will need to be there before it will work.

One of the great advantages to owning a Mac is that it is a locked platform. When I was younger I thought this was a disadvantage, and it was. I could mix and match parts from many different manufacturers to get the cheapest deal possible and still get a modern PC at the end of it. Macs all came from one manufacturer, which meant the maker could keep the price relatively high.

But once I could afford one and tried it, my attitude changed somewhat. A locked platform means no real driver problems - the people writing the drivers know exactly which hardware (or range of hardware) is inside the box. They don't have to support dozens of different chipsets, they only need to handle two or three. The programmers creating the operating system know exactly what to expect as responses from the hardware, because they know what it's going to be. You can control the quality of the various bits of hardware, which should mean a more stable computer.

I don't think Apple will want to give this advantage up. It's part of what brings the stability to their system - majoritively they control what's in the box, so they don't get to driver conflicts. They can continue to do this in the future by requiring custom motherboards only they make, which means basically the world doesn't change much. Future Intel Macs will be quicker than Apple think future PowerPC Macs would be, and that's about it.

(Of course, if OS X can be run on any old Dell or white box PC in a couple of years, I'm going to look back on this post and groan.)

[Update:] I seem to have leapt straight to stage five.

Monster art

Dave Devrie draws scary pictures from children's drawings

I particularly like Dave and Brendon's monster with something trapped inside it - has it been eaten, or is it some parasite that's just being carried around?

Prevarication at terminal levels.

BBC Backstage

In yesterday's mass post / brain dump I forgot to mention BBC Backstage which is a way for the BBC to share it's information with others, mainly through XML of their recent info at the moment.

I've been dealing with XML through several scripting languages recently for a local project and while I'll be glad to see the back of that particular lump of nodes, I'm pleased I'll be able to re-use chunks of my code to do some things with the BBC feeds. Now I just have to find something interesting to do (or take one from the Backstage mailing list.)

Minor podcasting thoughts

Matt talked about podcasting a few weeks back and I've had his page open in a tab since then because I'd been meaning to write down a couple of thoughts I'd been having about it.

First off: Matt's Quoteplay is a bloody good idea - a way of linking to particular bits of podcasts / audio files. If you're interested in this stuff, check it out. Go on, do it now, you can always come back here later.

(Welcome back...) Generally, a couple of other thoughts:

I put MP3s of our news / entertainment magazine on tape on our website when I worked for Brighton Society for the Blind five years ago (NB: the current design is nothing to do with me.) If I'd realised it could be seen as a revolutionary thing to do I might have made more fuss about it and managed to get it named after me, 'silvercasting' has such a nice ring to it ;-) However, it just seemed like an obvious thing to do at the time - an example of the service we provided for visually impaired people by members and volunteers. I find it odd that there's a bit of a fuss made about podcasting now, but then again not a lot of people had broadband back then, and no one had iPods.

And the other thing: I think the next good thing for podcasts is: a way to speed them up.

This I learnt whilst working for the Society. They had speech synethesiser that some people would use to read what was on the computer screen to them. When you got proficient in using them, you could turn the speed up, and up, and up. Like learning to read fast. One student had his up so high no one else could understand it at all, it was like a bag of rabid gerbils, but he could understand it fine.

This seems like a good thing for podcasts - a way of fast forwarding through the dross, without jumping through it in case you do miss the one gem in there. OK, it won't work for all 'casts, but it would mean you can get through a load of them much quicker.

Big Brother back on

The latest series of Big Brother has started up. I watched quite a lot of it last year, partly because I was up in Leamington contracting so I didn't have a lot else to do when I was knackered.

I've either ignored whole series of BB or I've been caught by it about half way through and kept watching. I couldn't get in to the early stages last year, and now I think I understand why...

Currently all the most irritating personalities are at the fore. I thought for a while it was because they'd managed to jam together thirteen really objectionable people, to avoid a nice chap winning as happened a couple of series ago. However, I think it's more that the show is dominated by the most irritating people. Whenever I've flicked over to it in the week it's been Craig whining his head off, or lots of squeaking or shrieking. Craig seems very much an opera singer... Me me me me meeeeeeee

Hmm, maybe I'll try again in a few weeks.

EU treaty

(Random rambling that should probably be ignored:)

So the French and Dutch have voted not to accept the new EU Constitution, but no politician wants to come out and say it's stuffed.

OK, so several countries have accepted it, including Germany, but the thing is there's no way us Brits are going to say "yes" in a referendum to anything to do with Europe at the moment, and there's no even a decent "Yes" campaign over here to explain why it's a good thing and we should vote for it. With two of the three most powerful countries in Europe not ratifying, this treaty is a dead duck, but apparently the first European politician to point this out is going to get blamed for it failing, so none of them want to.

Well, there's a good reason for not voting for it - it appears the people in power in the EU are actually a bunch of school children, not serious politicians interested in helping out the member countries and more involved with who they should blow raspberries and who's in the right gang.

One problem I have with going deeper in to Europe is I can't see why it's necessary, at least at the moment. We've got a strong trading union of a bunch of countries close together, that makes sense. Deciding all these different economies should jump together seems rather mad. I tend to feel the 'European project' is trying to rush forwards too fast. It wasn't that long ago that Europe was at war, and just before that, we were at war again.

I feel taking it easy and seeing this for the long-term project it must be is the way to go. I don't see why we have to have a single currency now or a common economic policy across the whole of Europe now. Rushing towards central governance seems to be a way for certain politicians to get in the history books, which is not a good reason for doing it, which may be a reason people are reacting negatively to the treaty, even though it seems to have many good parts.

Anyway, this post isn't really going anywhere. I'll probably need to re-write it or zap it at a later date.

Mac Mini has a PC copy

The Register reports on an AOpen copy of the Mac Mini. It's amazing how the minimalist Mac Mini design is ruined by slapping a dirty great button in the middle of the front, and adding a company logo to the bottom right. The finish doesn't look as good, at least at the top, as the Mac, but it could just have been a demo version in their picture.

Niche search engine for open source code

The relatively new search engine Koders indexes open source code, and you can search for the particular language you need.

This is good, but the problem is it doesn't give an indication of what sort of state the code is in or how easy it would be to work with, perhaps it could do with a feedback mechanism like the experimental Rusty search.

Travel research

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