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Sun 30th Sep 2007 @ 22:03 2007: Geek Poetry

Advisory: Embedded video includes the "F" word four times:

If only for the line "The monkeys are at once the ugliest and the most beautiful creatures on the planet" (full text)

Further bad language here...

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Fri 28th Sep 2007 @ 23:57 2007: MS again

I'm not Microsoft bashing, honestly. It's just that these two stories seem to have come up together.

There's a great post on slashdot about Windows: "People think that Microsoft is a software company that is routinely abusive, but it isn't. Microsoft is an abuse company that merely uses software as a means of delivering abuse. "

The poster goes into further depth, but does mitigate the potential damage with the disclaimer: "Some of this may be a joke, and some of it may be the truth."

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Fri 28th Sep 2007 @ 22:53 2007: Pigs and blogs and Naked dwarves - the bizarre world of Microsoft

An interesting post mentions why a language was named "KEEP" - "It's not an acronym, I just found a good way not to have people throw program listings away was if the header page said 'KEEP' in big letters", and "a product which is still secret, and referring to the next product which is so hush-hush they've code named it 'Shshhhh'"

But the really interesting stuff is the Naked Dwarves:

"If you don't get a naked dwarf in my office by this afternoon, I'm coming over there to get one for myself", which was heard in a Microsoft office, and - this is important - the blogger had permission from Legal, to publish this quote on his blog.

Here's why:

It was in the process of explaining the importance of context that a lawyer from our games division told us the following - which he was happy for me to retell. In making modern video games it's now quite common to make clay sculptures of the characters. These characters are dressed in their costume so that the clothes look right - which matters if the digitized image of the figure appears in the final game; underneath the characters are naked. The characters also need to be seen by people from legal, and during the production of Shadowrun they had to check out the figures of Naked Dwarves, Elves, Humans and Trolls. It was in this context that a lawyer came to demand a naked dwarf in his office. Not that the person who overheard him necessarily understood that at the time ...

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Thu 27th Sep 2007 @ 16:00 2007: USB Turntable

Now that's clever!

Bundling Audacity with it is a cunning plan, too.

Shame they won't ship it of the USA :-(

Though if you can get a basic turntable for 40 quid, there's still a tenner in the budget to adapt the line-out to a jack into your PC's sound card.



Thu 27th Sep 2007 @ 00:01 2007: Lancashire Hotpots

Radcliffe and Maconie plugged The Lancashire Hotpots recently (sorry, they're on myspace).

There are various ways of getting hold of their audio, not least seeing them live. They're on tour at the moment.

They will be supporting John Cooper Clarke on Friday 26th October, for £15 (01524 582803). Crivens, I'm very short of cash at the moment, but the combination of these two together is very tempting.

Who are the Lancashire Hotpots? YouTube for Lancashire Hotpots

Who is John Cooper Clarke (surely you don't need to ask?!) More YouTube Goodness for John Cooper Clarke

On a similar note [sic], many thanks to Tim and Lisa for the plugs of M J Hibbett (again, more M J Hibbett on YouTube)

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Tue 25th Sep 2007 @ 00:18 2007: Painting the bikeshed

Don't fork Linux because of Linus, on, is a silly title to a sensible article.

"I suspect that the issue is that the scheduler is one of the few things that a lot of people think they understand what it is doing. Schedulers are easy to argue about, and so people get into what the BSD people call 'painting the bikeshed'; there's a lot of discussion about the issue just because everybody feels competent to talk about it.

It would appear that somebody is trying to create an impression of a rift, where none exists. I recall readily applying Con's patches a few years ago, whilst acknowledging that I wouldn't suggest them for servers (let's keep the word "enterprise" out of it for now).

If Con continues his series of desktop-oriented patches, that'd be great. If he chooses not to, it's his choice - but someone else may wlll pick up the mantle. Desktop-specific tweaks are great. Hard-coding the kernel for desktop-only features would be a Bad Thing.

I have not heard any commentary suggesting any particular code which would be contentious in this regard.
Absent any actual code to discuss, would the press please STFU

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Thu 20th Sep 2007 @ 22:23 2007: F1 Spying

wmsc-transcript-13-09-2007.pdf is an interesting document, should you come across it. It is the transcript of the 13th September 2007 FIA meeting which decided to fine McLaren (holds pinky finger to corner of mouth) $100m.

I won't include this image, but I'll link to it:

It's of particular interest because it's yet another case of blacking-out confidential information by adding a black bar above the text in the PDF; a simple copy/paste shows the infringing text.

