Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The First Annual Original Messenger Quotes Retrospective

I archive my instant messenger quotes on another blog, "Proverbial", and this year I thought I'd pick out a few of my favourites from the past twelve months and post them here for your enjoyment, with a little commentary. So here they are:
  • "Roses are red, brown if they die, coffee is bitter, and so am I."
    A cheery little heartbreak poem I wrote years ago.

  • "I'll name my daughter Orange so nobody can write a lame love poem to her."
    It seems like a solid plan to me.

  • "I wish I was a flower with a punk rocker in my hair."
    A misquote of Sandi Thom lyrics. Much more interesting this way.

  • "Double shotgun wedding."
    Participation is forced on both sides of the wedding, probably due to a parental conspiracy.

  • "Why is Giving 100% better than Doing My Best?"
    Mathematically, they should be equal, so why is one a winner's attitude and the other a whiner's?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Feel free to go over the list yourself and mention any other quotes you like.
PPS - It did feel a bit arbitrary picking out five winners.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Google web storage

I wonder why Picasa Web Albums has a policy of a single gigabyte for photos while GMail is up to about 7.5GB and counting ever upwards. I know Google sells extra online storage for photos, but they seem fine giving away ever more storage for GMail for free.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Perhaps it's because most people won't use all their email storage.
PPS - But photo storage would be used up quickly by most people.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Spam success would be self-defeating

If spammers get too successful at sending spam, they will fall victim to their own success. If we release the floodgates and let every single spam message through to our inboxes, everyone would very quickly stop using email entirely because it's just not worth it. That in turn makes the profitability of spam plummet, because so few people in the world are reading any email any more.

In addition, if there's that much spam going on, it would choke the entire internet, meaning that the network is not available for most people most of the time. This means less use of the network because it just doesn't provide the services it used to. Again, the profits from spam plummet because there are too few people online and too few of them are reading email.

We are marching inexorably to a place where legitimate users of the internet and email will be forced out by the choking pollution of spam, bringing down the network and changing the face of the world back again.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - In general, if your success means the end of the world, you're evil.
PPS - But that's a post for another day.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Call of Duty 5

Tim informs me that Call of Duty 5, after the "official" missions are over, finishes with a zombie stage. Wave after wave of nazi zombies attack the barricaded house where you are holed up and your job is to fight them off.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's usually the deal with zombies.
PPS - Unless you're a scientist, who usually aim for cures or started the whole thing in the first place.

Engrish gift bag

While shopping on Monday, Deb found this confusing gift bag:

The small print reads:
Always somewhere
Miss you
Where I laughing

My best guess at the proper translation would be:
Wherever I am
I miss you
When I'm laughing

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's still a bit odd.
PPS - Perhaps it's losing something in the second translation.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas

A very merry Christmas from me to you. I hope your day is filled with cheer, various acceptable gifts and way too much food, if that is your tradition. Otherwise, have a nice day and relax if you can.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Personally I'll be trying not to overeat at family lunch and dinner.
PPS - Fortunately, if I fail, I still have a week until I go back to work.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Kung fu massage

On Monday I went out with Deb and Rachel to get a Chinese massage. I was not quite prepared for how vigorous or occasionally painful it would turn out to be. I was concerned at some points that they were going to do further damage to my bruised rib. And the masseurs (who probably have a proper Chinese name unknown to me) were crazy kung fu strong. I guess it's because they do this all day. I had my neck, shoulders and back done, but could probably have done with just the neck and shoulders.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's not something I'll get done regularly.
PPS - And I should check out other options, too.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Star Wars Dad Joke

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are standing by a lake, on opposite sides. Darth Vader is feeding the ducks, and sees Luke, all alone, across the lake. He calls out ...

"Luke, come to the duck side."

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Thankyou and goodnight.
PPS - This is actually an original Mokalus joke.

Monday, 22 December 2008

I have a bed

One month ago, our mattress was destroyed by a storm. On Saturday morning, we received our replacement and spent a good half hour just lying there appreciating having a soft bed. It's amazing how much you can appreciate something so simple after having to do without it for a month.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I actually had to adjust to having a soft place to sleep again.
PPS - The couch just doesn't compare.

Friday, 19 December 2008

My old laptop - too weak even to boot old Ubuntu

I thought I had hit upon a master stroke this week. My personal laptop at home is rather sluggish and a bit under-powered, even for things as simple as web browsing. It is also, it seems, too weak to boot the latest Ubuntu live discs. Since the really old version, Dapper Drake (released in 2006) is still under support for a little while longer, I thought I would burn that disc and see how it goes.

Alas, the little machine only has the energy to boot the live disc and not to actually install to the hard drive. The confusing thing is that Linux is supposed to be *easier* on hardware than Windows, but it seems Windows XP is the only thing that can actually boot on this machine, including the "low-power" version, Xubuntu. It is just barely possible that Xubuntu 6.06, if such a thing exists, would boot and install, but I'm not counting on it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The laptop is otherwise unused.
PPS - Linux would help bring it back to life.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombie gifts

If you're still struggling to get something special for a friend or family member, here are a few things you may want to consider (or avoid, as the case may be):

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Every Christmas needs something with a remote control.
PPS - As you get older, they just change from cars to home theatre components.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Consistent mental models and programming

A class of computer science students was given a programming quiz on the first day of their studies, before they were taught anything. I find it interesting that other programmers believed students who refused to answer the quiz would make the best programmers. The reasoning, apparently, is that those students have the sense to know that they do not know anything. I admit that humility of wisdom is highly prized by my people in our users.

But the highest performers in the subsequent years of the course were those who applied a consistent mental model (whether wrong or right) to the problems. Still others used inconsistent models to answer the questions, and these were expected by non-technical people to be the most successful programmers since they applied the most appropriate model for the situation. I may be unusual among programmers, but I did think the consistent ones would be best. The inconsistent ones would have to learn the same thing over and over, while those who simply refused to answer are more likely to be slack than humble. They were rebelling, not confused.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Another study suggests that consistency might not be the whole story.
PPS - It's rarely that simple.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Personal data tracking

After finding this post about daily personal statistical tracking, I'm thinking about expanding my personal data tracking. I currently track two things for personal purposes, and they're both exercise-related: when, how far and for how long I run and how many steps I take per day. One thing I want to know about is how much sleep I tend to get and the quality, so I think I'll start with that. I don't want it to get too onerous or intrusive, though, so I need to keep it simple.

I have previously thought that a custom software tool might be the way to go, since it can present the right fields for me to fill in, but I'm not sure I can be bothered setting it up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Come to think of it, I also track what I spend on a day-by-day basis.
PPS - For work, I must track time spent by project, to fill in my weekly timesheet.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Egotism vs depression

In some ways I think egotism is the opposite of depression. When a depressed person encounters success, they minimise it, and they mentally inflate their failures until they loom so big they cannot be overcome. An egotist, on the other hand, artificially maximises their successes and ignores or explains away their failures to the point that their own involvement is hardly even remembered.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course there are many more aspects to it than this.
PPS - These parts just seemed to be interesting counterpoints to each other.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Caffeine vs naps

Apparently naps produce the best cognitive pickup for tiredness - better than caffeine or placebos. The silly thing, however, is that caffeine produces the highest self-perception of alertness. That is, someone who has had a coffee in the afternoon is more likely to say they feel awake and alert than someone who has had a nap, but they are likely to under-perform in cognitive tasks. Conversely, the napper would not assert that they are awake and alert, but would out-perform the caffeine recipient most of the time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's hard to be empirical about how tired people are.
PPS - At least as far as I know.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Left 4 Dead

Zero Punctuation reviews Left 4 Dead, cooperative zombie survival shooter, in the typical fast-talking, half-animated, scathing style.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I laughed.
PPS - Of course.

Hive mind resistance

If presented with the idea of fusing their minds into one global entity, I expect most people would pass. The loss of identity is enough, but on the whole, each individual tends to believe themselves to be of above average intelligence. If the worldwide pool of intelligence was divided evenly between everyone, then, most people expect they would be worse off. It's possible nobody else is thinking of it that way.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And if we're all part of one mind, "my IQ" is a totally meaningless phrase.
PPS - Unless you mean it corporately.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The snake on the car

Late last night I went outside to bring the car into the garage. Waiting there to greet me was a small snake on the bonnet of the car - about a finger thickness and maybe 70cm long.

