All posts made in May. 2000:

I got my ICANN At-Large Membership pin today. Does it mean anything? Will it be useful? Can individuals really play a part in the network? Yes. And do you know why? Because we're nonlinear. Stretch and fold, stretch and fold. The things that we do have meaning and are beautiful.

Hmm. Feeling a bit random today. Slashdot on ICANN makes more sense.

New Ctheory today about Fight Club not as a biting criticism of consumer culture, but as a search for meaning. Brilliant. Irony is dead. Rally for truth. (Not on the website yet, unfortunately, but look out for number 90.)

If you're interested: I got this IMAP server working how I want it at last. Okay, this might not be such a big deal for a lot of people but this is the first time I've applied patches; this is the first time I've made changes to the source instead of to a configuration file (and I haven't used C before); I decided what I wanted and now I've got it - a safer IMAP server.

If you're not interested: I feel good.

I just looked at a webpage and realised I didn't know what an attribute did: I need to learn HTML4. The Web Standards Project keep links to HTML resources. The compatibility charts seem especially useful.

If I was going to do a thesis...

Tomorrow's World dominated my childhood so I was quite nostalgic watching the old opening titles. Watching old things is like making an anchor in time. You can start placing things around it, and it just lets me remember a whole different me - especially the 1985-1991 theme. Wow. So that's where my love of science began. That theme still defines the height of modern for me; it's ingrained somehow. The different music themes are also available for download.

Nnng, frustrating day! I can't get the XML::XSLT Perl module to work. For a while I thought it was me, but then I tried their example xml & xsl and that didn't work either. It's on the new bug list, and not solved yet. Gah. In a few weeks I'll have time to pick through the code, but right now... Hmph. (Don't get me wrong though: XSL is a joy to work with, although with this Perl implementation the transforms are quite slow. Pages will have to be prerendered.)

And in related news, my IMAP server seems more like a security hole than a mail server, and it may be something else I have to look at the source for (it's not very well documented). I'm going to be busy, this Summer*.

Objective: To render all my pages using server-side XML and XSLT. First step: Move to using XML and rendering my pages in some other way to see what the performance penalty is like.

Nice. There's now a Mac DivX player, and DivX (as you know) is a cheeky not-quite-mpeg4 ripoff which up till now has only been available to Windows users. Ooh, that's interesting: (who are offering a prize for the first open DivX codec) are merging with and are promising something big in the next week or so. That should be worth checking back for.

You can now make this page more readable. Death to fascist stylesheets! Death to the demoness Allegra Geller!

Fixed a couple of stupid bugs in Dirk: No graphics mode now works, and it's no longer case sensitive. I've got an idea or two about how to make metadirk easier and more useful -- but more about that another day.

Last night I dreamed that my Switch card got refused. Commodity. Profit or loss. Security. What do you value in yourself? says the Dream Dictionary.

Now here's a challenge: I've been told that although my hosting company don't have an IMAP server and won't be installing one in the near future, if I know how to install and set one up for them all to use they'll consider letting me and then maintaining it. I'd use the Cyrus IMAP server because it seems to be popular and secure, but the license is only for non-commerical uses or internal use of ISPs. Hm. I'll also have to check out UW IMAP. Hints are always welcome, btw.

A large number of rule-based program that self-organise could be used to move information more efficiently around the internet. These agents, modelled on bees and ants, treat user requests like food to move video, etc, around the networks. The Bio-Networking Architecture site has research papers.

This makes a lot of sense. The simple rules that ants use to find the shortest route between, say, food and the nest are extremely powerful when applied in parallel. This kind of transport level syndication would could make caching and higher level syndication methods unnecessary, and would be ideal. I wish I could remember where the comment in slashdot was, but it mentioned a potential network that was transport mechanism independent. As such it could have no ping or traceroute, but it was completely decentralised. Whether these kind of ideas will come into a network of the future I don't know, but it's really not going to be any time soon - look at how long it's taking to bring in IPv6.

Gaudí's El Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família in Barcelona must be one of the most stunning buildings I have only seen photographs of. I may have to make a pilgrimage in the summer. Check out his other works, too. Wow.

Found on my travels: The International Lyrics Server has lyrics to 62000 songs.

This is bizarre. When I was about 10 we used to sing a song at school called Little Boxes. It turns out that this song is a protest against conformity, and specifically about Levittown, an artificial community so micromanaged that if someone didn't mow their lawn then Levitt would send someone round to do it for them. The little boxes were pre-fab bungalows with modern ideas such as open-plan, heating insulation, and below-floor heating, and - cleverly - an open upgrade route. The more I read about Levittown the more impressed I am.

Saved! Saved by R Shapiro's OE Applescripts which should export my mail to Eudora format (I've only done one folder so far, but it should work for the others). A quick experiment: If they're in Eudora format which is unix format then...

I can use these mailboxes in Pine! Joy! Only a migration enabled IMAP server to go.

