Archive for June, 2005

NO2ID Protest

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

No 2ID Protest in Parliament Square

Dave, Andy and I wandered down to Parliament Square to lend quiet support to the No2ID protest going on there. The ID cards bill gets its second reading in the Commons today and is expected to get through without any problems.

There were only about 150 people there so we made up almost 2% of the crowd. We added a gentle chomping sound to the chants as we ate our sandwiches in protest. We got Belgian waffles on the way back to the office.

Glastonbury submerged

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Getty Images has some entertaining pictures of this year’s Glastonbury Festival.

I know a few people who went. I hope they were smart enough to pick some high ground…


Monday, June 20th, 2005

This picture is for my team mates, slaving away on our current project while I sit at home revising for a Java certification exam. It’s great to have an excuse to run away for a couple of days.

A Ferret!

I won’t go into the details, but the website we’re working on does contain a form input for “number of ferrets”. This was not something I ever thought I’d have to program.

The lies that led to war

Friday, June 17th, 2005

Interesting analysis from Salon giving a credible reason why Tony Blair was so deeply committed to the Iraq war. All this in the light of May’s pre-election leak of the Downing Street Memo in the Times and corroborating statements from Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington.

‘Rumors were already flying that Bush would use 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq,’ Meyer remembers.” When British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Washington on Sept. 20, 2001, he was alarmed. If Blair had consulted MI6 about the relative merits of the Afghanistan and Iraq options, we can only imagine what well-informed British intelligence officers in Pakistan were cabling London about the dangers of leaving bin Laden and al-Qaida in place while plunging into a potential quagmire in Iraq. Fears that London was a major al-Qaida target would have underlined the risks to the United Kingdom of an “Iraq first” policy in Washington.

Meyer told Vanity Fair, “Blair came with a very strong message — don’t get distracted; the priorities were al-Qaida, Afghanistan, the Taliban.” He must have been terrified that the Bush administration would abandon London to al-Qaida while pursuing the great white whale of Iraq. But he managed to help persuade Bush. Meyer reports, “Bush said, ‘I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.’” Meyer also said, in spring 2004, that it was clear “that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn’t be to discuss smarter sanctions.” In short, Meyer strongly implies that Blair persuaded Bush to make war on al-Qaida in Afghanistan first by promising him British support for a later Iraq campaign.

Salon: The lies that led to war (View irritating ad for full version)

Anti-Terror Arrests in Barnet

Friday, June 17th, 2005

Police make four anti-terror arrests in Barnet and Finchley. Two of the men were arrested in a vehicle on Barnet High Street.

Let’s hope they’re not coming for the Pretzel Assassin next.

Update: The two guys were arrested outside Liberty Hall Music Shop. A video has been added to the BBC story. Two of the 3 houses being searched are in Barnet, the other is in Finchley.

Magic Middle Fingers

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

After a big family meal on Saturday we sat down and watched Shaun of the Dead with my cousin and her husband. On their way out at about two in the morning we gave them a quick tour of the road opposite our house where a few scenes in the film were shot.

A few seconds after they walked off down the road a silver Toyota Yaris with no lights on shot down the road past Sarah, Ant and me. The two kids inside gave us the finger through an open window and shouted some abuse. We responded as the situation demanded and gave them three middle fingers. Fifty meters down the road they dramatically lost control of the car, veered across the road one way and then the other and crashed into the kerb.

They drove off, probably unhurt, but we sent some police chasing after them with a note of the license plate. Beware our magic middle fingers.

Anonymous Misfortune

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

I saw this last week in Finsbury Park and couldn’t help being amused.

A lonely black hat

The original owner was long gone, so I had a few entertaining minutes speculating about who’d wear a hat like this and how they managed to fling it between electrified rails.


Monday, June 13th, 2005

High Energy Magic’s spotcode mobile phone barcode system has grown up and turned into ShotCodes. About a year ago I wrote about their demo at NotCon.