After I tried to persuade the creature to move with a broom, he slithered into the engine compartment and out of view. Deb and I tried for a few more minutes to locate him, and even tried starting the car to scare him out, but he made no further appearance.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Rather than risk bringing the snake inside, I left the car on the driveway.
PPS - It seemed best that way for everyone, including the snake.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Peer-to-peer photo sharing

I think keeping family and friends up to date with photos is a very legitimate use of peer-to-peer technology. Say I have some photos and my Dad has some, and we want to keep off-site backups easily. We both install a P2P client on our machines and add each other as friends. Then we set the client to share our photo folders, tell it to keep them synchronised and away it goes, duplicating our photos across each others' machines, whether we live a few streets from each other or across the other side of the world. That's not the whole story, of course, and there are tweaks to make to the idea, such as bandwidth caps (only use 1GB per month for sync) and sharing only certain subfolders with certain people (my friends are not interested in family snaps from my childhood, but Dad is). Now I just need the software to do it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A website with adequate privacy settings and decent storage would work, though.
PPS - That's why this will probably never happen, or most people won't use it.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Tomboy for note-taking

I've started keeping some notes in a personal wiki program called Tomboy, with a few reservations.

First, while it runs cross-platform, Windows binaries are not distributed yet (at least not from the official site).

Second, the notes are stored in a database on the installed machine, and I want to take them with me everywhere.

Third, though Tomboy can synchronise notes to and from a "server" folder, the fact that I don't have (or want) a server online means that the synchronisation might be a bit more haphazard than it should be. When I merge files with my portable storage, my Tomboy notes may get mangled in the process, and I'd rather not have that.

Fourth and finally, Tomboy organises notes into Notebooks, rather than allowing free-form tagging. I would prefer a tagging approach.

All of that said, it's a neat program that does what it's designed for, even if that's not aligned perfectly with my needs. And it's still in development, so some of these issues might be ironed out yet.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I have not yet tried merging edits from two machines.
PPS - I'm apprehensive about that.

Monday, 8 December 2008

It's been a busy weekend

I've been going almost flat out or sleeping since Friday night. That evening we had a quick rehearsal for Sunday's play, then I had to rush off to join the wedding rehearsal dinner. At that point, I wasn't aware I was involved, but by the time the dinner was over I knew I was driving bridesmaids on the day.

Saturday morning was the wedding itself, where I tried to make myself as useful as possible. As mentioned above, I drove bridesmaids around, but also ended up moving chairs and holding a shade for the photographer. Saturday night was originally planned to be a dinner and games night, but Deb and I piked out and crashed. She slept very soundly after her bridesmaid's duties, but I had a very uncomfortable sleep.

Sunday morning was the final play rehearsal, followed by a tech meeting to figure out temporary computer arrangements for the church. In the evening, we finally performed the play (which seemed to be appreciated). Fortunately last night was a better sleep than Saturday.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There are nine million bicycles in Beijing.
PPS - We heard that song a few times at the wedding.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Dr Horrible DVD region free

The Dr Horrible DVD has sorta-kinda pre-launched on Amazon, and here's the really weird part: it's region-free. Honestly, you could knock me down with a feather. Someone wants international audiences buying their discs? Unheard of! It's just so bizarre that I can't get over it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And it's only $10.
PPS - I guess that's because it's relatively short.

Friday Zombie Blogging - zombies vs unicorns

Authors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier are editing a zombies vs unicorns story anthology. An odd juxtaposition, of course, but I still have some questions. Is it a collection of individual stories about either zombies OR unicorns, or are they trying to gather a collection of stories that all involve BOTH zombies and unicorns?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If it's the latter, I imagine they will have some trouble.
PPS - Unless a lot of quality horror/fantasy writers suddenly come out of the woodwork.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ads for in-car GPS maps

Apparently the primary business model with in-car GPS devices is to keep selling you updated maps. Then there's Google Maps, where they give away the equivalent data for free, though they include advertising. It sounds like a good idea to try and get an in-car GPS using free Google Maps data, but I suspect most map publishers would try a different approach.

A company attempting ad-supported maps for in-car GPS would probably get the idea, sooner or later, that the ads need to be spoken rather than visual. Otherwise the driver is likely to miss them, and the advertising dollars are wasted. Then advertisers who realise their spoken ads are being played to drivers who are navigating will submit them with phrases like "Turn left here for delicious Joe's Burgers!". Consumers, annoyed with the faux-directions, will stop using their navigator and bad-mouth the manufacturer (not to mention the advertisers) to everyone they know.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Ad-supported content never seems to go well for anyone involved.
PPS - Except Google, who keep the ads low-key and relevant.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Innovative games

I'm interested in alternative games - something that offers something different and innovative as opposed to the same old thing in a new package. If your game is yet another first person shooter, but you've added some sweet new lighting effects, cool weapons and "bullet time" gameplay ... pass. I played shooters already, and I'm done. And real-time strategy only holds slightly more appeal for me.

Today I heard on Slashdot about a game simulating the coordination of disaster relief, which sounds like a pretty cool twist on the RTS genre. And though Portal was pretty much an FPS built to experiment with an innovative game mechanism, it grabbed my imagination right away. So I suppose the lesson is that you don't need to create something truly groundbreaking on every front all at once, but you need to give something genuinely new, not just a new kind of weapon or a different story.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Spore also intrigued me, but I seem to be done with it now.
PPS - Maybe I'll play it more when I have more time.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Weather warnings by SMS

Deb and I don't watch much television, and we don't usually have the radio on during the day. We need another way to get severe weather warnings, and probably the most effective way would be via SMS. I don't expect the Bureau of Meteorology to set up an SMS weather alert system, but I could probably write something myself that gets the local weather warnings file, decides whether to warn me and forwards something to my phone via an email-to-SMS service.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Should be simple enough.
PPS - As long as the computer stays on and has a network connection.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Risk of serious injury

Sam is getting married this coming Saturday, so the boys naturally took on the traditional buck's party and went kart racing at Kingston Park Raceway. My trophy from the day is a bruised rib that I got in a semi-spectacular crash. Perhaps not that spectacular, but it felt pretty big at the time.

The bruise is on the right-hand side at the back. I'll try to describe the collision. Around a left-hand bend in the road, another kart had spun out and got stuck facing the wrong way. As I came in to take the turn, I saw the hazard, but did not have time to brake or steer far enough out of the way. My kart hit on the side so that I was thrown sideways in the seat. For 30 seconds or so I couldn't breathe and I had to sit out the rest of the race and the finals too.

It's still painful this morning, and I'm going to see the doctor.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - On the plus side, I got the photos that none of us would otherwise have taken.
PPS - The photo doesn't show the bruise particularly well.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Public transport navigation

Public transport path finding has many more factors than regular GPS navigation. For one, you need the locations of stops plus the routes and timetables of trains, buses, ferries and trams. The time of day becomes a factor, and you have to assume that people are walking between stops, which makes them slower, but more nimble (they can use alleys, paths, cut across parks and go the wrong way down one-way streets, but not along highways at all). Even if you find one route, you should provide alternatives in case the user misses it, or walks more slowly than your calculations allowed for. Considering all this, it's no wonder Google Maps is not yet offering that service. Besides all these difficulties, you need to get timetable and route information from local councils and operators into a usable format and keep them up to date too.

It might make sense to start working on the features as if that information were present, so that it can be filled in later, but you need the cooperation of public transport operators to make it work. Probably the best way to sell the idea to them is that they only need to maintain their timetables if they hand over the route finding task to Google.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The incentive to Google is more traffic, which means more ads.
PPS - And more ads for Google means more money.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Pie hat

In case you think your brains might not be appetising enough to the undead, you could always wear a pie hat. I admit the link is tenuous, but BoingBoing used the word "zombie", which is good enough for me.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The hat is knitted, so you probably won't be followed by a pack of birds.
PPS - Not smart ones, anyway.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Browser engine wars

Lunascape is a web browser that provides easy access to the three underlying rendering engines of the other major browser makers: Gecko from Firefox, Trident from IE and Webkit from Chrome and Safari. I am also aware that there are several JavaScript engines currently in use, including V8 and TraceMonkey, each unique to their host browser.