It's also very long (115 pages), but occasionally amusing, such as this interview with Lewis Hamilton (the new kid in the team, who had nothing to do with the case, unlike his colleague, Fernando Alonso). MILL is McLaren's attorney; TOZZI is Ferrari's. MOSLEY is the President of the FIA.

Mr Hamilton, you have a copy of your statement in front of you. Please look at the second page. Is that your signature toward the bottom of this page?
It is.
Have you read this statement?
I have.
Are the contents true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Thank you.
Mr TOZZI, do you wish to ask any questions of Mr Hamilton?
I have no questions for Mr Hamilton.
Does anyone have any questions for Mr Hamilton?

Thank you very much, Mr Hamilton.
We are making very good progress!
I don’t think it will go on that way…

... It didn't!


Thu 20th Sep 2007 @ 00:25 2007: Geek Games

We all love to critique everybody else's choice of PC/Laptop. And when we start a new job, and get given the company's choice, there's always some obvious flaw with it; why on earth did they choose to cut back on CPU speed, just for a bit more RAM? And so on.

So - I'm offering up my laptop choice as a game for the many hundreds of people who read this blog (yes, both of you!)
HP Laptop

What have I got wrong with this spec? If I buy it and then you tell me "Oh no, the 950 is famously terrible!" or something, then I'll go off and sulk for a full five minutes. Maybe even six.

I'm getting a new job (wahey!) and I get to choose my own laptop (double wahey!) and install whatever I want on it (triple wahey!) and the budget is pretty good too (quadruple wahey!)

Gosh, I'm feeling so smug I could punch myself :-)

And I'm looking at an HP NX7300 RH691EA. It's 2Ghz Core2 Duo with 1Gb RAM (I plan to upgrade to 2Gb for £59), 667MHz FSB, 120Gb 5400RPM HDD, 15.4" 1280x800 screen, Intel 3945 WiFi.

More info, photos and stuff here

There's a review of it here, by someone who also upgraded to 2Gb.

It's only £600, but with 3 years support at £175, a case, an upgrade to 2Gb RAM, and a keyboard, it's nearer £900. The budget will go further, but that just seems to get nicer screens and bigger hard disks.

The upsides:
1) The WiFi should work on Windows, Linux, Solaris Express
2) It's 2GHz, dual core, and with 2Gb, should last me a few years before it's obsolete

The downsides:
1) 100MBps onboard LAN is slow these days; I may need to JumpStart machines.
2) 120Gb is not huge, but laptop HDDs seem expensive (unless I'm looking in the wrong place?)

The Mitigations:
1) It does apparently (despite no mention of it on include a PCMICA slot, so gigabit ethernet is possible
2) By the time I fill up the hard disk, 500Gb laptop disks will be available!
3) External hard disks, and my desktop PC, are also available for data retention

I'm totally naive when it comes to buying laptops; I've never bought one before. And I've never bought a PC with Windows pre-installed before, either. Presumably I'll have a sticker underneath, so I can reinstall Windows (XP on this one; I don't feel a need for Vista) alongside Linux/Solaris and remain legitimate.

The budget will stretch beyond this spec if necessary; I reckon that £175 for 3 years onsite support (£5/month) is worth it; I've asked HP to confirm what that would actually do for me, and of course, I could skimp on the HP RAM, HP laptop bag, and so on, if other things are more important. Budget isn't the biggest issue; it's more about value for money, and longevity.

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Wed 19th Sep 2007 @ 00:36 2007: Strange candidate for nice website design

Lotus - the firm bought by IBM a few years back - has a really nice looking website. It doesn't look out of date at all. It doesn't seem to be abandonware, but does it really deserve such a pretty website?

It's probably just my misconceptions, but I associate Lotus with the mid-1990s, and not with a Web2.0 pretty website.


Tue 18th Sep 2007 @ 00:47 2007: It's hard to buy MS Windows

I want to buy a laptop. I do not want Vista, but it may well be that a Windows XP license could be useful at some point in the future, just so I've got some Wintel around if I need Windows (XP) compatability. Vista is not an issue; it doesn't support many Windows apps anyway.

Some vendors will still sell you a laptop with XP; others will only sell Vista.

This leaves the customer with a choice, it would appear. I could buy a Vista/XP machine, and choose my OS. Buying an XP-only machine doesn't seem to be an option. Or I could buy a Vista machine, and (at additional cost) buy a WinXP license.

Microsoft make their money from selling MS Windows and MS Office. Those are the two "cash cows".

So it must be dead easy to buy this software, right?

I must be stucking fupid. will pull up a ton of links, so that I can buy a Vista PC, and add(!) a WinXP license to it.


