Thursday, 31 August 2006

Just noticed this on VodaFone's PAYG price plans:

"Calls to 0800 services (080 and 0500) 30p per minute daytime 10p per minute evening and weekends"

So a call to a free number costs you money - more money in fact for evenings and weekends than to a normal number. Sounds a bit off to me.

Vodafone - Pay As You Talk Price Plans

Thursday, 24 August 2006

"Human intelligence does not evolve at the speed the Dept of Education would like us to believe."

Superb comment from someone signing themselves as "Silverwhistle, Glasgow" in response to today's announcement that GCSE results are up again on last year, with over 98% having received pass grades.

BBC NEWS | Education | One in five GCSEs awarded A* or A

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

"Cows also 'have regional accents'
Cows have regional accents like humans, language specialists have suggested. They decided to examine the issue after dairy farmers noticed their cows had slightly different moos, depending on which herd they came from.

Well worth visiting this story as they have recordings of different moos.

BBC NEWS | UK | Cows also 'have regional accents'

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

"Milton Keynes gets high speed net
Milton Keynes looks set to become the first British town to get a high-speed wireless network based on so-called Wimax technology.

Wimax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) gives users access to the net at multi-megabit speeds over areas many kilometres in size.

Wimax has been touted as a rival to the wi-fi technology that is already used in thousands of hotspots around the world. So far Wimax is not widely used. Users need expensive hardware, and the specifications to use it in conjunction with other wireless technologies or to roam are not complete.

So, what you're saying is, its going to be widely available in MK, but hardly anyone will either have, or be able to afford, the kit needed to access it?

BBC NEWS | Technology | Milton Keynes gets high speed net

Now compare the above with this article, published in March, which suggests "regulatory, security and spectrum problems may limit the widespread use of Wimax. One cell could theoretically allow hundreds of business connections at 1.5 mbps and thousands of residential connections at 256 kbps. Chip giant Intel described Wimax as a 'disruptive' technology that has the potential to upset the business models of both mobile phone firms and traditional net suppliers.".

There could well be a few thousand customers for broadband in MK and I can't see them being at all impressed with 256 kbps.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Doubts raised over Wimax's future

Thursday, 17 August 2006

"A-level grade As up again to 24%
Almost a quarter of UK A-level entries were awarded the top grade this year, results published on Thursday show. The proportion of entries given an A was 24.1%, up 1.3 on last year, said the Joint Council for Qualifications. The overall A-level pass rate rose for the 24th year, by 0.4 to 96.6%. There were markedly more entries for maths.

Turn up and spell your name right and you'll pass. "Dumbing down - we're not dumbing down". Yeah, right. A-levels are now completely meaningless.

BBC NEWS | Education | A-level grade As up again to 24%

"Mexicans' 'nine-month' sea ordeal
Three Mexican fishermen who say they spent about nine months drifting across the Pacific Ocean have been rescued. They said they survived on rain water, sea birds and fish after the engine on their eight-metre (25ft) boat broke down. They were eventually picked up by a Taiwanese tuna trawler close to the Marshall Islands on 9 August.

This is an incredible story. Gives you a sense of scale for the world's oceans.

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Mexicans' 'nine-month' sea ordeal

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

"Horse beds down on court papers
Domino's owner said she was at the end of her tether
An allergic horse which cannot go near hay without using an inhaler has found a unique alternative - shredded court papers.

Domino, a 15-year-old 5ft 5in (1.7m) tall cob, suffers severe allergies to hay, straw, tree and grass pollen. Now Domino has become a "natural recycler" of waste paper from courts in Knowsley and St Helens - he eats and beds down on piles of shredded paper from the courts at his stable in Merseyside.

Ah, now isn't that nice?

BBC NEWS | England | Merseyside | Horse beds down on court papers

Monday, 14 August 2006

"Dear blank...
Raunchy novelist Jilly Cooper is backing a campaign to get men to write more love letters and thereby improve their literacy. But how do you go about it?

One in five have never received a love letter, and half haven't had one for a decade, a government survey of 2,000 women suggests.