So how much of any browser is essentially different from others? Will we see rendering engines and JavaScript engines move to the status of plugins rather than core features of browsers? It's possible. And if we can have multiple rendering engines in a single browser, can we select between them as required? Say I prefer Gecko, but some pages only render correctly in Trident. I could specify to use Trident for this page and Gecko for others. Speed can be measured and used as a heuristic for selecting both rendering engines and JavaScript engines automatically, though correctness would not be an automatic selection mechanism. When different engines are present behind the scenes and automatically selected for speed, the "browser wars" are internal to every browser on the web.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This could easily turn into a bad thing for website developers.
PPS - Rather than three or four browsers to test, there are a dozen engine combinations.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Family phone networks

There's a distinct travel advantage in having a VoIP phone account. As long as you can still connect your VoIP phone to the internet, it doesn't matter where you are. I could make personal calls from work on my VoIP plan, or take personal calls from someone else's house while I'm there.

I quite like the idea of a virtual private VoIP network with extension numbers for family members. Then if I want to call Dad, I just have to know that his extension on the family network is 102, not that he is due to be in Bolivia today, where the country code is whatever and what was the name of his hotel again? With mobile phones and digital address books, it's just as easy to look people up and call their mobile phones by name, so it's unlikely the virtual family phone network will be a reality anyone bothers with, except if their families are dispersed around the globe.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There may be other reasons I haven't considered.
PPS - Or there may be very good reasons not to do this at all.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Peer-to-peer power

How do you make power infrastructure more resilient to damage? I guess the first step is underground power lines, though they have been found to be more likely to get struck by lightning, and are harder to repair when they get damaged.

I suppose fully distributed power generation coupled with underground lines would be pretty resilient to local outages. Say each generator is capable of producing 1.5 times the demand of an average home. Most of the time, it will run below capacity, and it has headroom to grow in future. Then say each generator is connected, peer-to-peer fashion, to two or three other houses. If one house requires repairs to their generator, their neighbours can pick up the slack while that repair is done offline. If a single inter-house line is cut, nobody will be without power, even while the line is dug up and repaired.

The trouble will come when many houses in a local area are destroyed. Each one will need extra power, although theoretically it could be routed from elsewhere as long as the underground lines are intact. Such infrastructure, however, would probably allow the use of temporary generators hooked up to specific locations to boost the local grid as required. In the end, though, it is probably cheaper and more efficient to generate power in bulk and run distribution lines over a distance than to wire everything together with single small generators.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If everyone is generating enough power for themselves, one house offline is no big deal.
PPS - This idea is also known as "microgrids" in the electricity industry.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Kung Fu Panda DVD discontinued?

Quickflix wrote to tell me that the Kung Fu Panda DVD has been discontinued and all their copies have been lost or destroyed by other Quickflix members. The result is that they don't have it and can't get it, so I can't rent it. I am a little confused by this, because the region 4 DVD does not seem to have been discontinued - it's still for sale in some places. Or perhaps the next production run is being done in Blu-Ray only, as a ploy to force people to upgrade. Would you buy a $700 Blu-Ray player just to play Kung Fu Panda so the kids will stop whining? Probably not.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I just never got around to seeing Kung Fu Panda at the cinema.
PPS - I thought DVD would be a better way to go.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Merge contacts

Why do no address book programs or features seem to have a "merge" feature? Assisted joining of two contacts into one would be a big help in some circumstances, particularly when there are a few synchronisations going on. I have not seen such a feature in Outlook, Thunderbird, Lotus Notes, GMail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail. My phone does not provide it, nor does the PC software to which it can connect. Neither does any synchronisation program provide it, as far as I can tell, and they are the ones most likely to produce the problem of duplicated contacts. Has nobody ever considered such a thing?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I am often disappointed by address book software.
PPS - That is the usual prelude to a programmer writing something of his own.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Papercraft

The Zombiefie Six are a set of papercraft zombie figures to print and fold for your amusement.
You could stage a tiny stop-motion zombie movie with them, or try to ward off garden gnomes.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or perhaps just use them as garden zombies instead.
PPS - You might have to print them on something more durable than paper, though.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The importance of hospitality in crisis

It's during crisis that people's gifts really come out, and it is particularly those who do hospitality well that I want to draw attention to. These are the people who cook lunch or cut up fruit for workers cleaning the streets. They take drinks of water around. But more than that, these tend to be the same people who open their homes to shelter people or goods as necessary while other houses are being rebuilt. I was out there yesterday, giving food and water to workers, and it's not my natural habitat, but there are people for whom that is the normal thing to do when it needs doing.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Everyone is very thankful.
PPS - And so am I.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Power up

The power was restored at home some time yesterday evening, so I guess today I'll be at home with fans trying to dry out as much as I can. Deb and I spent the last two nights away, and our mattress is still ruined, but if we wanted, I think we could move back in today and sleep on the couch. It's going to be quite a while before things return to normal around here, but I expect long before then it will drop off the news.

The army and lots of heavy machinery have been around moving greenery off the roads, helping people move if they have no livable home. People have been saying that the response was too slow, but as soon as the rain had stopped they were clearing the roads. If you think it's taking too long, you don't appreciate the scope of the job.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think the only structural damage to our place is the patio.
PPS - Comparatively, we got off pretty light.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Storm damage

Please excuse the lack of post yesterday. There have been some storms in Brisbane particularly affecting power and blocking roads with fallen trees. As such, yesterday I had no internet at home and no way to get to work. Everyone is safe, but we won't be staying at home until the water is back on.

Our bedroom windows were open at the time, and Deb and I were trapped in our car during the worst of the hail and wind. I keep wishing I had gone back to close the windows when I had the chance.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Most reports compare the damage to a tornado.
PPS - It wasn't a tornado, but it was extreme and localised.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Relating to non-programmers

Though programmers will occasionally refer to non-programmers as "muggles", the term typically cannot carry the same separatist connotations as it does in the Harry Potter universe. Programmers write software for non-programmers, so it is essential that we understand the mindset, spend much time with them and consult with them on major points. To do otherwise would result in software that does not meet the needs of the client. Once you start writing software for programmers, you turn into a toolsmith, which is okay, but a bit too theoretical to make good conversation at parties. You become the stereotypical geek.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I am guilty of disappearing into a hole to finish my work rather than contacting clients.
PPS - I can't keep doing that forever.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Pinup calendar

My Zombie Pinup is, unsurprisingly, a zombie pinup calendar. Take out the blood, though, and it might be hard to tell the difference to a normal pinup calendar. It's a novel idea, but a couple of the pictures just seem to be wounded people. Then again, if it was weighted more towards the undead side of things, nobody would want to buy it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Link from Mike.
PPS - I think BoingBoing also linked to it.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Lying through machine-readable privacy policies

It's possible that it is in websites' best interest to post privacy policies that claim to be very careful but actually violate them in the background. With machine-readable policies, the problem gets worse because users can preset their web browser to trust websites to set cookies and so on based on what that site claims to do with your personal data. Only reputable sites will tell you what they actually do. The ones you want to avoid now have a higher incentive to lie through their teeth, because the browser will happily accept their cookies based on their claimed privacy policy.

Even if they get caught, they will take the typical scammer route of shutting up shop and opening again at a new location until that one is compromised. When it's all digital, it's cheap enough that it's worthwhile copying the same scam website to a new location and netting a few more victims before moving on again. There needs to be a strong economic incentive for websites to follow their own privacy policies at the time of browsing.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If there's only a legal disincentive that might come up later, that's not enough.
PPS - But privacy policies dictate what you do later, so this might be a tough one.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Am I ready for the next black belt?

I have a black belt in karate - strictly speaking, it is a probationary black belt, standard issue after brown. The student must hold this "level zero" black belt for a minimum of one year before attempting level one, also known as "shodan".

So am I ready? Well, I've gained a little weight, lost a little strength and fitness and have only been attending about two thirds of even the local classes. Other students have gone for pre-evaluation recently, just to see if they're ready for the grading. It's a normal high-level class, not as intense as a grading. The instructors train like that every week. Our students lasted 30 minutes.