It's proving much harder than I thought to get OE to export its mail in any useful format, but I'm learning, slowly. Eudora uses unix standard mbx mailboxes, so if I can import to Eudora I'll be home free. Of course, Outlook Express isn't going to give up its mail that easily. There are many ways to import to Eudora, so one of them has to work. Failing that, there are more brute force conversion guides, including sourcecode. Question: Is the Mac OE mailbox format the same as the Windows format? I hope so.

So what have I lost? Not much, I guess, in the grand scheme of things. What had you said in the last month of email? Conversations with friends. Conversations with people who aren't friends. Mail lists, businesses, passwords from web-services. Notes. I tend to have some of my best ideas during emails. Bah.

It's not going to happen again. I'm not going to rush this, but I know that the first thing I want to do is get away from Outlook Express. I like it, as an app, but the messages database is monolithic and non-standard -- and that's where these problems started. So, first to go is OE. But how? MailConverter (readme) looks promising. It's working its way through the database now and apparently outputs in various formats, one of which simply must be useful. But what then?

Sod this client-side lark for a game of soldiers, I'm off. Perhaps IMAP is the way forward? Now this is going to take some investigation. I don't want to administrate the IMAP server myself; I'd like to use a service I can trust to be online the whole time and make regular backups. I want this server to check my various POP boxes for me and grab the mail. I want to be able to upload my current mail archives. I'm not sure whether these last two are possible, but I really need this. And I swear if there isn't someone who offers this already then I'll start a company to do it myself.

And what about my new email client? Well that's the joy of this IMAP thing. There are a million and one Mac email clients, but I needn't still to any of them. And if I can convert to and from all these different formats then I'm free, free at last.

Now, to find that utopian IMAP server...

Today, I have mostly been losing every single piece of email recieved or sent since 14:30 on the 28th of April. Bollocks. Time for pizza, I think.

Hey, good new programme on BBC2 tonight. In Rough Science they put a bunch of scientists on an island and give them tasks they have to do only using what they can find on the island and a few extras, like copper wire, &c. Today they had to find their latitude and longitude, and make a radio, and -- oh, all kinds of things. And it made such good television! Do I sound excited? I guess I just like science in a positive light. Mm. Yeah. Next week they're making soap. Like in Fight Club?

So someone asked (on AppleInsider) why they couldn't telnet into MacOS X as root, and how they could set it up to do it. Well, I couldn't let that slide so I registered, logged on, and begged them not to do it. And then someone replied:

This obsession with security is going to do in OSX if it continues. I certainly hope people buying Mac's at Sears don't have to worry about root and so on. I run DP4 as root. It's less of a hassle with permissions for moving files around between the classic side and unix side.

Oh dear. Ooooh dear.

I'm sorry, but it's link-stealing day today. Is the end nigh? discusses the doomsday argument [via The Guardian weblog]; an argument which uses Bayesian statistics* to show the end of the world is nigh (I've read about this before and I thought it was in New Scientist, but I can't find the article there). Many more hours reading are provided in these doomsday argument resources. I'm not qualified to make sensible points about the argument, but it's a fun mental exercise, and it's reminded me that I meant to learn more about Bayes (I was a fan, for a while). D S Sivia's book, 'A Bayesian Tutorial', is an excellent primer, and I'll be visiting this Bayes resource again.

This is one to make a note of: has free hi-res photos and EPS to download, coupled with some really clean design. Nice. [via 404]

Oh, Troma, where would we be without you? Our desktops would be considerably more boring without scantily-clad bloody women and the pit-shaving Tromettes. I was a big Troma fan without ever seeing any of their films for a long time, simply because they had one called 'A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell'. And then I saw it. And regardless of how exciting the summary may sound, the film is shit: A nymphoid who isn't a nymphomaniac, and two dinosaurs. Hell indeed.

Uh. Is it unhealthy to masturbate with live objects - for instance, lizards or other small animals? Do I even have to answer that?

This (pretty quick) guide to the theory of hypertext talks about it in terms of models for communication and lists the qualities of hypertext.

I'm trying to learn more about hypertext. The alt.hypertext faq that lives at Hypertext Resources is a good primer.

I enjoy

Registered dibs now have full legal status in all 79 signatory nations.

We've finally reached chaos in my last ever lecture course (we've been working down and to the right across the dynamical view of the world). Today we covered the Lorentz strange attractor and learnt that is was a fractal (that is, it's a set of points with infinite surface area but zero volume); a 'surface' defined by a line that never crosses itself. It never crosses because of the uniqueness theorem: There can only be one answer for any set of values (ie position in phase space) so for the system to remain chaotic and aperiodic it must never cross or merge with itself. These chaotic properties arise from nonlinearities in the equations themselves, not from measurement difficulties or noise.

Well, this is a problem I think, because we analyse fractals numerically. You can only float a variable to a finite number of places, so rounding errors when plotting the trajectories are effectively noise. The finite precision of variables means you are plotting the trajectories on a lattice of discrete points, and since the trajectory always stays near the strange attractor (although this has never been proved it appears to be the case) eventually the trajectory will overlap and we'll get periodic behaviour. Two consequences: Firstly we can't get chaos with a computer; secondly trajectories are diverging faster than they should due to the effect of noise.

