Monday, 8 December 2008

Fantstic Customer Service from Linuxemporium

Just had to blog about the fantastic customer service I've experienced from LinuxEmporium. I had to replace the wireless network card on one of our PCs, in the past I've had a lot of grief setting up Belkin cards to work on Linux, so this time I decided to get a known compatible card. LinuxEmporium offer cards that have tested with various Linux distributions. I ordered the card, which arrive promptly, but did not work. I emailed back some diagnostic information to LinuxEmporium and Quentin immediately mailed me back offering to replace the card and requesting that I return the faulty card. The next day a new card arrived along with the postage for return of the original card.

Any supplier can have a duff card in their stock, not many make it such a painless experience, I even got a thank you for returning the duff card. All in all I'd call that excellent service.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Mr Woo's walking robots

A good friend of mine once made some walking robots, one called Scuttle for Technogames and another called Anarchy for Robot Wars, so when I came across this I had to post it here on the blog.
Here is Mr Woo's amazing robots:

I saw this on the Howtoons Blog

Sunday, 31 August 2008

StarShipSanatorium goes live

Tony, the host of the StarShipSofa podcast is giving something extra to those who make a regularly monthly donation to support the podcast. For these supporters he's providing access to a private feed for the StarShip Sanatorium.

Aside from all the usual StarShipSofa fayre, such as the regular weekly magazine with short stories, flash-fiction, poetry and related articles, or the weekend shows, Tony has started podcasting the StarShip Sanatorium as well.

Putting out two regular shows a week is enough to make anyone need a spell in the sanatorium. Tony's answer to this pressure seems to be to create another podcast. Whilst he was setting up the new feed Tony released the first three shows into the standard feed. So us regular Sofanaughts have had a taste of this madness.

The StarShip Sanatorium seems to me to be a form of Xtreme Podcasting, what he does is switch on his Zoom H4 recorder and make a podcast on the spur of the moment. A kind of stream of consiousness brain dump of stuff thats happening in his life. For most people I'm sure that this would be a recipe for a podcasting disaster (even the erudite Stephen Fry appears to script his podcasts), but somehow Tony pulls it off remaining entertaining and informative, whether driving home from work or walking the dogs.

If you're into sci-fi, then you should be listening to the StarShipSofa. If you are into the StarShipSofa you'll most probably want or maybe need the StarShip Sanatorium. And if you are into sci-fi you should also drop into the forum.

Tiny URL custom URLs - make your own aliases for URLs

I just found/noticed a great feature on the service, Custom URL. The service has been around for a while. It enables you to scrunch up a long link into a small link. This is really useful if your are posting a link to friends in your myface, people space thing, Twitter, just an email or to jot down in your notes.

For instance if you wanted to make reference to my recent post in this blog about the upcoming US presidential elections. I just paste my relatively long URL into the tinyurl homepage, and it gives back this short URL

With the custom URL service, not only can I make a short link, I can also make it fit the destination, for instance my blog post link can now be, which much nicer.

Or a shortcut to this blog ;-)

Here's some more to play with:

What about malicious links though? If you do use these shortened links from untrusted sources, beware of disguised links to malicious sites. Tinyurl addresses this issue by enabling you to register to preview tinyurl links. Just tick the checkbox on their homepage, it'll set a cookie in your browser that causes the tinyurl site to present you with the expanded link allowing you to choose whether you wish to click through to the page.

Friday, 29 August 2008

The periodic table of videos

The University Nottingham have produced a series of videos, one for each element of the periodic table. They are all around 2 minutes long and tell you a little about the element. There's also a bit of entertaining blowing things up old style type chemistry going on in them such as in this Sodium video.

Here's the link to the full set so that you can view at your lesiure.

Now that's more entertaining that Eastenders, isn't it.

At least the maximum term is only 8 years

Listening to the now seemingly interminable US election news this morning on Radio 4, please make it stop before November, I don't think I can take more than 2 months of this. Though admittedly it was entertaining watching the Democrats tearing themselves apart over whether to back the scary lady or the first non-white nominee with a chance.