I don't have anything to lose by going to the evaluation, except perhaps dignity, so I will go. I just don't know that I'll be ready for grading at the end of the month.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If I go, I'll let you know.
PPS - At the very least, it should be amusing.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Distributed version control

Forgive me if this post gets extremely geeky. There's just no avoiding it in this case.

Since starting to research distributed version control systems recently, I've been able to think of little else, computer-wise. Regular version control involves using a server to make backups of previous versions of files, usually program source files, and resolving conflicting edits between team members. Distributed version control systems do this without the central server. They seem to be the solution to two problems that I'd forgotten I had.

One thing I do as a programmer is set up occasional personal projects. They're small projects generally, but they still need source control and I want to carry the code with me between home and work. That makes it hard to have a central server, so version control that doesn't need a server would work perfectly.

The other problem is managing my personal files - plain text, mostly - that might change at work or at home. Usually I'm at work, so if I come across a funny quote, I just make a note of it and my flash drive gets an updated copy when I turn off the computer and go home. If I'm at home, I have to sync my flash drive with the hard drive, make a note, sync again, then remember to sync at work in the morning. It's a hassle I'd rather do without. With distributed version control, I can just make the note and merge easily later.

I haven't done too much to test out any software for this, except for Bazaar, so that's probably what I'll end up using. That's assuming I manage to go ahead with it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Wikipedia on distributed version control.
PPS - I hope it makes sense to someone.

Monday, 10 November 2008


Recently I've been noticing more similarities between strangers and people I know. It's weird to see someone, think they're familiar, then pick out a face from a group of maybe 50 people that matches them almost exactly. You'd think the designers of the Matrix would have taken a bit more care than that, right? It's a bit of a give-away if there are only a few dozen faces in the world.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The same goes for body types too.
PPS - Maybe we're all part of an advanced version of The Sims.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Simple solutions

Sometimes problem solutions are impressively simple. Yesterday, for instance, I had to plug in my phone charger, but because it was designed specifically to occlude the plug to the left, that limited my options. As it turned out, it completely excluded all the options.

My two monitors and PC were switched on and plugged in to the only points available. It would be okay if I could move them, but I'd rather not shut down the whole machine to rearrange the power board. I knew also that I could unplug the monitors with little consequence, but unplugging the computer would be a bad idea. The final problem was that the monitors are on the desk, the power board below it, and all the cords tangle into a spaghetti mess through a hole on their way between those two points.

My solution was to attach a paperclip to the computer power cord and slide it down through the hole. Then when I crawled under the desk, I could easily identify the cord I should not unplug, and was able to move another safely.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, turning off the computer is even more simple.
PPS - But what if that were not an option and you were alone?

Friday Zombie Blogging - World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is being infected by some kind of zombie plague as a promotion for the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Players can be infected either by strange boxes on the docks or by other infected players. Cures are available too, but who would want that?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - City of Heroes also had a zombie event for Halloween.
PPS - Not many images available, but this article has one from Warcraft.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Harry Potter 6 movie delayed

The next Harry Potter movie, The Half Blood Prince is being delayed until next July. This will be good, bad or indifferent news to you, of course, but that's not the point in this case. It was scheduled to open this month, but, apparently, Warner Bros. doesn't want you torn between buying Dark Knight DVDs and seeing Harry Potter. From that point of view, it's a smart business move because it will make them more money. Right now, however, I think it's going to enrage the fans just a bit.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Probably review copies will leak to the internet long before July.
PPS - And then many fewer people will care when it comes to cinemas.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Simply Male

Thought for the day: When did "chauvanist pig" become a standard suffix to the word "male"? When did we stop being offended by it?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think we need to start being offended by it again.
PPS - Not everyone says it, of course.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The New Scribes

The days are past when we needed to outsource the physical acts of reading and writing, since we are all taught to do so in school. However, there may come a time again when we need another to put into words what we cannot. Speech writers for hire. Bring them your ideas and the message to convey, and they work to express it for you in colourful prose.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - But how do you prevent rich school kids using the service for their homework?
PPS - You can't just publish the results, since they might be private.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Pink in Brisbane

Pink is coming to Brisbane in June or July next year, and I'd love to go. However, tickets went on sale on Friday and I heard about it on Saturday. This annoys me for two reasons:

1. One day is too late to get tickets.
2. I went looking for this exact information a week ago and found nothing.

Now you'd think, wouldn't you, that when someone goes searching for something as simple as "Pink concert Brisbane" they'd at least find someone's excited blog post or advance notice on the Ticketek website. At the very least, you'd expect the upcoming tour dates information on the artist's own website to mention Australia in passing, right? Nope. Nothing. As far as I could tell at the time, Pink was just doing a tour of television appearances.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The Pink website above lists concert dates only up to May next year.
PPS - Here's hoping there are extra shows added to the schedule.

Update: Three of the four nights in Brisbane are the extra shows, already announced and sold out.

Friday, 31 October 2008

The importance of email encryption

Public key encryption and digital signatures for email are going to become far more important as time goes on. Signed email for big companies (that is, producing a cryptographic verification of the contents that could only come from the alleged sender) will serve to enhance trust. When email programs prioritise signed messages from trusted public keys and discard or downplay untrusted or unsigned messages, that trust is even easier to foster. It does start to create the problem of maintaining private repositories of trusted public keys and what to do about distributing false public keys, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's not a perfect system.
PPS - And it may end up being too complicated for general use.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Watermelon carving

If you're in the habit of carving pumpkins for Hallowe'en, why not try carving a brain from a watermelon instead?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Most of my fellow Australians will not be into pumpkin carving.
PPS - Nor into Hallowe'en, really.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Clearance Divers

Deb and I caught a show on the ABC the other night about the Navy "CDAT" - Clearance Diver Assessment Test and it made me curious whether I could complete it. I probably wouldn't pass into the training, but I'd like to see if I could take the 10-day intensive physical punishment. It appeals to the masculine toughness element. At the same time, I saw some things that were very dangerous going on: sleep-deprived, physically-drained men carrying canoes down a steep rocky track is a pretty good way to get someone killed or permanently disabled. I'd be very surprised if they have a good safety record just for the training. At the same time, I recognise that the jobs these guys are called to do are not safe, so you shouldn't expect the training to be safe either.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A few years ago I would have done better than if you asked me to go today.
PPS - The RAN Clearance Diving Teams are a bit like US Navy SEALs.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Advertising in communication

I've purchased DVDs from Quickflix before, and I think they have made a mistake in the composition of their confirmation emails. Not so much a mistake of content, but a design mistake. My ordered DVD was listed and confirmed, but they decided to take this opportunity to advertise another movie as well. The advertisement was very prominent - it overpowered the actual content of the email by a large margin. This overpowering was so striking that I actually believed I had made a mistake in my order and called to cancel. The lesson in this case is that perhaps transactional emails for sales are not the best opportunity for advertising.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This was a while ago. I haven't ordered anything recently.
PPS - So things may have changed a bit in the meantime.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Project velocity

There is a software project management tool called a velocity chart. It shows project progress by tracking the number of features completed, remaining and in total over time. If the project is progressing well, the velocity chart can even give a rough estimate of the time it will be complete. Yesterday I produced such a chart for our project:

These lines indicate an approximate finish date of never, which is not a good state to be in. If that blue line never starts going down again, we will be stuck doing this one project forever, or at least until someone cancels it. Personally I'd rather get it finished than cancelled.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Today we will try to cut our features list down.
PPS - Then hopefully there will be an end in sight.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Somebody Else's Sub

I went out to buy lunch on Friday, that being the one day of the week it is usual to have no leftovers. I decided on a sub from the local Subway and walked the "sandwich artist" through the creation of my desired delectable. As I paid ($9.05 for a Spicy Italian with everything) the man behind me in line asked for confirmation that he was actually paying for his meatball sub. I didn't think anything of it at the time, assuming that he just hadn't seen them wrap it or something. I walked the five minutes back to the office and sat down at my desk.