Ignore the second point at the moment. Imagine plotting the Lorentz equations with a certain precision and seeing how long it takes (on average, we do this several times from several different starting points) for the system to become periodic and what period it has. Now increase the precision and repeat. Continue doing this and plot the period against the precision. We know that at infinite precision the period is infinite, so that's the extreme - but how do we get there? Could this graph tell us anything useful? That's another project for the Summer.

Here's another one: We know that for points around the attractor the trajectories are towards it. If we had an initial sphere of points around the Lorentz attractor, how would that sphere deform? What would it look like? Another project, but for that I'll need to program in Java or something because I'll need graphics.

Random Access Memory is utterly utterly beautiful and has some wonderful items to read.

Zeldman's The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Coder. Questions. If there's something that gives me faith on the web it's that most of the individuals who are respected and admired are that because they're brilliant and not by accident. I mean, that happens in so few other places.

Here's the thing: I've only been on the www since late 1996; I didn't really start noticing repeated names until last year. There's years of history I've missed out on. Hell, there's years of history millions of people have missed out on - and that's a damaging thing: We're repeating ourselves. Not just reinventing the wheel with protocols and design tricks, but artistically too. And archives aren't enough. So this is what I'm after: A cultural history of the web. Stories of how the metaphors for how to relate to the www came into being. The people. Mainly, the people - and what they did and who remembers what and the communities and the fights. Usenet has such things (I wish I knew where to look right now, but I've run across them in the past I'm sure) but Usenet's archived anyway.

And if such a multithreaded story doesn't exist, here's what I want to do: Set up a space where people can say what happened. Set it along a timeline, and make it possible to follow a single person's story. Link people together so we can find how communities evolved. Invite people to look back at their email from a month in the early 1990s and tell us what was exciting the, what was exciting the web.

This is the second good idea for a site I've had today*. It's going to be a busy Summer.

Joan Miro's Blue II (slightly better picture) reminds me of the 'protocol://a.b.c' pattern.

I've been reading bad sci-fi (I love it). E C Tubb's 'World of Promise' was written in 1980 (published 1985) which seems quite recent, but something that caught my eye (apart from the appalling representation of women. I mean, really bad) is the complete lack of networked computers. There are central data stores which act like giant libraries, and there is a network of cybernetically enhanced humans who dial up to the central psychic computer in hyperspace once a day, but it's still basically a mainframe/thin-client model. Anyway, this grabbed me:

"This of a room," she urged. "One filled with a billion books. Books which hold the answer to every question you care to ask. If you wanted to build something, a raft, for example, they could tell you how. But you'd have to dig. One book might teach you how to temper steel, another how to cut a thread, a third how to weld. More would teach you how to mine for minerals, smelt metals, process the raw supplies. Then you'd need to discover the correct alloy for the antigrav units and how to make the generator and all the rest of it." A lifetime of work and that was knowing what you wanted to begin with. But, once done, others could follow.

It's the last sentence that reminds me of the concept of trails in the memex in Vannevar Bush's As We May Think. Trails are what I was talking about when I mentioned crib-notes. The kind of content that Jorn Barger provides on the Robot Wisdom pages is so much more valuable than a lot of the stuff around on the web. If it was easier to create trails, if there was a defined way of doing it... And the explosion of new sites because of and If all these people were contributing useful trail-content based on their personal expertise... [sudden flash] I need a good domain name.

I saw an advert for the Atmos Atlantis clock this weekend. The Atmos is powered by small variations in air temperature and only needs to be tended once every twenty years. This version is mounted in a glass box and looks truly beautiful. Better pictures in this Italian article [bad Babelfish translation]. I know it's hardly the Long Now (good Wired article), but I still want one.

From the dept.: The story of a page yanked from the network hits slashdot and gets mentioned in NTK. I'm following with interest; we're currently having similar problems with editorial bleed in another of my lives.

I just downloaded and compiled LambdaMOO. On connecting as wizard for the first time there was one room with nothing there. I had this urge to type '@let there be light'. 'I don't understand that' said the MOO.

Al Green's cover of Light My Fire on Groove Armada's album Back To Mine has got to be the funkiest damn thing I ever did hear.

One hundred thousand galaxies are in the newest and largest three-dimensional map of the universe, complete with fly-though movie. - [insert pithy comment here]

Goat. Goat. Goat. Spider. Spider. Spider. Secret monkey.

Followup to yesterday's post about MUDs. David Rubin let me know and has posted links about PUB and POO, both MUD servers in Python. The former is static, the latter modelled after LambdaMOO. I don't know Python but I hear it's pretty easy to pick up.

Bill Stilwell urged me not to give up on LambdaMOO; it wouldn't be too hard to grab an RSS off the web and parse it. Now that's power. Given the maturity of LambdaMOO I'm going to give it a good hard look. I've got some ideas that sound like they might really be possible. But after Finals. Yes, after Finals.

