Saturday, 29 July 2006

A Good Thing and a Bad Thing
The good thing:
I've joined a couple of The Wildlife Trusts. There was a guy with a stand in Homebase and we had a long chat. He knows of The Greensand Trust, but had never heard of P3. They have a nice guide book, per region, showing all their reserves, but you have to be a member to get one.

The bad thing:
I heard a bonk and saw some little white feathers fluttering to the ground. Lying on the patio was a female chaffinch, its neck broken, no sign of response. I laid it on the ground near to where we put feed out and within minutes, its mother came down and tried to feed it, then flew off.

The poor thing had missed the open 50% of the patio doors and hit the glass, possibly having been scared by some newspaper I'd left out on the table just moments before - so I feel inadvertantly responsible for the little thing's death.

Thursday, 27 July 2006

Fake camera memory cards seem to be an issue at the moment on eBay. Be careful out there, folks:

"I have recently bought a 4GB Sandisk Ultra 2 on Ebay to use in my 5D and 1Dmk2 using Paypal on ebay. But when the card arrived it turned out to be a fake."

Fake 4GB Sandisk Ultra 2 CF on Ebay: Canon EOS-1D/1Ds/5D Forum: Digital Photography Review

Monday, 24 July 2006

"'Copyright whistleblower' was unfairly dismissed, tribunal rules
A tribunal has awarded £26,000 to Jewish News staff photographer David Katz who was unlawfully dismissed after revealing alleged management-endorsed systematic breaches of copyright at the title. The tribunal heard Katz allege the title had a deliberate policy of stealing pictures for use in the paper, a view shared by the former picture editor and the former production editor at the newspaper, both of whom also gave evidence.

Brave man - even though it wasn't his own rights being infringed. Good on yer, David.

Editorial Photographers UK | "Copyright whistleblower" was unfairly dismissed, tribunal rules.

"Suez: End of empire
The Times pronounced not only on Anthony Eden's life when he died in 1977 but on the life of Britain when it wrote of him: 'He was the last prime minister to believe Britain was a great power and the first to confront a crisis which proved she was not.'

The conventional verdict on the Suez operation is given by historian Corelli Barnett, who wrote about Suez in his book, The Collapse of British Power. 'It was the last thrash of empire,' he told me. 'A last attempt by a British government to do the old imperial thing in defence of far-off interests...'

And what was the 1982 Falklands War if its wasn't exactly that? Interesting article, though.

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Suez: End of empire

Google exec challenges Berners-Lee
A Google executive challenged Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee on his ideas for a Semantic Web during a conference in Boston on artificial intelligence.

The "Semantic Web" is the biggest area of research in the department where I work. Tim received an honorary degree from us in our first Virtual Degree Ceremony.

Google Director of Search Peter Norvig was first to question our Tim: "I am not against the Semantic Web. But from Google's point of view, there are a few things you need to overcome... The third problem is one of deception. We deal every day with people who try to rank higher in the results and then try to sell someone Viagra when that's not what they are looking for. With less human oversight with the Semantic Web, we are worried about it being easier to be deceptive,' Norvig said."

Good point. How many of us have done Google searches for something and just been annoyed with the results because they're simply not what you were looking for? I believe that Google themselves make matters worse through their AdWords system since they allow companies to promote themselves on the results pages. Often, when looking for equipment reviews, you end up with dozens of links to pages of dozens more links that link to retailers, and you can't find any actual information on the product itself.

"Berners-Lee agreed with Norvig that deception on the Internet is a problem, but he argued that part of the Semantic Web is about identifying the originator of information, and identifying why the information can be trusted, not just the content of the information itself."

But that's so easy to just strip out - so that's no protection at all. Its like putting a copyright notice in text next to a photo and saying "its copyright - please don't steal this image". The image can still be copied without the notice (which is precisely why I use watermarking).

At the end of the day, as Norvig alludes to, people are lazy and the Semantic Web, which requires a lot more input on behalf of the people who post the information, may well fall flat on its face because only a very small minority will adopt its frankly very complex markup process.

Google exec challenges Berners-Lee: ZDNet Australia: News: Software

Saturday, 22 July 2006

EnterpriseThe absolute "must attend" event for serious Trekkies everywhere is occouring later this year as Christies auction off "official Star Trek contents from the archives of CBS Paramount Television Studios. Over 1,000 lots from the never-before-released archives of CBS Paramount Television will include material from all of the Star Trek television series and movies, encompassing costumes, props, weapons, set dressings, detailed models of the Enterprise and various alien ship and space stations."

Sad in a way is it underlines Paramount's determination to kill off any chance of either resurrecting the (IMHO) excellent TV series 'Enterprise' or to begin another one. Perhaps next year's movie ends up so popular that they realise what a mistake they made.