Immediately when I opened the wrapper, I saw that I had ended up with my fellow customer's meatball sub instead of my own. I don't have the prices in front of me, but I think a meatball sub is a bit less than the Spicy Italian. However, since I have no particular objection to meatballs and didn't feel like spending the time and effort to go back, I decided to just eat it and forget about it. But it makes you wonder, doesn't it? How, when you watch them make it, cut it and wrap it, do you end up with someone else's sub at the register?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wonder how many times that has happened worldwide.
PPS - It's hard to even guess.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Loaded Snacks

There have been some recent attempts to market new versions of existing products with an "added kick" - some difference from the original or some added ingredient to make the end result somehow better. It's not much more than a different twist on "Extreme" advertising, but I was sucked in anyway and gave a few of these products a try for your gratification.

Snickers The Lot: a bar in the Snickers range, but with the peanuts around the outside, and the middle filling replaced with some kind of peanutty cream. Verdict: good. It reminds me of the short-lived Kit Kat peanut butter-flavoured Big Finger, but crunchy.

Ice Break Loaded: iced coffee with guarana. For some reason (and it might be just me) guarana dries out my mouth a lot, and it didn't seem to do anything otherwise for me. Verdict: not really worth it. I couldn't taste the guarana, but I assume it was there because my mouth felt like cotton afterwards.

Mars Rocks: a similar affair to the Snickers offering, with crunchy malt balls in a thick chocolate layer around caramel and some soft centre. Verdict: not bad. Less sticky than a "classic" Mars bar, which may appeal to some.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This trend is not all positive.
PPS - Or maybe it's only good when applied to chocolate.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Wall decal

If you'd like to wake up and be scared out of bed every morning before your brain kicks into gear, perhaps a near-life size zombie wall decoration is the right choice for you.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's for sale on eBay.
PPS - Link via BoingBoing.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Desktop multi-touch as a peripheral

I wonder how soon it will be before someone starts making big multi-touch pads for desktops rather than just little ones on laptops (as seen on the MacBook Air). I suppose for them to be truly intuitive they'd have to be touch screens, not just blank input devices. The power of multi-touch is to directly manipulate what you see. If you have to guess what's going to happen from where you drop your hands, it's going to be a bit unintuitive and sometimes hit and miss.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - When you're adding a multi-touch screen, that might as well be the main display.
PPS - It should be flat on the desk, though, not up where we keep our screens now.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Confusing anti-alcohol advertising

I was momentarily confused by an ad on TV just recently. The voice-over said something like "30% of teenagers have been assaulted in alcohol-related incidents. Don't kid yourself. Buy your kids alcohol [long pause] and they could pay the price". It's that long pause and the associated visual that threw me off - a father handing his daughter a large case of drinks. The message, in that moment, seemed to be "Buy your kids alcohol to drink at home. It's safer that way". A very odd message to deliver, I thought.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course that's the exact opposite of the message they're portraying.
PPS - I assume. I might still be confused.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Spaceship design

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to get the industrial controls systems team at work to design a spaceship bridge, and I wonder if any Star Trek franchise has consulted anyone like that. Having that many people on the bridge reading things to the captain seems like a waste sometimes. My initial feeling is that there could be fewer personnel on the bridge if the systems were made a bit more usable. So the people I'd want on the team include software usability people and controls engineers. Military advisors would also be of benefit - people who have worked on battleships and submarines would be my first choice. And of course all of this is pointless if it isn't a space that actors, directors, set dressers, lights, cameras and sound techs can't use, so they'd need to be in on the discussion too. And by the time that diverse committee is formed, it's likely they will spend all their time arguing and won't get anything done.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think "committee" is Latin for "argument".
PPS - Okay, not really. ;)

Monday, 20 October 2008

Lazy days

I'm taking a day off work today, partly to make up for a lost weekend with Deb (who has been away) and partly because the work has become a temporary crushing dull weight. I needed some time to recharge, and a long weekend is just the way to do it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I spent a good portion of my weekend catching up on housework.
PPS - And I'm glad to have Deb home again.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Vegan zombie shirt

If your wardrobe isn't zombie enough for you, but you're vegetarian or vegan, this shirt is just what you've been looking for: a picture of a vegan zombie seeking "grains".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You're welcome.
PPS - Link came via BoingBoing.

Alone and disconnected

Debbie is away on an Emmaus walk this weekend, and unfortunately at the same time our internet connection is playing up. The upshot of this is that I'm home by myself with very little to occupy my time. There's never anything good on television, so I guess for now it's housework.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We do have some dishes and laundry to get through.
PPS - And it's only the evenings that need filling.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Stress and code quality

Some managers get the idea that stressed programmers write code faster and that most of the time programmers are sitting around doing nothing. We aren't. Also, stressed programmers write bad code, and bad code costs more. If you want good code, you need to give it some time to form, and you need good people in a good environment to achieve it. If you don't have good programmers, you need a good environment and more time to make them good. It doesn't always work, but what never works is a stressed environment and tight deadlines. That way leads to bad code and the same under-experienced programmers you had before.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - When I say things like this, you must remember that I am not a manager.
PPS - So I'm not speaking from that side of the experience.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Bluetooth, Linux and the Nokia 6288

For a while I have been using a VMWare virtual Windows XP machine inside Linux because that's the only way I've found to synchronise my phone data with anything. It works, but it's really a horrible way to go about things - I might as well be using Windows full-time. I figured that Bluetooth was probably a more standard and widely explored protocol than Nokia's proprietary USB connections, so I finally went and got a little USB Bluetooth adaptor to try it out. The good news is that I can transfer files between Linux and my phone with ease now. The bad news is that's the extent of my phone's capability. It doesn't provide the right services to do synchronisation with any other device over Bluetooth. Only Nokia PC Suite (which won't run on Linux) understands the proprietary serial connection required to fully utilise my phone. It's too bad, really.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There are some Linux programs for connecting to phones.
PPS - They all crashed or failed on me.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Compartmentalising our lives

Our society expects us to compartmentalise our lives. This is my work life, this is my personal life. This is my religion, this is my politics. What's the basis for this? I don't see any benefit except to distance ourselves from each other. So who decided that needed to happen?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - When you're close to someone, the compartments break down.
PPS - It might be caused the other way around, though.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Art and business

When art becomes about business, your fans become customers, your works become products and you turn from an artist to an employee. Business sucks the soul out of art, like a vampire. I believe the internet means less money for art worldwide, which is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because we will eventually have fewer teenagers entering the music business in search of big money. It is a curse because, for the time being, we have music and movie companies fighting against falling profits with lawsuits and software that works against its users through DRM.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - When there's less money to be made, movies need to get cheaper.
PPS - Probably the first thing to cut is multi-million dollar salaries for actors.

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Fragmented Web

There are some tasks that are not well supported by the internet as a whole. When I want to go to the movies, I don't care much where I go, but I have to know where I'm going before I can check the right website for show times. If I'm looking for a job, I really don't care what particular website it's listed on, just that it matches my skills, location and expected salary. I guess this is some of what the "semantic web" initiative is meant to handle. It's probably not going to work so well.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I just got frustrated this week with the fragmentation of the web in general.
PPS - Sometimes I want aggregated websites by task, not islands loosely linked together.

Friday Zombie Blogging - LEGO Town

At BrickCon 2008, a LEGO convention, there was a collaboratively-built zombie apocalypse town with prizes for best vehicle, building and so on. That would have been very cool to see in person.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The photos are good to get an impression, but it's not the same as seeing the setup live.
PPS - I wonder where all the zombie heads came from.

Thursday, 9 October 2008


This morning I present a demo of our software to a potential client. It's just another team inside a joint venture company, but they're still new clients, in essence. Preparing for it has been like school assignments, only with a shorter deadline and far more vague goals. I was able to talk myself into it by considering it an acting gig, but it's still not much fun.