Argh! It's the spider goats, come to kill us all. [via Metafilter]

Every since I read My Tiny Life I've been interested in MUDs. There doesn't seem to be any analogue to them in the year 2000, which is a shame. If you think of the way http/WWW has improved on gopher, ICQ/AIM/etc on telnet/talkd, it seems odd we still haven't found any way of improving on the basic MUD client. Mind you, the only single-player adventure game I've seen that's improved on the text-adventure games of the 1980s has been Riven but that's only one game. Six years of development and photo-realistic graphics to feel as good as shitty text-descriptions? The power of words.

So, back to the point: A virtual world for weblogs would be muchos kewl. Imagine the way all the guys at would have their rooms close together, and then the way other people would have their weblogs close by to pick up traffic. Now think about using syndicated content from WWW weblogs to feed into the MUD so you can see where people are reading and chat to them about articles. Given the way people love designing their weblogs, giving them an entire world to design around -- the possibilities are intriguing.

I investigated. LambdaMOO seems pretty popular, so I had a look at that. It turns out to be a whole lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I can't imagine how hard it would be to pull RSS off the web and parse it. Hm.

Hm indeed. What I really need is a Perl MUD server because then I can customise it. Hopefully. Or perhaps I should look around for other MUD servers that do what I want. Hm. Hm again. This could be interesting.

The XML Cover Pages are a reference guide to XML & SGML. They've got a good page of links to RSS resources.

You know, I think this kind of crib-notes page is really important on the web. What is it called - metacontent? But not the metacontent in meta tags. Hm. A human edited summary page is so much more useful than DMOZ or searching at Google. I need to know how good card indexes work; I have a feeling that would be useful. Thinking, thinking.

Not terribly detailed, but interesting because it's so easy to jump to topics I'd never usually look at: is like an online version of those 1001 Questions & Answers books.

Once upon a time all CDs were new and we lived in a world of shiny tech. Now the boxes are scuffed and broken and some of my CDs are scratched; a couple of the sleeves are stuck together and rippled after being soaked in water. CD players always used to work because they were less than two years old. Now there are four lasers just in my room and I've got a broken stereo tucked away. Old tech is so cool. Years ago, I used to hang around in an abandoned carpark with bushes pushed through shattered concrete and trees where the cars used to drive.

Skin conditions used to convey evil.

Lance Arthur's latest seems to have struck a chord with the world (at least, with the sites I read). If you haven't read it yet, go now to Awarding. Message: We can still make a difference. I guess we were all in need of a pep-talk.

Is your child or loved one being subliminally influenced by backwards-masked messages embedded in pop-songs? Be prepared by listening to these samples. Don't forget to reverse them to hear the dastardly messages they conceal.

Things that annoy me: Creationism.

The assorted scientific 'creation myths' aren't the same as the other myths through history. They're a level higher in truth. They fit into a larger whole. They're just truer, dammit! Okay, think about it this way: In the past there have been loads of explanations for what the Earth is 'really' like: It's flat; it sits on turtles; it's a bubble inside solid rock. But then comes along this idea that they Earth is roughly a sphere and it orbits the Sun, &c. This isn't just another story - we can go up in space, look down and see that the Earth really is a sphere. Just because loads of people throughout history and prehistory have believed something else it doesn't make them right. Ditto evolution and creationism.

Evolution isn't just evolution, it's part of a whole package of science which stretches from cause and effect to, well, how hairless apes came from fish. This one aspect of science: It's complete. Is it just another belief system like religion? No it isn't. There's trust involved in this facet of science; I trust other scientists to ensure the whole hangs together. But this isn't faith. The only reason I couldn't personally verify the whole of science is because I won't live for a million years. Could I verify the existence of God or the resurection of Christ if I lived for a million or a billion years? No, and that's the difference between faith and trust.

Science is more than equations and explaining what happens. It's about predicting. It's about saying what won't happen, or what might not happen. It's about how systems work. And it's about how to judge itself; how to compare explanations, how to prove, how to disprove. From looking at the systems at work around us today it simply wouldn't make sense if evolution hadn't happened. And from the same argument creationism isn't scientific. Where are the predictions it can make? If creationism was part of science we couldn't even predict the path of a ball through the air because there are no limits on supernatural interference. Creationship explains everything, and nothing. There is nothing that could possibly be that could shake creationism, and that means it's not a theory, it's not science; it's faith.

In the end science gives you a world view. Could there be a God? I guess so. Could the universe have been created 10000 years ago? I guess so. But isn't the fact that I don't believe in a God a kind of faith in itself? No. It's for the same reasons I believe that pigs don't fly. I see the world through scientific eyes; it makes sense. Systems are systems wherever they are and ultimately the universe is a collection of systems and nothing more. There can't be exceptions and there's no room for faith in my life.

Luckily, Gödel's theorem hasn't intruded on my mathematically consistant universe yet. Ask me again then.

The left side of my face, the bottom of my nose (does that bit of my face have a name?), my right cheekbone; my knees, my shins, my left foot: They're all that ominous prickly warm that means (1) it was hot today, and (2) whoops I was supposed to be revising.