Readers seem to be available for many more phones, so this may be something to look at and play with again.


Thursday, June 9th, 2005

I’ve just finished my annual ritual of updating the software on my venerable Sony Picturebook and getting it ready for the holiday season. It’s always been a slow old dog, but the quad size battery I have for it still lasts over five hours between charges, so it’s extremely useful for picking up mail and playing old lucasarts games. It’s now set up and working nicely with my new phone and a new wireless 802.11g card.

The rest of this post will be in a heavy dialect of geekese. If you don’t care about the details skip to the end and look at the screenshot. You will finally see the Unicode Jolly Roger as I intended it to appear on Friday.

I’ve upgraded the Vaio from Debian to Ubuntu Linux. The upgrade procedure is pretty simple as Ubuntu is based on Debian, and anything Debian based is rightfully famous for allowing itself to be upgraded in place without ever re-installing from scratch. Since I hadn’t updated any packages for around a year a few simple

apt-get dist-upgrade

s left me with a shiny Ubuntu


login. There were a few hours of waiting involved while everything downloaded and unpacked itself onto the Vaio’s slow old disk drive, but very little supervision was necessary.

Ubuntu is really delivering fast on its “Linux for Human Beings” tag line. It’s definitely the first distribution I’d be happy to recommend to someone without a willingness to grub around configuring text files. I hadn’t realized how much work they’d done on laptop power management and ACPI support, but without any configuration on my part the Vaio now automatically suspends to memory when you close the lid and recovers as soon as you open it.

The 802.11g card I’m using is a Netgear WG511T , which works out of the box with Ubuntu. As soon as I plugged it in and typed in the WEP key I was on the network. I’m not convinced it’s working at the full 108Mbps speed, but it’s more than enough to max out our ADSL connection at home.

The Linux GPRS instructions I used last year to connect to my Nokia 6600 still apply to my Nokia 6630. These days you can skip all the sections on kernel configuration for bluetooth, and all I had to do to change from one phone to the next was to update the bluetooth id in


. Maybe Ubuntu gives a nice dialog for configuring a phone, but I didn’t bother looking as I’d already travelled the geeky low road before.

The down side of the Vaio is its 666 Mhz Crusoe processor, sluggish Hitachi hard disk and


screen size. Running a full Gnome desktop is like stirring syrup through a letterbox, so in the past I’ve always ended up running something much quicker like the extremely minimalist ion window manager, which keeps applications maximized at all times. This year there is a rather nice new development in the form of matchbox - the window manager in the maemo development platform built for the Nokia 770 internet tablet. Based on my experiences so far, it seems to be very nice and friendly. Here’s what it looks like:

Arr! My piratical Matchbox Vaio!

Update: *cough*. What I thought was suspend-to-memory was actually rather more mundane screen blanking. To get suspend-to-memory going you have to uncomment a line in


and edit


to make it trigger when the lid shuts. Hopefully a gui to configure this will appear soon.

Swim like a fish!

Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

Like a Fish –Revolutionary Underwater Breathing System

An Israeli Inventor has developed a breathing apparatus that will allow breathing underwater without the assistance of compressed air tanks. This new invention will use the relatively small amounts of air that already exist in water to supply oxygen to both scuba divers and submarines. The invention has already captured the interest of most major diving manufacturers as well as the Israeli Navy.

The system developed by Bodner uses a well known physical law called the “Henry Law” which describes gas absorption in liquids. This law states that the amount of gas that can be dissolved in a liquid body is proportional to the pressure on the liquid body. The law works in both directions – lowering the pressure will release more gas out of the liquid. This is done by a centrifuge which rotates rapidly thus creating under pressure inside a small sealed chamber containing sea water. The system will be powered by rechargeable batteries. Calculations showed that a one kilo Lithium battery can provide a diver with about one hour of diving time.

Please make a note - this is what I want for christmas.