I cannot find a price for a Windows XP install CD which would give me a legitimate copy of Windows XP on a laptop I might buy today which came with Windows Vista installed.

Please - for Pete's sake - it must be possible to buy Windows XP if I want it! I just want to know how much it would cost me, if I wanted to install it at a later date. I don't even care (much) that I'd be buying an unwanted, unneeded (MS Tax) license for Vista. I just want to know what it would cost me to install WinXP at a later date. I'll buy it now, if necessary; if someone can give me a price. should be a direct URL to buy a CD and license. It's a HTTP 404. No such URL.

I thought that Windows was the easy option; If I go for the Linux-only approach, I can buy anything I like, be pretty sure it will work with my OS of choice, and be guaranteed that I will be allowed to use it.

Back in 2000, the "Unless Linux fixes 'my specific scenario', it'll never catch on" line seemed pretty silly. In 2005, the "Unless Linux works with all wireless networks without any downloads, tweaking, etc, it'll never catch on" seemed rather far-fetched.
It's only now, that - for the first time since, oh, must be 1992 since I last bought a machine with an MS OS (DOS 3.3) installed, that I realise how messed up the Windows licensing part of the world really is.

It is a ridiculous situation if I have to choose between one laptop with one operating system, or a different laptop, with a different specification, with another OS. Surely the free market must dictate that I can buy whatever laptop suits my needs, and be able to buy whatever OS(es) I choose to work that machine, be they commercial, open, free, etc. The idea that I'm limited in the MS OSes I can choose for a laptop seems particularly bizarre.


Mon 17th Sep 2007 @ 15:29 2007: SCO Bankrupt

SCO goes for Chapter 11

Quote of the month: Darl McBride:

"We want to assure our customers and partners that they can continue to rely on SCO products, support and services for their business critical operations," said Darl McBride, President and CEO, The SCO Group. "Chapter 11 reorganization provides the Company with an opportunity to protect its assets during this time while focusing on building our future plans."

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Sun 16th Sep 2007 @ 00:39 2007: McLaren - more details

World MotorSport Council Decision (PDF, 14 pages).

official Formula 1 Website's summary

What seems to have happened:

Nigel Stepney (Ferrari) was passing information on to Mike Coughlan. He emailed (some of?) it on to test driver Pedro de la Rosa (at de la Rosa's request, for testing purposes). de la Rosa forwarded it to Alonso. There are no claims that it went into the engineering team(s), nor that it was used in any tests; it is suggested that there were (unsurprisingly) technical reasons for this, if nothing else. (Ahem, a bit like the SCO UNIX / Linux case, but I digress...)

When Hamilton threw his toys out of the pram, and messed up Alonso's track position in Hungary, Alonso threw his toys out of the pram (these are racing drivers, after all - egos more fragile than eggshells!) and told Ron that he'd splill the beans on McLaren to the FIA if Ron didn't give him preference over Hamilton in the team.

Ron didn't know about any of the "car porn" being shared between the drivers, called Alonso's bluff, and told him to go right ahead. He called Max Moseley (FIA President) to tell him to expect empty claims from Alonso.

The FIA offered all three drivers immunity in exchange for their email traffic, which Alonso and de la Rosa accepted (Hamilton seems to have declined, but appears to have been out of the loop anyway). That evidence was then used to fine McLaren $100m plus Constructors Championship points.

Alonso still stands a good chance of winning the Drivers Championship, despite having effectively admitted to sharing trade secrets.

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Sun 16th Sep 2007 @ 00:21 2007: Don't tell McLaren

Don't tell McLaren! The FIA are publishing Ferrari technical specs on their own website! (more here!)

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Sat 15th Sep 2007 @ 23:59 2007: SCO Bankrupt

SCOThe Register report that SCO Group today filed for bankruptcy protection.

Who could ever have thought it?!

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Fri 14th Sep 2007 @ 23:31 2007: Yellow Ribbon

It seems that a yellow ribbon, as made famous in the 1970s song by Tony Orlando & Dawn is no older than that.

Apparently many USAians are putting yellow ribbons on their cars ("bumper stickers"); according to, "At its broadest, the gesture signifies homefront support for American military personnel and the war effort in general; at its most personal, it signifies the hope that a loved one participating in the distant conflict will return safe and sound."

So, it's pretty USAian patriotic "support the military" kind of thing.

Not quite what this musical interpretation seems to entirely endorse:
Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your S.U.V.
(contains some bad language at the end; contains NSFW innuendo in intro)

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Fri 14th Sep 2007 @ 00:35 2007: RIAA: Racketeering

waging war in the US court system to "shore up the American recording industry's failing business model."

aka racketeering. Caution - the linked article contains words with ast*r*sks. The defendant only listened to Christian Rock (which may be an offence in itself, but that's just my personal opinion), nothing with asterisks in the titles.