Today was also the first day of the barbecue season, at least for me. I went with a few friends and we sat by the river and enjoyed the evening. The rain even held off until we were inside. While we were eating some kids came up and started playing round us. For a while they looked as though they were going to drown themselves in the river, and then they started sitting really close to us and singing Kum Baya. We were on an ignore strategy but kids just push it and push it so when they came over and started chatting we had to chat back. Give in gracefully, you know?

Right, so there were four of them, two boys and two girls: One of the boys was the ringleader. He was quite cocky and a bit taller than the others. The other boy seemed a bit apart from the others, and was climbing trees and standing in the canoe they'd found with his shoes off most of the time. "Don't worry, he's not dangerous," the others said. We weren't worried. I mean, maybe that he'd fall in the river or put something in the barbecue that'd explode in his face, but he seemed fairly safe apart from that. One girl laughed like she had TB and the other one didn't.

They were all pretty funny if incredibly mouthy. The ringleader had an obsession with women being 'lezzers' (which was apparently a bad thing). Kids have this ability to bounce back from everything - being told off, being caught out, falling face first on concrete, that kind of thing. Kirsty knew the name of the mouthy boy and that he danced and he was rattled for a bit then went back to mucking around.

Anyway. These kids are all over the place trying to get food, and we're like No, and they say they're hungry and we say Why? and the boy says Because I live in a caravan, and then he says: Yeah, why don't you come back later? (saying this to Jamie, and then pointing to his friends:) She wants it. And she wants it. And you can bring the girls too, if you know what I mean.

This kid can't have been more than 11 years old! Well. We're on our way back when James falls on his arse into the river trying to put out the disposable barbecues and gets covered in mud. Fortunately we'd left the kids by then. have a sponsored 404 page. Surely not. Surely yes.

Apparently the internet isn't as interconnected as we've been told. It's interesting having real numbers on what seems intuitive; that not all pages will be highly connected but there will be a bell curve distribution. The fact that many people point to the same page is simply confirmation of what happens in any statistically large system: If one of a set has only a small advantage then after many choices that single one will be very highly selected. And that there are 'islands' in the internet I think are different hubs each obeying their own bell curves. I've a feeling that a lot of what this study has found are artefacts of the assumption that there is a single centre to the net. What I don't like about this study is that it's going to be misinterpreted for people with vested interests to mean that the users aren't interested in independent publication, and that makes me nervous. What is ought to do is inspire the MSNs of this world to link more to individual sites (which in fact the BBC News site does quite well). Something else that makes me nervous:

"If you know who's linked to you, then perhaps you know your content is valuable. (You might say) 'Hey, let's throw up a royalty, a fee for pointing to me'"

Now that's just fucking stupid, but people are really thinking like this! How can people be saying this when everyone else is working on XML and free syndication? Let's put aside the fact that a royalty would never work, but what sort of internet does this person want? You'd end up with a collection of online cdrom presentations, endless duplicated content, nothing building on anything; metacontent sites would all have editiorial biases. Okay it'll never be as bad as that, but this is an attitude that indy content providers are going to have to contend with in the future. The answer? Make it easy to jump in and jump out of your site - no frames and give context on every single page. Make it easier to link so that people really feel confined when they go onto a 'sticky' site.

Keywords: US. Nuclear bomb. Moon. Kind of like Space 1999, but, erm, the other way round.

Bad MIDIs can be great fun. We've been dancing round the flat to the terrible music on this Brigadoon page, 'Almost like being in love'.

Hey, I got anonymously flamed! I presume it was about the Page of Hate. Kewl.

If you didn't watch the Eurovision Song Content last night you really missed out. For some reason, all contestants simultaneously decided that irony is dead (and it is, you know) and fielded sensible songs, even Germany who took the piss but took the piss in a pretty dedicated way, and Sweden who entered a subversive number. Some of the entries were actually quality music. The major embarrassment was the UK entry which was yet another Abba ripoff.
The Swedish went all out on the show. It was superbly designed in every detail, and if their media companies don't get a lot of work coming their way now I'll be very surprised. You can still see the webcast, but if you can't be arsed with that and didn't watch it last night then worry not because we kept notes.

  • israel | Flat. Shouty. Tiny skirt.
  • netherlands | Huge dress hiding men.
  • uk | Cheap. Abba ripoff (Fernando). So embarrassing.
  • estonia | Girl in good hat. Mmm.
  • france | In French. Real music.
  • romania | Soft rock. Panpipes. Wailing. Craig David.
  • malta | Steve Coogan in drag. Alarming transparent dress + big knickers. Big!
  • norway | Violently derivative of every 1980s song there every was.
  • russia | Bon Jovi meets female masturbation.
  • belgium | Celine Dion.
  • cyprus | 21st century tribal hordes sweeping across Europe armed with drums and hairgel.
  • iceland | Dull (man in skirt).
  • spain | Also dull (blind vicar piano playing man).
  • denmark | Old man who sings like Barenaked Ladies with guitars.
  • germany | Gold lame. German Rap. Wadda dadde dudde da.
  • switzerland | This big <->. No, this big! <--->! Dull.
  • croatia | Interpretative dance/person fighting their way out of a black bag.
  • sweden | Ra-Ra Rasputin meets Eye Of The Tiger meets North American Indians.
  • fyr macedonia | Spice Girls. 12 years old. Flat. Extremely flat.
  • finland | Celticish. But still terribly dull.
  • latvia | Neil Hannon does Jarvis Cocker does Counting Crows. 09011 9804 21
  • turkey | Every Spanish/Italian song ever. Exactly.
  • ireland | Don't want to win.
  • austria | The Ronettes.

btw, Denmark won which was good because they were pretty good and better still they stopped Russia from winning who were shit but somehow came second mainly because the singer was 16 years old and practically falling out of her top, and Latvia only came third but should have come first because they were shit hot and the lead singer wore white bell bottoms and looked manic, absolutely manic.