STARTREK.COM : Article : 40th Aniversary Auction

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Strewth, its hot! I could barely cope today and its forecast to be hotter tomorrow. I really feel for people less fortunate than I who cannot take the odd day off when they feel like it. And with no ceiling set in employment legislation, many people have to work in absurdly hot conditions. With hot weather getting more common, perhaps its time the government reviewed that?

"Criminals exploit net phone calls
The conmen aim to catch vulnerable members of society
Malicious hackers are turning to net phone systems in a bid to trick people into handing over personal details.

Security firms have identified several scams in which net phone systems are harnessed to try to catch out potential victims. In one con people are called about supposed fraudulent activity on their credit card. So far few people have been caught out but security firms expect the number of scams to grow.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Criminals exploit net phone calls

Friday, 14 July 2006

My work's department today won our annual six-a-side cricket competition. Although I didn't play in the final (I considered the game too critical to volunteer my services) I did play in three of the side's games - the first time I'd played cricket since school (so that's a good 25 years ago!). So here's a very rare photo with me actually in it.

Thursday, 13 July 2006

"Cheney sued in CIA identity case
A former CIA officer whose identity was leaked to the media is suing US Vice-President Dick Cheney. Valerie Plame is suing Mr Cheney, his former aide Karl Rove, another official Lewis Libby, and 10 others, saying they tried to destroy her career. Ms Plame's name appeared in the media in 2003 after her husband criticised the Bush government over Iraq. Her husband, ex-US ambassador Joseph Wilson, who is also suing, had said the US twisted intelligence to go to war.

Wow. But will she be able to bring the case while he's still the VP? Could it lead to someone else suing Bush?

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Cheney sued in CIA identity case

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"Labour MP planning leadership bid
Left-wing backbencher John McDonnell is expected to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership when Prime Minister Tony Blair steps down. The 54-year-old represents Hayes and Harlington in west London and has been one of party's most rebellious MPs. It is thought he will make a formal announcement on his decision on Friday.

If Gordon Brown represents "more of the same", ie: Blair's idea of what Labour is, then I say good luck to the man.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour MP planning leadership bid

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Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Here's a good page on all the factors that make a PC noisy:

"Fans, making them quieter
Fans are the major source of computer noise followed by drive noise. It stands to reason that if you reduce the speed of the fan and reduce the fan output, you also reduce the noise.


Related to the new HP Pavilion I've recently bought, which seems to run rather hot, I've been researching the cooling of computer cases and found this page:

"Operating Temperature vs System Reliability
At elevated temperatures a silicon device can fail catastrophically, but even if it doesn't, its electrical characteristics frequently undergo intermittent or permanent changes.

Manufacturers of processors and other computer components specify a maximum operating temperature for their products. Most devices are not certified to function properly beyond 50°C-80°C (122°F-176°F). However, in a loaded PC with standard cooling, operating temperatures can easily exceed the limits. The result can be memory errors, hard disk read-write errors, faulty video, and other problems not commonly recognized as heat related.

The life of an electronic device is directly related to its operating temperature. Each 10°C (18°F) temperature rise reduces component life by 50%*. Conversely, each 10°C (18°F) temperature reduction increases component life by 100%. Therefore, it is recommended that computer components be kept as cool as possible (within an acceptable noise level) for maximum reliability, longevity, and return on investment.

* Based on the Arrhenius equation, which says that time to failure is a function of e-Ea/kT where Ea = activation energy of the failure mechanism being accelerated, k = Boltzmann's constant, and T = absolute temperature.

Operating Temperature vs. System Reliability

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Tuesday, 11 July 2006

HP Pavilion t3265.ukPicked up a bargain of a new home computer from Misco in the shape of a discontinued HP Pavilion desktop PC (£400 + VAT). It has a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 with 2x200Gb hard disks and 1Gb of RAM. Bought with it a ViewSonic VA912 19" LCD monitor, which has turned out pretty amazing quality for the price (£150 + VAT).

But the machine does leave a little to be desired. Although very well made, the cooling is obviously inadequate, especially if you intend to do any gaming. From the factory, the graphics card reaches 80 dec.C after a single game of the relatively-undemanding Command and Conquer Generals: Zero Hour. To try to drop this a bit, I fitted a Thermaltake 60mm fan from Maplin in place of the expansion slots (having removed the un-required PCI modem card). Running flat out, although rather noisy (smaller fans tend to make more noise than larger ones), the temperature after the same exercise was 20 deg.C cooler.

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Monday, 10 July 2006

"Heritage body 'no' to carbon cuts
The World Heritage Committee (WHC) looks set to reject a motion calling for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The WHC meeting in Lithuania heard evidence that 125 sites including the Himalayas and the Great Barrier Reef are at risk from climate change. Countries which are members of the WHC are legally obliged to protect sites. Campaign groups say this can only be done by cutting emissions.