The defendant even bought a new PC, and boxed up the old one; it's not as if there's any bad-will shown on the part of the (apparently innocent) defendant.

Let's just say this once, and make it clear.


Nuff said? I fear not.

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Tue 11th Sep 2007 @ 20:51 2007: Oh noes! hax0r3d!

A few minutes ago, someone in Mexico (, to be precise!) googled for "allinurl:comment.php" and posted a nice little message to this little blog of mine. A lovely comment of "HACKED BY aXuZ!!" and an attempt to redirect to another page, which does look like it has been hacked.


It took an entire mouse click to delete, and five full seconds to ban the IP.


Mon 10th Sep 2007 @ 23:49 2007: Cory Doctorow

Schneier blogged this: - Doctorow has a series in The Guardian.

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Mon 10th Sep 2007 @ 23:21 2007: Windows' DOS Legacy

console thumb

If you're using Windows (I've tested this on WinXP, but I suspect it must go all the way back to 3.0, if not earlier, and probably still applies to Vista).

Create a folder called "CON". Go on, try it! "CON" is a special name to DOS. So is "PRN". You can't create a file (or folder) called PRN.

Under a "cmd.exe" shell, "mkdir CON" results in the error message "The directory name is invalid."

PRN is even worse; you can "mkdir PRN". It doesn't seem to create it; it's not shown on the desktop, but "dir PRN" shows "Directory of \\." You can't delete the directory, either. If you "rmdir CON", you get the message "The system cannot find the file specified." "rmdir PRN" results in the message "The parameter is incorrect."

Click the thumb above for the grotty details.

One strange thing, I can't explain this:

  1. Create a new Notepad file
  2. Enter the text "Bush hid the facts" (without the quotes)
  3. Save the file (any filename you want).
  4. Close, then re-open the file.
  5. The text is replaced with boxes


Mon 10th Sep 2007 @ 01:02 2007: Rainbow Hashes : Rainbow Hash Cracking

Scary things, Rainbow Hashes; it's why the UNIX world came up with the Salting idea decades ago. Unfortunately, MS's LAN Manager team hadn't heard of that idea, and inertia being what it is, seems to suggest that Windows Server 2003 still accepts that authentication:

Unfortunately, Windows servers are particularly vulnerable to rainbow table attack, due to unforgivably weak legacy Lan Manager hashes. I'm stunned that the legacy Lan Manager support "feature" is still enabled by default in Windows Server 2003. It's highly advisable that you disable Lan Manager hashes, particularly on Windows servers which happen to store domain credentials for every single user. It'd be an awful shame to inconvenience all your Windows 98 users, but I think the increase in security is worth it.

I'd say that putting Windows98 users to any level of inconvenience would be worth it.

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Sun 9th Sep 2007 @ 23:51 2007: Can't see the funny side

Apparently Granada Ventures (and possibly other firms; the detail is fuzzy) have cracked down on those nasty Christians (Christian Publishing and Outreach) from using their copyrighted phrases: "Am I Bovvered" and "Yeah but no but yeah" (oh no, I'm going to get sued now too!). It seems that they were selling a pack of four posters carrying the catchphrases for £25 a set, saying they were ‘the ideal way to reach out to today's youth’.

Isn't the very point of the joke, that these phrases are ubiquitous?

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Sun 9th Sep 2007 @ 22:53 2007: StumbleUpon

Last week, I added a new page to the website:, which shows the effects of logic gates, tabularly and interactively, with a little bit of JavaScript. I also sumbitted it to StumbleUpon.

The usual traffic for this website (nearly all for the shell scripting tutorial is about 1300 visitors on a workday, viewing 3 pages each, making about 4000 page views between them. Weekends are quiet around here, with 450 visitors making 1400 page views.

As the graph above shows, StumbleUpon brought a large amount of traffic, more than doubling the usual site load (WebQualityHost were more than up to the task, of course!)

Monday 3rd (evening)Page created, submitted to StumbleUpon.3079/1184
Tuesday 4thTraffic starts coming.7456/3243
Wednesday 5thPeak Day. Also gets in the Google index today (the URL has only existed since Monday night).9809/4482
Thursday 6thSteep drop. Google rank for Binay Logic Gate up to 3rd position.4972/1881
Friday 7thA typical Friday. Google adverts showing at the URL become more relevant, as the adbot has had time to crawl the site by now.3361/1107

Also, in the past six days, 39% of the traffic has come from search engines (combined; nearly all Google), whilst 46% has come from StumbleUpon.