Myst III: Exiles has been announced, to be released Spring 2001. Excited is just not the word. I lived in Riven for weeks. Without doubt the best game, the most beautiful, I have ever played. The puzzles weren't puzzles if you spent time just wandering around, learning the history, trying to understand the culture of the world, and then everything would become intuitive just like you were a native. I never wanted to finish it so I could spend more time looking around, immersed in Riven. That's why I really hope they don't fuck up Exiles. Cyan and the Miller brothers don't appear to be involved, and looking at the Gallery... it just doesn't look as deep as Riven. I'll find out, I guess, in time. There's a monthly series following the development of Exiles on Presto's site.
A pearl, hidden in the press release: Cyan are working on Myst: Dimensions, with a new 3d engine so that the entire world is rendered realtime. Night/day transitions, ambient wildlife; release date Q4 2000. This article has a link to a demo movie. I just don't know what to say. I can't wait.

The Church say that Fatima's third secret was about the Pope being shot in 1981. Yeah, I knew they'd say that. But how do you know they're telling the truth? I'd better stop. [Ominously:] I've already said too much.

I've been educated (cheers Nick): LAME (notlame Linux binaries) is a better mp3 encoder than BladeEnc. Smaller, compressed faster mp3s which will hopefully let me encode at lower than a bitrate of 128bps (I haven't tried yet). Incidentally, my continuing exploration of the Linux universe has led me to find that hating Microsoft ain't the half of it. You also have to know about:

  • patents | Patents are stupid! Patents are evil! Of course, it is possible to argue that some are, and some certainly are, but would you innovate if there was no way to protect what you'd created? The problem with patents is not patents themselves but what is being patented, and the things that are around to be patented -- well, that's a product of the times.
  • licenses | Compare and contrast, but never take Ask Slashdot or you'll never get out alive.
  • distributions | All these different distributions! Which to choose? Hey, I don't know - I use Red Hat because that's what I was given first.

I've got a long way to go. MacOS X is just going to make it more difficult, I can tell.

I just heard this on the radio: Fatima's third secret is to be revealed. Now I don't really care about religion itself, but this is epic, the stuff of old-skool religion, prophecies of the eschaton and all that. There's been so much speculation, conspiracy and nonsense it's going to be great for all these people to see what was actually said and why it was kept secret. Not that it concerns me of course, I already know the secret. But I'm not going to tell you.

Mac MP3 players. Audion is beautiful, but I'd have to pay and anyway the faces can be converted to Soundjam format. Macast has the best looking default skin and tucks nicely into the side of the screen. But I'd have to pay for it. Have you noticed a pattern? Yeah, so I've gone for the free version of Soundjam. Doesn't work as nicely as Macast. Doesn't look as good. But you get what you pay for.
Good thing about Soundjam: Visual plugins. I love watching this kind of shit. After seeing WhiteCap & G-Force I've finally found where all the Cthugha fans have gone after all this time.

Why has it taken me so long to catch on to mp3s? For some reason I always thought there were only commercial encoders, but yesterday I realised that (1) there were free ones, and (2) I had several gig of hard drive with nothing on it. So now I've got BladeEnc running with XMCD, cdparanoia and id3tool, all under mp3make - which rips and encodes a cd with a single command. Kewl. Whole kaboodle thoroughly recommendable.
Oh yeah, and that's not all I was doing. I installed netatalk (here's the howto I used) so now I can get at my mp3s from the College library using AppleTalk TCP-IP ( don't allow AppleTalk over the University backbone). And then there's Samba so I can mount the Windows network stuff on my Linux box then AppleTalk that back to my iBook and-- Shit, I never wanted to know this much about Linux. I'm a Mac user for crying out loud.
Can you tell I'm supposed to be revising?

I want. I want so much. And these. I want these things so much I'm in physical pain.

I've posted the next revision of my notes of XML syndication, with more detail next time. My next step will be to put together a full spec.

Well I was going to post my new XML syndication notes tonight, but we had some friends round and played the Pokémon card game for hours and hours. Hey, tell you what: I'll mark up my notes and post them tomorrow morning. How about that?

I'm hearing voices in my flat. Coolest thing this afternoon: Andrew's travelling the world and won't be seen for a year. Yeah, we email, but it's not quite the same - but I told him the url of the speaking computer and he announced some of his own particular idiosyncrasies into our lives. It's weird. It's a little injection of a different reality into the closed system of the flat. So, do you want to say something?