The survey, from the Department for Education and Skills, said 77% of women would prefer to receive a love letter to an e-mail or text. And yet just as the e-mail is inexorably killing the ordinary letter, so it seems its predations are dooming the love letter.

BBC NEWS | Magazine | Dear blank...

This article prompts my Mum to remember that Dad, before they were married, was a bit of a poet himself, having studied the classics in school. She quotes "Full many a rose is born to blush unseen. And waste its sweetness on the desert air." A quick Google search reveals this to be from Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. There must be romanticism in the Valentine blood.

Chuffed to bits to find that I've finally had one of my League football photos published in a UK national daily newspaper - The Sun - from Saturday's game at Northampton against Nottingham Forest. Can't show the photo here though as I'm working for an agency and I therefore don't have the rights to do so.

Sunday, 13 August 2006

Barely a month goes by when I don't have some kind of problem with my HP Photosmart PSC 2510 all-in-one printer. The latest appears to be some kind of incompatability between its drivers and XP Home - perhaps caused by a recent update to XP itself - which causes an error in svchost.exe, otherwise known as the "Generic Host Process for Win32 Services". This is a core component of Windows and without it operating correctly, all sorts of things misbehave - any Explorer window, for example, takes ages to appear. If you look in your event log under Applications, you'll see a number of errors appear, even before you've run any applications. As soon as you uninstall the HP drivers, the problem goes away (fortunately).
The error appears to be more severe depending on how you have your "Data Execution Prevention" set. You might not have ever heard of this, but its an in-built system inside XP to stop applications doing (what Windows deems to be) naughty things.

My Computer -> Properties -> Advanced -> Peformance -> Settings -> Data Execution Prevention

This system has two basic settings - in one of them, you'll get a whole string of error messages appear as Windows starts; in the other, nothing is reported but things are going wrong in the background and you have to refer to the aforementioned Error Log to see them. You may also get reports that your XP firewall is off - even though it isn't.

I only hope that HP can resolve the problem soon, because as it is, I can't have the drivers installed and therefore can't use my printer.

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Whilst working on a web project trying to add a ratings system for stories, I've found that image form elements <INPUT TYPE="image" ... > do not appear to become part of the array of elements of the form they're in. You can loop through a list of elements in JavaScript and get it to display the elements' names - but image objects simply don't appear. Try it for yourself (obviously you'll have to provide your own images):

<SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript" TYPE="text/javascript"><!--
function listElements() {
for (var i=0;i < form.elements.length; i++) {
alert('element '+i+' is called '+form.elements[i].name);
return false;

<FORM METHOD='post' NAME='testForm'>
<INPUT TYPE="text" NAME="text"><BR>
<INPUT TYPE="image" NAME="image" ID="rating1" SRC='images/gold_star.gif'
ONCLICK='return listElements();'><BR>
<INPUT TYPE="submit" NAME="submit"><BR>

Unless I'm mistaken, you'll see 'text' and 'submit' listed, but not 'image'. The upshot of this is that you cannot address images by name in this manner. This is certainly the case with IE6 and Firefox 1.5. My getaround was to address them via the document.images array. I did a lot of Googling and found that this 'bug' is alluded to in:

irt.og | Chapter 6: Beginning JavaScript

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"China plan to protect environment
China plans to spend 1.4 trillion yuan ($175bn) over the next five years on protecting its environment. The sum - equivalent to 1.5% of China's annual economic output - will be used to improve water quality, and cut air and land pollution and soil erosion.

I wonder if they could be persuaded to fit carbon capture systems to all their coal-fired power stations?

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | China plan to protect environment

Monday, 7 August 2006

"Air tax hike 'would hit poorest'
Raising air travel taxes would only hit poorer people, said ministers as MPs accused them of failing to stop transport that fuels global warming.

Talk about pandering to the airline industry. What a pathetic response - typical of this government. They like to wave their green flag, but they're not prepared to actuallly do anything to try to reduce global warming.