Worse than being asked was the fact that it came at a bad time. Paul left a while ago, and he would have handled this on his own, and Ross is in training all week, so I'm the only available person.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'll get through it.
PPS - And if they don't want to use the software, no harm done.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Time debt

Procrastination is like living in time debt. Leaving the mess to do something else is spending time from the future that you don't have yet, but will need to pay back. Before too long you've got much more to do and not as much time to do it, just like overloading your credit card and having no cash to pay it off.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That's not to say I don't procrastinate myself.
PPS - Most of us do, from time to time.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Good spiders and bad ones

I don't mind sharing my house with a few web-building spiders. They keep the local insect population under control and generally mind their own business. It's the roaming ones I can't stand, like huntsmen. You never know where they're going to show up or where they're going next. Their lease soon expires, and so do they.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Poisonous ones are not welcome at all.
PPS - I'm picky that way.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Voluntary goosebumps

The most unusual power I possess is to take conscious control of my goosebumps reflex. If you want to see me get goosebumps, I've got you covered, day or night. If you try to give me goosebumps with a light tickle, I can veto that at will. I'll grant that it's not that impressive, but it might be good enough to get me on the next season of Heroes.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I don't know where this ability came from.
PPS - It seems to be controlled from the muscles on my back and neck.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Internet file storage on desktops

Any plan to provide extra hard drive storage for everyone based on spare capacity over the internet relies on the idea that, on average, people will need less space than they can provide for others. The maths simply doesn't work if everyone has 10GB free on their home hard drive and requires 20GB from the pool. But if everyone has 10GB and 99% of people require only 1GB of it back, but 1% of people require 100GB, that might just work. For 100 people, that's 1000GB available and 99GB + 100GB = 199GB required.

If the load is to be evenly spread, we need each person to provide at least the average required extra space. In the case I just outlined, we can have each person provide about 2GB, and most will get what they want from the cloud.

Now, the reason this has not been done before is that if you need only 1GB of space, but need to provide 2GB, then you have enough space to store your files locally anyway. It's only the heavyweights that need more space than they can provide, and they need to rely on the generosity of strangers to get it. There are other reasons too: to get your data easily, other people's machines need to be online all the time. Also, it costs them data charges as well as hard drive space.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maybe if we saw it as rented space rather than giving it for free, that might work.
PPS - But then you might as well rent drive space from your internet service provider.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Subconscious story

I freaked myself out on Wednesday afternoon pretending I was in a zombie story. I was kind of narrating to myself internally, noting that I was following three "zombies" (strangers) making sure I stayed downwind. They all turned right and entered a building, but as I passed the entrance, someone came out, then, hailing a cab or brushing back his hair, he raised his hand at the corner of my peripheral vision. My subconscious, engaged with the story, obligingly interpreted the action as ZOMBIE ATTACK!!! and my heartbeat skipped. Stupid fantasy-prone subconscious.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Fortunately I was able to behead him with my trusty lightsabre.
PPS - I might have dreamed that last part later that night.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Know why you believe

Before you ridicule a belief, you must know why it is ridiculous. Before you present your own beliefs, you must know why you believe them. Otherwise you are simply stating opinions, not engaging in logical debate.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course, on the Internet, everyone is free to express opinions without backing them up.
PPS - And they do so, frequently.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Competing with open source software

Not long ago, there was a book published by Stanford on how to compete with open source software without being open source yourself. Apparently one "tip" was to "embrace and extend" open standards (which is a Microsoft phrase). The upshot of that practice is that your product can be used in place of any open source alternative, but once people start using your "extended" features, others need to start using your product too. And since there is no alternative for those features, you eventually take over the market, edging out the competition by degrees.

The main problem I have with this approach is that it theoretically works even if the replacement product is worse than the open source ones. All it needs is one person somewhere to start using the new features, then someone else has to switch to the other product for compatibility, or at least keep a copy at hand. Before long, it's too annoying to use the open source product as well as the closed one, and your customers are annoyed into using your product exclusively. That's not clever sales or even good programming. It's an infection.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - So there you have it. Closed source software is a disease.
PPS - It's worst when it's designed to work that way.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Spore in Space means endless death

Deb and I have hit a bit of a wall with Spore. Up until the Space stage, it was easy-going, which was fine. Though we don't expect it to remain like that forever, there's a slight problem with combat and enemy raids. Deb made an enemy out of another empire because they demanded more money in tribute than she had in total. Now they raid her colonies and she spends a few lives fighting them off each time. The nanosecond she leaves orbit, they attack again, leaving her no option but to fight, die, fight, die, fight and barely win, rebuild the colony and start over with the next attack. We tried to ignore the distress calls long enough to make some money to stop the war, but it turns out our puny tribute was unacceptable (though they did take it, they didn't stop fighting). As a result of this extreme turn-about from "lots of fun" to "infuriating overpowering and death", Deb has refused to play further until EA fixes the game. Surely it is not the intended function to have your colonies raided non-stop and die in combat over and over, right?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The problem is not so much the combat, but the relentless repeating of combat.
PPS - The best advice we've found so far is "don't make that kind of enemy.

Monday, 29 September 2008

New desks

With that strange upper-management definition of "volunteer", several of us at work have been volunteered to test-drive a new desk layout. This is in preparation for a move to a new office next year where they want to halve our individual workspaces. We have been instructed to make the test as unrealistic as possible, taking only what we desperately need for the next two weeks. If we were being realistic, we would go through our desks and either pack or discard everything, acting as if we can't come back to our old desks at all. I guess we'll see how it goes.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We were supposed to be packing on Friday afternoon.
PPS - Now the word is that we'll get to that some time this morning.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Dust in the Wind

For your Friday zombie fix, please enjoy this video of zombie puppets singing "Dust in the Wind".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There's probably not that much call for zombie puppetry in the world.
PPS - I guess there's enough to make a video, though.

Recognising stroke

I saw an ad for recognising the symptoms of stroke early, meaning within seconds rather than minutes or hours. I wonder whether it is possible to recognise that you are having a stroke yourself. And if you can't smile, raise your arms or speak, how would you let people know something is wrong?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Slack-faced, immobile and silent pretty much describes my TV-watching posture.
PPS - And that of many other people, I'd bet.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Awesome Future

I've had that phrase rolling around in my head for a few days now, since it appeared on Boing Boing. It suggests to me that there are a few different futures that we are aware of, and the Awesome one is where boom boxes have cartoonishly-large speakers. There would be a few other stand-out aspects of that future, probably relating to a lot of Men In Black-style gadgets.

I imagine there is also The Mad Max Future, where most of the world is desert, everyone wears metal or leather and we ride around in dune buggies fighting each other for scarce resources.

There's The Really Clean Future, where everything is white and nothing seems to have any sharp edges. Most of the people in this future are self-medicated into a soft, fluffy haze.

There's The Class Struggle Future, where 10% of the world dresses nicely (in a futuristic version of Victorian fashion) and controls everything that the grubby, homeless 90% of people have and do.

Of course there is The Star Trek Future, where one government spans many star systems and the galaxy is teeming with alien life that looks suspiciously like humans in rubber masks.

Then there's The Space Cowboy Future, similar to the Star Trek future, except there's no aliens, smaller ships, less government and more crime, but in a sexy way.

There's the Post-Global Plague Future, where almost everyone was wiped out by some global pandemic and now we live in isolated forts for our own safety. Nose plugs or surgical masks are common.

Finally, I think we have to consider The Robots Are Our Masters Future, where our would-be robot slaves rise up and ironically enslave us.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess I left out the Digital Brain Upload Future, where we all live in a simulation.
PPS - And I'm sure there are more.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Breeding fighting fish

Debbie and I purchased two Siamese fighting fish a little while ago - a male and a female. on the 23rd of September, 2008, around noon, after a full day in the tank together, they have mated and started laying eggs. This is really pretty cool to me. It's kind of complicated to get them going, because he has to build a bubble nest, she has to be ready, and you have to get them out of each other's way after they're done, or he'll kill her. Oh, and he may turn around and eat the eggs afterwards, which is what ours did. Pity. I had hoped we could raise the "fry" to maturity and sell them back to the pet store for profit.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - After all, isn't that what having kids is all about?
PPS - Well, maybe for a Ferengi.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Pronouncing "asthma"

It's no wonder people tend to pronounce "asthma" lazily. I think in a few decades it will be spelled "asma" in the Commonwealth and "azma" in the USA. In fact, "asma" seems to have been the Middle English way of spelling it. I wonder who added that silly "th" in there?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The "sthm" sound is difficult to produce in any context.
PPS - Even "athsma" would be easier.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Google Reader and "mark previous as read"

One thing that I sometimes wish was present in Google Reader is the ability to mark all items in a feed or group as read before the current one. Sometimes I don't make it all the way through a feed before, say, it's time to catch the bus or my lunch break is over. I'd appreciate the ability at that point at least to set a bookmark in the feed so I can come back to the same point or, better yet, to mark everything previous as read so it doesn't show up again.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I suppose I could use a star and visually scan for it.
PPS - The problem is that I use stars for other things too.