This'll only work between about 07-22gmt. I'll make a more permanent form sometime soon. Meantime, have fun.

Well, I've finally done it: You can now shout into my flat (link only works when my server's switched on). It's text-to-speech and all that shit, all good fun. Things to do next:

  • Add an email interface so it's independent of whether my server's on or not; I can speak all queued emails when I start up.
  • Figure out why the volume's so low from the synthesiser.
  • Record everything that's typed into the form for posterity.

Go on, tell me something! Oh - you remember that soundcard problem I had? Fixed it by replacing the soundcard with a different one. Sometimes the cheating solutions are the best ones.

The Guardian has freely available newsfeeds. Plus one! Oh, they're only available as HTML tables. Minus one.

This is just desperate:

Updates to Windows and Office technologies that could, for example, protect against attacks such as the Love Bug virus would also be much harder for computer users to obtain,

-- if Microsoft is broken up, argues Bill Gates.

I want some weird email. Send me weird email. ("You're lucky you haven't got many readers," says Es. Bah.)

Email fun. I tried the Internet Oracle for a while but was never sure whether I was getting the tone right. Here's collection of classic answers so I can learn and start answering again.

Newsflash: old skool homepages still alive. Chimptopia has an ass fixation that makes me laugh. Check the horoscopes.

Internet Pizza Server! Or, if you prefer (and personally I think the experience is a whole lot better this way) you can order pizza via email. Yeah. Look, trust me on this. Email with the subject 'help' to find out how to order. I want to play with more email games. Where are they? Am I going to have to build them myself?

I've moved on from my Virtual Boyfriend. We met, we dated, we snogged (twice, I think), then he booked an entire restaurant for dinner and took me away to a tropical island.
I'm now seeing Online Caroline (in a purely platonic way) which is just an another level. I know Caroline's phone number (I called it - voicemail), email address. There are a couple of fake satellite sites to make everything that much more real. Fortunately, it's only entertainment, but you've never seen anything that'll play with your mind as much as this.

Snapperhead [Mac only] makes a picture of your current desktop available to webbrowsers. Like a webcam, but much more personal. Why?

My Millennium Dome photos are up, together with a little commentary. I loved my day there, and I'm pretty pleased with the photos: My favourites are the mindzone.jpg, outsidetall2.jpg, and quantum.jpg. Especially quantum.jpg.

Grumpy and restless today and unable to think, so I've been doing the relatively mindless task of reformatting photos to put on the web. I've finally got my Millennium Dome photos back, on Kodak PictureCD. That's PictureCD, a shittier version of PhotoCD. Jessops can't put APS film onto PhotoCD because Kodak doesn't offer that service. Oh don't they? Still, got them now. I'll post them when I've written up the descriptions. They're quite good, I think, for a non-photographer.

This is wonderful [article on BBC news]:

The IRA has said it is ready to begin a process that would "completely and verifiably" put its weapons beyond use.

Other parts of the agreement: Deadline for arms decommissioning put back to June 2001 (from this May), power-sharing with 16 days, renaming the Ulster Constabulary. I'm so impressed with the way this has been negotiated. It's the first time I've seen a system of negotiation which is aware of the potential of its own failure, and that's the real breakthrough of the past few years. There have been no setbacks, only pauses; we're ratcheting gradually towards peace and brilliantly, disagreeing about what happens tomorrow does not affect what has been built so far. Kudos to all involved.

Too good not to mention: Black & White [via eatonweb]. September. Multi-platform (multi-platform!). Actually, that reminds me - there were rumours ages ago that the game would scale really well from the tip-top version on the PC, a gamer version on the Playstation, and a tamigochi-type game for Gameboys. You'd be able to move your titans between versions. All hail Molyneux and Lionhead Studios.

Who shot JR is a BBC FAQ. The question Why does the BBC show so little sport? is followed by Why is there so much sport on TV?. But my favourite of all these questions is Why is the BBC so biased towards Labour/Tories?. Labour/Tories? Is that like Tony Blair?

Talking with Es* about the teaching article from earlier today: We both weren't taught like that, obviously, but still we're both fairly bright people good at analysis, &c. - why is that? What was different in our upbringings?
This made me remember an incident from when I was young, probably about seven. I'd sent a note down via my sister to my parents. It included the word 'centre' which I'd spelt incorrectly, and so instead of replying to the note (it was a question) they sent the note back up again telling me there was a spelling mistake and that I should try again. And that happened again, and again. No corrections, no hints: Just letting me find out for myself and not making being wrong anything to be ashamed of.
There's other stuff I remember too, from being really young, like seeing a normal calculator and being confused because I'd been taught to use an RPN one (I was only five or six) or being taught long division on a Sunday morning (age eight). Just things. The older I get the more impressed I am by how well I was brought up.
I'll be off now, to email home and say so.

Scripting News today talks about sharing XML content with Pyra and having to think about how to do it. Well, what he needs is some kind of technique for XML syndication <g>. Actually, i've been doing some more thinking: More detailed writeup about the system itself in the next day or two.