The Committee is due to make its decision on Monday. But a draft resolution circulated in advance of the vote suggests that delegates are likely to reject the motion.

If that's what they're really going to conclude, then I can see any point in their continuing existance. Absolutely pathetic.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Heritage body 'no' to carbon cuts

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Saturday, 8 July 2006

"'IPod rival' speculation dampened
Microsoft has said reports that the company is planning an MP3 player to rival the iPod are based on 'speculation and rumours'. The software giant and games console firm said it did not 'have anything to announce at this time'. Unnamed music industry executives have told the New York Times that they have received briefings about the product. The iPod rival would have wireless internet capabilities to download music without a PC, said the report.

Well, if they do, you can almost guarentee it won't play MP3 files. And will almost certainly use some kind of non-standard Microsoft rights management system that will be complete incompatible with iTunes and Apple's chosen format, AAC.

And it will probably be the first kind of solid-state music player that can catch a virus!

BBC NEWS | Technology | 'IPod rival' speculation dampened

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"UK troops 'energise' the Taleban
The presence of British troops in Afghanistan has 'energised' the Taleban, Defence Secretary Des Browne has said. He was speaking to the Guardian, and added that the overall aim remained the creation of a 'security space' for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

It is thought that UK reinforcements may be added to the current deployment of 3,300 in the Helmand province. Six British servicemen have died there in the last month.

Have the west learnt nothing from the years the USSR spent embroiled in their pointless adventure into Afganistan? For them it was a complete waste of lives, achieved nothing and ultimately assisted in the collapse of their nation.

Blair suggets that Afganistan posed a risk to the UK - well, it certainly does now. Drug exports have gone through the roof since the US-led invasion. Now British lives really are being marred - by crimes committed by drug addicts, fueled by Afgan-produced heroine.

BBC NEWS | UK | UK troops 'energise' the Taleban

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Sunday, 2 July 2006

"Inside Apple's iPod factories
Apple's iPods are made by mainly female workers who earn as little as £27 per month, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday [a couple of weeks back]. The report, 'iPod City', isn't available online - it offers photographs taken from inside the factories that make Apple music players, situated in China and owned by Foxconn. The Mail visited some of these factories and spoke with staff there. It reports that Foxconn's Longhua plant houses 200,000 workers, remarking: 'This iPod City has a population bigger than Newcastle's.'

Macworld UK - Inside Apple's iPod factories

Manufacturing staff in China are low paid - its that fact that drives global companies to have stuff built there in the first place. Companies exist to make a profit - moving their manufacturing to such countries simply helps to maximise that profit.

"Apple responds to iPod factory claims
Apple has issued a statement in response to the Mail on Sunday's claims regarding working conditions within the facilities of some of its Chinese iPod manufacturing partners. 'Apple is committed to ensuring that working conditions in our supply chain are safe, workers are treated with respect and dignity, and manufacturing processes are environmentally responsible,' the statement explains. The company also explains that it is 'currently investigating the allegations regarding working conditions in the iPod manufacturing plant in China'

Macworld UK - Apple responds to iPod factory claims

"environmentally responsible" - if you think the manufacturing process might be environmentally unsound, you should visit India, and other countries, where the millions of computers the West annually discards, are taken apart and scavened for materials.

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Are "stuck pixels" deliberate? If you own a digital camera, chances are its sensor may have one or more so-called "stuck pixels" - defects in the manufacturing process, resulting in a pixel (picture-sensing element) that doesn't work as intended and generally fires out the same data in every photo. Since the occurrence of these defects is random, my posit is that the makers are willing to not eliminate them completely since their presence makes it possible to identify the camera from which an image was produced - like a digital fingerprint, if you like.

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Saturday, 1 July 2006

Attended the first day of a local two-day Polocrosse event in very nearly 30 deg.C of heat. The organisers have provided plenty of water to cool the horses. They'll need it again tomorrow - its forecast to be hotter still.

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So, England bow out of the world cup, once again at the hands of Portugal. Rooney did what many predicted and misbehaved, getting himself a straight red and ejection from the game. Beckham had to be substituted off with an ankle injury from a completely unnecessary and unpenalised tackle. But England battled on with 10 men, through extra time and into penalties - at which the Portuguese keeper seemed to be very well suited to saving. Swedish coach Sven-Goran Eriksson now leaves the team, with Steve McClaren to take over.

"It is one thing to decry how the U.S. is caricatured in that part of the world, but it is quite another to live up to the caricature, or embellish it as Bush is doing. The administration's policy, which one assumes was designed to help Bush deal with his poor standing in the polls, has backfired — instead of creating the hoped-for political windfall in the U.S, we have instead given the Iranians a tangible incentive to push ahead."

Even software authors are prepared to air their opinions on Bush's big stick waving.

* Be nice or we'll blow you up