The election is not for two months yet so I was somewhat surprised to find that this Obama euphoria has seeped into my twitter feed already.

It does give a very different insight into the impact this man might make in the US than the rather dull coverage we're getting. These twitterers (probably not really a word that) are not usually political at all, but its seeping through.

Lets hope they don't get the same lost feeling about him as we did about Tony Blair. At least they can be sure he'll be out of the picture in 8 years time, which is something that might have worked out well in the UK.

BTW check out the Mythbusters video that's pointed out by Kreg Step (from Technorama). Painting the Monalisa with a paintball gun to demo the difference between a CPU and a GPU, (nice excuse for the big toy guys).

Friday, 15 August 2008

Damjan Zabovnik 1 Hour Human Powered Vehicle record holder

Yesterday we went to the Science Museum in London. Damjan Zabovnik was there with Eivie II, his record breaking recumbent bicycle. On July 12th 2008 at Dekra Test Oval or Eurospeedway in Klettwitz near by Dresden, Germany Damjan achieved 87.123 kilometers in an hour, making Eivie II the fastest human powered vehicle.

Unlike many speed record machines, this is not some big corporate endevour, its very much Damjan's own project. Eivie II is a very unique machine, Damjan lies on his back, riding head first, viewing the road ahead through a small mirror mounted in the streamlined canopy just behind the transparent section near the front.

Being able to see the machine and talk to its designer was a fantastic opportunity to gain some real insight into the engineering challenges and innovative solutions. In the fully enclosed canopy simple things like keeping cool and breathing become a challenge. Cooling was assisted using a small aluminium tank below the headrest which is charged with liquid at -40 degrees Celsius (preparation for this requires a specially modified refrigerator). Air is ducted through the frame from down near the front wheel to a mouthpiece. During the record run this July visibility was also challenge as the high humidity cause the canopy to fog.

You can read more about this amazing achievement and see photo's and videos of the machine in action at Damjan's website You can also find his own report on the record breaking ride there.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Why green small steps are important

So leaving your phone charger plugged in is bad they would have you believe. Realistically I can leave my phone charger plugged in all year is not even a spit in the ocean of electricity consumption, compared to cooking or that 15 minute shower (10,500 Watts) every day that people are so fond of. So why is that kind of minor economy being being pushed, why should it be pushed.

Green small steps are important, not because they make any real difference though. But because it changes the mindset, so that the real big steps that need to be made by government and major corporates can happen.

There are two energy related issues to be concerned about, carbon emissions and consequent global warming, and the imminent scarcity of fossilised carbon to burn. What we really have to do to redress the ensuing issue of carbon emissions is so big and unacceptable that we need to be softened up so as to accept the inevitable impact on us the consumer. Small steps are going to be important in moving people to a mindset where these bigger steps become more acceptable.

What are these bigger steps? Well there's a book (available free online) by David J.C. MacKay called 'Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air' which covers this in some depth. Its available at There's also a short 4 page summary of the book if you are in a hurry.

Am I right about the mobile phone charger? Well take a look at this.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Michael Moorcock interviewed by StarShipSofa

This is the interview with Michael Moorcock that Tony and Ciaran from StarShipSofa did when they spent the day with him in Paris.

The Audio for this is going out on the podcast feed at today

Monday, 9 June 2008

Fleet Foxes - Excellent Music

Today @dbspin on Twitter pointed out this excellent band, Fleet Foxes. They have just recently released their Debut album "Fleet Foxes". Their music is kind of choral folk pop, deceptively gentle with a powerful undercurrent, nice harmonies, good melodies. What do I know about music though, just go listen to the samples on their myspace page. If you've succumbed to the temptation to get yourself a myspace account you can download one of the tracks for free, otherwise they are available on Amazon.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Dennis Liu's Apple Mac Video

Saw this, blogged about it here

See Dennis's own Blog

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Nice story on an excellent beer mat

I came across this beer mat, from a local pub. It a great piece of marketing for Hobgoblin.

This is the story on the back (via the scanner, this modern OCR tech. is magic).