Omigodthatssocool hyperlinking paper media [via slashdot thread]. Except that there are things that could be done better, like:

  • Not making the link depend on a central server or need special software, ie hand-decodable at a push.
  • Threading newspaper/magazine articles so you can call up followup stories: Built-in forward linking not just backward links.
  • Having an open standard so I can hyperlink all my printouts, webpages or otherwise.
  • Putting the UPC on all books, clothes, food so that I can scan with my Casio WQV which grabs the info from my web using my bluetooth enabled mobile phone/palmtop, which is sitting in my backpack, and reads out the (audio xml marked up) content into my earpiece transmitting over my Personal Area Network. Or perhaps that would be a bit much for them to do all at once.

Oh, more about PAN here.

How to feel confused: Go away and read many articles from The Onion then go and read this article about green sausages. Reality, meet fiction. Fiction, meet reality.

Utterly brilliant article about formalised teaching of high-level thought to young children. I'd like to learn more about this.

Hey, thanks to evhead for linking me yesterday*. Comments about XML syndication are most welcome.
Also thanks to prolific [archive] for plugging Dirk. Cheers!

I'm attending a great course about chaos for the next few weeks (it's, like, sooo 1986). We're being lectured by Dr Neil Johnson, who gave the Royal Institute Christmas lectures (there's also a good writeup at BBC Science) in 1999. Anyway, very good lectures, interesting, blah blah, and he showed us a neat table dividing systems up according to their linearity (or otherwise) and dynamical properties. So neat, in fact, that I've put a dynamical view of the world online. If you're a physicist you'll probably find it interesting.

Carl Steadman seems to have sunk off radar, at least at and at, the two places I know about. If anyone knows where he's set up shop, why not let me know so I can get my fix - but the freedonia front page looks rather ominous.

Commcare, a telephony company, has moved to flat-fee voice over IP and in the process has found that (here comes the important bit) 60% of the cost of providing telephony services is the billing system. Wow. Hey, BT, can you hear that paradigm creaking?

Can I say it? Go on, let me say it! Can I? I can? Yes. Happy Star Wars day, everyone*.

Beefnut is just like Kvetch, only not as good looking.

But if you do get caught running your Email-Erotica side business from your cube, don't forget to try the random resignation letter generator [url].

Interesting thread at the BBC about scanning your work email. There's no certain answer, I know - it's like stealing paperclips or photocopying a couple of posters in that there have to be limits. I know this, but I still feel uncomfortable reading in that thread about a workplace finding racist email; should they have looked? Perhaps it's good that they did, and given that they did of course something has to be done. And then I read about a guy who got locked up [Metafilter thread] because his roommated poked around in his email and...
conclusion | People are different depending on whether they're being watched or not, and we can't make assumptions about their public self by looking at their private self. Unless a person has been explicitly told that their email will be read, it should not be read or used as direct evidence. Companies do need to scan, yes, but they should only monitor usage patterns and if further investigations needs to take place they should do so with the cooperation of the author. Now surely this comes under a current privacy law?

Coronal mass ejection heading our way. Cool, aurora borealis should be visible a long way south (keep an eye out). Either that or it heralds the beginning of the eschaton. isn't a particularly special search engine, but if you have a search box on your page you get 1p every time it's used. 1p? Per search? What kind of VC would fund that? I'm still not sure what their USP is. From the about page:

When people search the Internet with Godado, they use search terms most likely to bring up a list of sites with content that matches their interest.

No kidding. Anyway, it seems their gimmick is when you advertise you only pay for clickthroughs (what an innovation!), and the more you bid the higher you appear in the search results (wow, what an original idea!).

Mmm. Surfy lets you search the Gnutellanet for MP3s.

I've spent the entire day trying to get my bastard sound card to work on my bastard Linux box, because it's turned out to be the only card in the world which it isn't easy to configure for. Works now though, thanks to this OPTi931 mini HOWTO.
Well, kinda works. Still doesn't work with Festival (although I think that may be a Festival config problem). Festival is free Linux text-to-speech software. I want to use it so random people can announce arbitrary things into my flat. Um. Isn't that, like, really sad?

I miss my old 8-bit games, but fortunately there's Flipside. The network side of it looks awesome; I can't wait until it comes out of beta.

Welcome to the redesign. It's rather green, I know, which is something I'm pretty pissed off about. I had a list of colours I wanted to avoid because they're getting quite lazy (orange, blue, grey, recently green), so I started playing around with really obnoxious combinations: I had a really terrible brown and bright red thing going on and that was cool, somehow subversive because it looked like bloody shit, but then these strips came along and now I just look like the Channel 4 Territorial Army division.
I have some problems with design though: I've only recently (last couple of years) started designing in colour. I love black and white, and I love doing stuff in print. I know it's not terribly fashionable to admit this but I still feel fairly uncomfortable with only have two borders on the (web) page, and also with using colour. I always end up using three colours; two very close and one for highlights. When it comes to using a whole palette, I'm just unsure.
Still. At least I've resisted the temptation to spatter my page with photographs.