Update: There's a Greasemonkey script that should do the trick.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Big Brother Thriller

During the most recent season of UK Big Brother, the housemates were given the task of re-enacting Michael Jackson's Thriller music video.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The results: YouTube.
PPS - I think they did pretty well.

Blu-ray won because HD-DVD got cracked

I can't believe I didn't think of it before, but probably the main reason the movie publishers got behind the Blu-Ray format was that HD-DVD got cracked and decrypted.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Because surely that won't happen to Blu-ray too.
PPS - Except it did. Quickly.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Open source software is like this

Open source software is like a cooking show. Here's the end result, and here's how to make it. You can join in if you like, modify the recipe to suit your needs or just enjoy the show.

Closed source software makes a very different cooking show indeed. That's where the host shows you a dish, says "Isn't this impressive? Don't you wish you could make something like this? Now on to something else." That's not so much a cooking show as a bragging chef, and it's very unhelpful to everyone.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Like all metaphors, it will fall apart if you pick at it too much.
PPS - I rather like it, though.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Blast From the Past

Blast From the Past was a better movie than I expected. I remembered seeing previews and posters years ago, but I never got around to seeing it. Just this week it came from Quickflix, and both Debbie and I enjoyed it a lot. The physical comedy, the writing ("Leave My Elevator Alone!") and the performances were all great. It was even good to see Nathan Fillion in there, though he does count as a minor villain. The fight between him and Brendan Fraser goes just as it should for a guy who tries to sucker-punch.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If you never got around to seeing it, maybe you should rent it now.
PPS - I wonder how many domestic fallout shelters still exist.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Cancer and phenylalanine

I looked at my can of Pepsi Max to see if it lists how much caffeine is present. It does not, but it does contain the warning "Contains Phenylalanine". Some quick research online reveals that this amino acid is a common part of proteins and that cancer cannot live without it. There is also a disorder, PKU, wherein the sufferers are unable to properly metabolise the amino acid and so must stick to a very strict and low phenylalanine diet. Now my question is this: if it is possible for people to live without phenylalanine, but not cancer, is it possible to arrest or limit the effects of cancer by following a low phenylalanine diet? Has anyone even tried that? And how many PKU sufferers are getting cancer?

There are lots of articles and websites arguing about whether phenylalanine causes cancer, but can phenylalanine deprivation arrest cancer? There was some research on phenylalanine blockers that showed phenylalanine is essential for cancerous cell division, but I don't have the know-how to follow that thread. Someone seems to have developed something called Controlled Amino-Acid Therapy, which can at least reduce the required doses of drugs and radiation for cancer treatment.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - CAAT is a very particular diet, as far as I can tell.
PPS - Maybe in future we can avoid cancer with a particular diet.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Mobile Master phone sync software

After a long time searching for a way to rid myself of Microsoft Outlook for phone synchronisation (calendar and contacts) I found Mobile Master. I checked that my phone would be supported, and the website lists "Nokia 6280", which is (I believe) a previous iteration of my own 6288. I downloaded and installed the program, then (after taking a backup of my phone, just in case) connected up my handset.

The first thing it told me was that the 6288 is too buggy and unstable, so no further development will be done and the phone is officially unsupported. This level of service was evident in the way the program handled the phone from then on. I was unable to select two-way synchronisation between Thunderbird and the phone calendar, and Mobile Master was also unable to load contacts or the calendar from the phone memory.

I had hoped, as I stated before, that this would be a good way to sync my phone with my computer - particularly my calendar and contacts - without Microsoft Office. I can't speak for Mobile Master in conjunction with other phones, but with my "unsupported" 6288, it doesn't work. Nokia PC Suite doesn't have that kind of trouble with it, but I expect the Nokia software developers would have inside knowledge that Mobile Master has to reverse-engineer.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I realise as a review this is very narrow.
PPS - This represents only my own experience with one unsupported phone.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Exclusive deals

I have a box of Uncle Tobys museli bars on my desk that proudly states "Only at Woolworths and Safeway". An exclusive deal to sell Uncle Tobys muesli bar special packs only at Woolworths and Safeway doesn't do Uncle Tobys any good. It's only agood deal for Woolworths: if you want these muesli bars, you have to come there. So why did Uncle Tobys sign the deal? The only thing I can think of is that they're owned by the same company, so the owners don't care if one product sells less elsewhere as long as more customers are at the shop.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The exclusive deal is only for the 18-bar choc chip box.
PPS - Other Uncle Tobys products are available elsewhere.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Brain Games

You know all those "brain health" games on the Nintendo DS? Well, it turns out it's all a zombie plot to fatten the herd. They want our brains big and juicy, which I can understand. The one thing I don't understand is that zombies pretty much need to be smarter than us to succeed at making games to make us smarter. It's hard to swallow.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maybe the zombies are just in favour of the games.
PPS - That would make more sense.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

DRM and complexity

DRM is not just doomed to failure (it's a non-viable cryptographic scenario) but if it is designed into a program, it creates unnecessary complexity and extra points of potential failure. When DRM causes your program to fail where it should have worked, it's bad news for customers, for you and, if applicable, your third-party DRM supplier. Your customers can't use your program, you lose sales and the DRM supplier loses reputation and future sales. It's lose-lose-lose, in other words.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - When DRM works for legitimate customers, it's invisible.
PPS - And illegitimate customers find ways around it anyway.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Unit blocks are tiny nation states

I was struck by a thought the other day that blocks of units or apartments are like tiny nations in their own right. They have governments (body corporate), presidents (managers), taxes (body corporate fees) and laws. That's about as far as the thoughts went so far, and clearly there are differences, but perhaps in the "post-apocalypse" age, besides roaming bikie gangs and plucky groups of scavenger survivors, we'd have little fortress nation-states that grew out of blocks of units.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Imagine catapults on the roofs, hurling old televisions at other unit blocks.
PPS - Maybe they wouldn't last that long.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


Debbie and I bought Spore on the weekend and started playing through. So far it looks pretty good, and it's fun adding bits and pieces to creatures for visual or skill effects. Unfortunately, we've hit a snag entering the third phase - the Tribe stage. Our desktop PC won't load it. While we could buy a new machine to try that, a lot of other people have been having the same problem, so there's no guarantee that a new computer will work either.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We are due for an upgrade anyway.
PPS - Maybe that's where the tax return will go.

Update: It turns out our problem was an old graphics driver. After upgrading that from the nVidia website, everything works.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Bridge to Brisbane

Yesterday I ran the Bridge to Brisbane 10km fun run. When I finished, the clock said 1 hour, 17 minutes, but I don't know what it said when I started. Results and photos should be on the official website some time today on 15 Sep. It was a good time, though my feet hurt a bit. My right knee and ankle are taking the longest to recover. I do think I'll do it again next year, and maybe I'll enter some other races in future too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I may need new shoes.
PPS - That wouldn't be so bad.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Explosm

This comic at struck me as rather amusing. I don't want to spoil the ending, though.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Thanks to Kym for pointing me at Cyanide and Happiness.
PPS - Some of them I don't get, though.

The Goatee Dimension

In many TV shows, and probably some movies, there has been a crossover to an evil mirror universe, where we find the evil equivalents of the main characters, suitably indicated by their goatee beards or preferences for dark leather clothing and eyeliner. I wonder, though, whether anyone has ever implied that the world we live in right now contains the "evil" versions of everyone, and the crossover brings them face to face with angelic counterparts.