It was in a shadowy corner of the old malting: in Witncy that the first gurgle was heard: a delicious, dark, rich ale pouring from the cask. A local landlord called Phil had commissioned a special brew to celebrate his daughters wedding. Our founder, Chris Moss, bless his soul created the ale of his life - a dark, rich, and mysterious brew. What to call it though?

There was far too much for the wedding, so Chris sold a firkin of our still nameless beer to a local grog shop. It went down so well that customers came back asking for another fug of 'that stuff. In recognition of its character, the student behind the counter drew a picture of a goblin and stuck it on the barrel Customers started asking for the 'Hobgoblin' beer and so the legend was born.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Six Point Five - Smart new band with a great attitude

My son went to the local youth club today to see the band Six Point Five. At the end of the gig they were selling their 4 tracks EP Earthquake. Since my son only had £1 left they let him have the disk at that price on the condition that he copy it for his mates. That's just a fantastic new media attitude.

Their music is a little like Capdown, ska, brass, rock, seems pretty good.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

Why are people getting this wrong, in a recent BBC news article about Microsoft's Live Mesh service, an interviewee is quoted as saying "The proof is in the pudding but at the moment it's all demo ware and advertising.".

I keep seeing and hearing this more and more, and every time its more annoying. There's no proof of any thing in the pudding itself, all that's in the pudding is the fruit, you've got to eat it to know if it's good. It should be "The proof of the pudding is in the eating".

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Office 2007 Zaps dual core PC with 3GB of memory

My work PC is a dual core lap top with 3GB of memory running XP Pro, it was nice to use with Office 2003 (aside from never being able to get consistent section numbering in a document). The company recently insisted in upgrading to Office 2007. The first install was botched up as they didn't remove Office 2003 before installing the new version, Windows Update then insisted on trying to update Office 2003 failing because it mostly wasn't there. You would really hope that by now a Microsoft installer would be able to cope with a simple upgrade. So I had them clean it up removing Office 2007 and 2003 completely and having Office 2007 installed again.

I was hopeful that some of the quirks that I had noticed, would be rectified by a clean install, but no unfortunately its not the case. It now takes over 15 seconds to start up Word, I watch as it paints the bottom part of the screen, then finally gets round to the top part of the screen. Apparently the Windows standard windows decorations are no longer suitable for mere word processing, it all has to be repainted in a non-standard way. 'Page no # of #' is no longer obtainable. All the menu items are moved or hidden, the ribbon eats up a big chunk of screen real-estate (always such a premium on a laptop), OK I know it can be minimised, but why should I have to care? Because I need to use a legacy format, opening documents now takes twice as long, and occasionally it suffers from typing lag. I've had my PC downgraded!

Back when a state of the art laptop had a P100 and ran Office 97, Office did everything I needed and more quickly. Once again Microsoft upgrade my working environment by making it go slower.

Office 2007 is the best reason I've yet seen to use Open Office, even loading the Java environment will not make it this slow. Google docs is looking attractive too.

Twhirl to Twitter

Using the browser to twitter is just too clunky for frequent/constant use. I first looked for an iGoogle applet for my iGoogle homepage, there were quite a few but I couldn't configure any to work. Then I tried a few desktop applications, which were not consistently functional, finally a fellow twitterer (is that right?) suggested Twhirl. I installed Twhirl which required an Adobe Aero to be installed first.

I can highly recommend Twhirl its compact, has nice little popups that notify of new messages and parks away in the tray when minimised.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

To twitter or not to twitter?

Is twitter any use, I had a go with it but never really entered into the spirit of the thing, but it's not gone away and I hear more and more about it, so I'm giving it another go.

I've started by following know contacts, so that gives me literally a handful of followers. Also I've decided to follow some 'new media' people too, since they are the exponents of this medium perhaps I can perceive its utility by observing their interactions.

What I really need is a way to add the twitter thing to my desktop in an unobtrusive but readily available way. I looked at the iGoogle add ins but they all appear to be pretty dire, they either won't work, fail to log in or require me to update software on my PC. Need to research this more.