"Carbon dioxide emissions from aviation are set to rise five-fold, the Commons environmental audit committee says. It says the government has a 'fatalistic' approach to the problem. And passengers should have to pay to 'offset' the emissions from their flight by funding green projects elsewhere."

But would the government really make the money available to, for example, build more wind farms, or would it (more likely, I think) just disappear into the government coffers to fund pointless project like Identity Cards (which no one wants), Iraq (which no one wanted in the first place) and Trident (which, er, no one wants).

"Planes are not the MPs' only target. They also want bigger penalties for drivers of 'gas guzzling cars'. They welcome the recent introduction of variable Vehicle Excise Duty, which means that the lowest-carbon cars pay no road tax, while gas-guzzling 4x4s pay an increased rate of £210. But they say the measure should be extended, highlighting calls for the top band to rise to £1800. Under the plans, lower bands would be at £300 intervals down to the least-polluting cars which would be tax-free."

Why do they even allow the sale of some of these vehicles? Its about time vehicle manufacturers showed a little more respect for the environment. Or even any respect for the environment.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Air tax hike 'would hit poorest'

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

Roger Daltrey and Mark JosephLocal popstar Mark Joseph got to met rock legend Rager Daltrey recently. In a tie-up with Gibson Epiphone, he had 40 copies of a special edition guitar made for him with the cross of St.George. Mark had a stab at landing the official England world cup theme, but unfortunately missed out.

He's got a new album coming out soon, but in the mean time, one of his most successful tracks "Bringing Back Those Memories" is now available as a download through iTunes. Plus he has a podcast too with some exclusive acoustic tracks.

"Blair warns of 'arc of extremism'
Tony Blair has warned that an 'arc of extremism' is stretching across the Middle East and said 'an alliance of moderation' was needed to defeat it.

Can't see Bush signing up to that!

"Mr Blair also spoke about the conflict between Israel and Lebanon and said that the 'purpose of the provocation' that began it 'was clear' ... Mr Blair said all would be done to try to halt the hostilities in the conflict."

Except asking Israel for a cease-fire.

"And in Iraq and Afghanistan he said 'the banner was not actually regime change [although that's exactly what's been done] it was values change. What we have done therefore in intervening in this way, is probably far more momentous than we appreciated at the time,' he said."

Momentous? Catastrophic, perhaps?

This whole speech rather suggests that Blair is now finally realising that his decision to support Bush was a serious mistake and did nothing to bring peace to the Middle East.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Blair warns of 'arc of extremism'

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

"Oregon State University is working on wave enery generators employing permanent magnet technology
In 2005, wave energy began to splash across the pages of blogs and news sites. Of all the renewable energy generation techniques, wave generator came online line last. There’s currenty only one wave project begun in earnest of the coast of Portugal. That project uses the Pelamis, developed and manufactured by Ocean Power Delivery LTD, which incorporates hydraulic technology. Scotland also has another Pelamis project under consideration.

But make no mistake about it, wave energy extraction devices are here to stay and their potential has barely been tapped.

2005... wave enerygy began to splash... Hang on a minute - didn't we pioneer wave energy extraction about thirty years ago in the UK? Anyone remember Salter's Duck? IIRC they all sprang a leek and sank - the British media had a field day (as they always do when a British invention fails). » Blog Archive » Oregon State University is working on wave enery generators employing permanent magnet technology

"High street solar panels on sale
A major British electrical retailer is selling solar panels in high street shops for the first time. Currys has launched a pilot scheme in three of its stores selling the off-the-shelf green technology. Shoppers in West Thurrock, Essex, and Fulham and Croydon in Greater London will be able to snap up the £1000 panels, manufactured by Sharp. An installed system that could halve the electricity bill of a typical three bedroom home costs £9000, Currys says.

Neat. Anything to make renewable energy more mainstream. And bring the price down. Just a shame the Government has recently decided to charge VAT on their own grants - how dim is that?!

BBC NEWS | Technology | High street solar panels on sale
BBC NEWS | Politics | VAT rules hit Energy Saving Trust

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