Usually, I get around 75% from search engines, and 5% from StumbleUpon referrals to the shell scripting tutorial (though it does vary, down to about 1%, up to around 15%)

The moral of the story? Make sure your website can cope with huge spikes in traffic. Also, if you want to sell Google adverts to Stumblers, make sure that Google have seen the page well before you submit it to StumbleUpon.

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Sun 9th Sep 2007 @ 00:47 2007: RIAA: Killing Music

I hadn't read this NY Times article from April 2007 by a music vendor, on how the RIAA have killed music (wait; hope taping is killing music, oh - hang on, I'm getting confused now)

The major labels wanted to kill the single. Instead they killed the album. The association wanted to kill Napster. Instead it killed the compact disc. And today it’s not just record stores that are in trouble, but the labels themselves, now belatedly embracing the Internet revolution without having quite figured out how to make it pay.

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Sat 8th Sep 2007 @ 23:55 2007: Byte

I've just heard a new (to me) definition of the word "byte".

I'm watching old episodes of the 1982 BBC2 TV series The Computer Programme*, and Ian McNaught-Davis, 6 minutes 50 seconds into episode 4, says, in passing: "8 bits - it's called a byte: by-eight, a byte"

I've heard a few definitions over the years, none too convincing, but this is a new one to me.

My favourite is the "pieces of eight", by which a nickel of gold would be cut into eighths, or pieces of eight (as an entire nickel would be worth too much to be useful), and you'd check that it was pure gold by biting it. But that sounds far too exciting to be true, I'm sure!

*Yes, I need to get out more!

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Sat 8th Sep 2007 @ 01:27 2007: Adsense

Google's Adsense advertising programme, now offer a new feature to their advertisers:

We've learned through your feedback that some AdSense publishers are concerned about potentially malicious behavior on the web, such as having their ad code stolen, to be placed on an inappropriate site. To give you more control and security concerning ad code, we've recently launched the Allowed Sites list.

Just in case it's not clear:
Sites that aren't on your list can still display ads using your ad code; however, impressions and clicks for these sites won't appear in your reports, advertisers won't be charged, and you won't receive any earnings from them.

Sorry, how exactly do I benefit from this? Either way, it's possible for an external website to display Google ads in my name. Now, I have the option of not benefitting from clicks on those adverts.

Thanks, Google.

I think this got posted to the wrong list; advertisers might appreciate this. Publishers are unlikely to care.

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Sat 8th Sep 2007 @ 01:04 2007: World's most powerful supercomputer goes online

SupercomputerThe world's most powerful supercomputer, making incredible use of distributed computing, is now online.

The Storm cluster has the equivalent of 1-10M (approximately) 2.8 GHz P4s with 1-10 petabytes of RAM (BlueGene/L has a paltry 32 terabytes). In fact this composite system has better hardware resources than what's listed at for the entire world's top 10 supercomputers:

BlueGene/L: 128K CPUs, 32TB
Jaguar: 22K CPUs, 46TB
Red Storm: 26K CPUs, 40TB
BGW: 40K CPUs, 10TB
New York Blue: 37K CPUs, 18TB
ASC Purple: 12K CPUs, 49TB
eServer Blue Gene: ?
Abe: 10K CPUs, 10TB
MareNostrum: 10K CPUs, 20GB

This may be the first time that a top 10 supercomputer has been controlled not by a government or megacorporation but by criminals.

Yes, it's a botnet.

Those innocent Windows PCs, with the occasional virus and spam problem, nothing really to worry about, have now become the largest supercomputer on the planet. Allegedly.

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Wed 5th Sep 2007 @ 22:59 2007: Happy Birthday, Freddie!

Freddie Mercury would have been 61 today (5th September).

Bohemian Rhapsody

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Mon 3rd Sep 2007 @ 23:41 2007: Inbox Zero

I got back from holiday today, and watched Merlin Mann give his "Inbox Zero" talk to Google:

The idea is that email is just a medium, not an action, and you don't let the Inbox clog up (mine had 1473 messages, about 300 marked as "unread"), but deal with them by Deleting, Delegating, Responding, Delaying, Doing.

I got all aggressive, and archived the lot. 90% of it went into about 5-10 folders. That felt really good; a clean slate, back from holiday, and I know what really needs to be dealt with, and what is obsolete.

This evening, after filtering, I've had 3 new messages before I've even started the next day.

My personal Inbox currently has 2673 unread messages; I don't know if I've still got the inertia to filter those too. I suspect not.

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