It would probably be a bit too confronting for mainstream TV or movies, because it also implies that your viewers are bad people. Most of the time they'd rather just watch people with funny voices fall down.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maybe some arty film students would try it.
PPS - Or a science fiction/fantasy author.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

A bank's dilemma

When interest rates rise, profits go up like magic. When they fall, however, shareholders will be unhappy if profits fall in accord, so profits must remain always on the rise. But you'll start losing customers if you don't lower your interest rates, because other banks will do so at some point. You need to lower your rates to get new customers and retain your current ones, but you need to maintain profits to keep your shareholders happy.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's possible this problem has no easy answer.
PPS - Unsustainable profits one year means unhappy shareholders the next.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Surprise Facebook applications

Something I don't like about Facebook applications is that you don't necessarily know what they're about before you add them to your profile. That wouldn't be so bad if adding them didn't automatically give the application developer full access to your entire profile. I want to have finer control over what is allowed for particular applications. A comic window doesn't need to know who my friends are or my favourite books. The zombie game doesn't need to know where I spend my holidays or my relationship status, but right now it does.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We implicitly trust application writers not to abuse their power.
PPS - And we trust Facebook to make sure applications are safe.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

I want to act

Every time I see some behind-the-scenes documentary or some glimpse of the actor's life, I miss it. I've only done a few plays and skits in my time, but I've always enjoyed them. I've turned down a few, too, mostly because they're last-minute things and I prefer to rehearse if there's going to be a script. I don't know where I would go to get involved in a decent community theatre, or even if there are any around. I kept my eye on the Harvest Rain newsletters for open auditions, but they only seem to offer about one per year.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I also missed their acting classes because of our USA trip.
PPS - I wouldn't trade it, though. It was just unfortunate timing.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Text corruption in Ubuntu

I've had this problem before, and it's just popped up again. I forget how I fixed it last time. Here's the thing:

This is my blog posts draft file. It holds the posts I haven't yet posted or rejected, and I refer to it most mornings. It's not usually in Chinese. It's the result of the text editor reading the file incorrectly, and it seems to happen when I mix Windows and Linux line break characters in the one file. I've tried a few ways of fixing it now, and they seem to work, but fall down later. I guess I've got some more research to do.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The picture isn't that clear, but you can click to view a bigger version.
PPS - Besides the Chinese, I also saw what I think was a footprint character.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombster

The other night, Deb and I were walking between dinner and the movies when I noticed a sign in a shop window announcing a new tenant "coming soon". The shop was otherwise empty, of course, but the sign intrigued me:

That appears to be a zombie hamster, or "Zombster", the name of the shop. They plan to carry anime, comics and so on.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Sorry for the bad phone-cam pic. I didn't have time to do it right.
PPS - The store is on Station Road, Indooroopilly, Brisbane.

Musical chairs, yet again

Our team has been shuffled on to new desks more times than I care to recall. Yesterday it happened again - the coal terminal team needs extra space because the project is ramping up, so we are forced to move. In some ways, I guess I don't mind. There are always positives and negatives to a new location. What I enjoyed about the old one was a close proximity to the city centre. Oh, well. It was good while it lasted.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I had to haul my Box-O-Stuff up the hill myself.
PPS - It wasn't too heavy, but it's not something I want to do regularly.

Thursday, 28 August 2008


I wonder how many industry-specific uses of the word "product" there are. I know the hair care industry uses "product" for gels, mousse, wax and other substances you use to style hair. I know the intelligence community calls information "product". There are probably many more.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Most dictionaries wouldn't bother defining them all.
PPS - And that's if they are known outside their respective industries.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Television vs relationships

There's a problem in the relationship world. Long-lasting, committed, stable relationships are nice to hear about, but they don't make good TV. So everyone on TV has screwed up relationships. It's more interesting to watch, and it's much easier to write. So most of the examples to which we are exposed are broken homes, problem marriages, dysfunctional families and promiscuous singles. We don't get good examples, so we don't produce good behaviour. We are more familiar with train wreck relationships, so that's all we know how to have for ourselves. The cycle continues as these people grow up to make bad examples to the next generation, but they get it progressively worse than their parents.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And, presumably, make worse television than their forbears.
PPS - Or better, depending on your point of view.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Bar bet skills

I wonder how many talents in this world started as drunken bar bets. As in "I bet I can build a stack of coins higher than you" or "I bet I can balance one egg on top of another". At some point someone gets it into their head that this could be really impressive, if only you devoted a few hours every day to training in it. From ther, a life disappears, but an amazing skill is born (or just a skill, in some cases). Years later, someone takes a photo or a video and we all get a few seconds amusement out of it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Seems like a bit of a low payoff.
PPS - Still, for some people it's worthwhile.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Arsenic for corns

The Scared Weird Little Guys' song Christmas Day, also known as The Bawdy Song, mentions using arsenic as a home remedy for corns. Is that medically accurate? Not that I'd take medical advice from musical comedians, but it seems equally likely to me that it's a common old practice or that it's just words that fit the song. The indication from the first page of Google results is that arsenic can actually cause corns, not help reduce them.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Now I wonder if that's a coincidence.
PPS - It's a many-layered problem.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Communications as a public service

The communications system of a country needs to be held in the common interest. Private companies are not going to invest thousands of dollars to connect remote users to high-speed broadband unless the user foots the bill. A public service would be able to spread those charges over all users with a flat rate. The other option would be to have the infrastructure itself owned by the taxpayers with private companies leasing it from them to provide services like internet and telephony. It does sound a bit communist, I suppose, but the fact is that private companies have different goals than public services, which can operate at a loss for the greater good.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Private companies sometimes take a loss for good PR.
PPS - But in general they'd rather not.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Dilbert

This one doesn't technically mention the word "zombie", but I found the imagery of this Dilbert strip to be rather zombie-like.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Sometimes, that's all it takes.
PPS - And occasionally not even that.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Ninjas repaired my phone

Yesterday afternoon I took my phone with a black screen to the 3 Service Centre at Milton. The place wasn't busy, and they gave me a loan phone so they could call when it was ready. Deb picked me up and we started to head home. Before we got a quarter of the way there, the service centre called and said my phone was repaired and ready to pick up. I was not prepared for that, since the last repair (with the exact same problem) took two weeks. I expected to have to wait at least overnight. So, well done to 3 on their quick, efficient service centre. I'm glad to have my phone back in working order.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - One of the sales reps told me I could get a free quote there.
PPS - They were wrong, however.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Walking upstream

Some days I have to go to the train station to put credit on my bus card. I've started doing this in the morning, because it's less trouble than going out at lunch. Most people in the morning are headed out of the station, so I am occasionally struck by the idea that I'm a salmon swimming upstream. It doesn't last long.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Mostly because I'm only walking 50 metres or so.
PPS - And it's not super-crowded, either.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Bars of Gold-Pressed Latinum

In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, they often deal in the hard currency of "bars of gold-pressed latinum". The main problem I have with this is that it's a lot to say. If people of the future are anything like people today, they'll create a shorter name for them, or at least say only "bars" when the context makes it clear.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - "Latinum" is completely fictional.
PPS - It's a currency only because it can't be replicated.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Post-apocalyptic survival skills

What basic skills would you personally need to bootstrap society after an apocalyptic collapse? Start with fire and hunting - the ability to find and prepare food. Then add basic agriculture and animal care, shelter building and maybe pottery. You'll want to know how to make clothes and tools too, so tanning and leatherwork initially, plus woodwork and small-scale blacksmithing too. It's not an easy task.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This assumes you're on your own, too.
PPS - But a total societal collapse should imply that.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Contact information kept semi-private

To keep my contact information personal, I need a few things. First, I need different identifiers that I can pass out to different people and companies - a different one for everyone. Next, I need to know what identifier was used to contact me when it happens. Lastly, I need the ability to expire an identifier on my end if I decide it has been compromised.

This is how it looks in practice: I give out a phone number to a company because they request one. No problem. They pass it on to another company I do not wish to be in contact with. Now when Company B tries to call me, I recognise the number they used as the one I gave to Company A. I decide then that I no longer wish to deal with Company A or their associates Company B if this is how they treat my contact information. I terminate the number and it can no longer be used by either of them to contact me because my phone never bothers to ring for that number any more. Everyone else, who has a different number for me, can still contact me.

In theory, the same system would work with ordinary old caller ID and caller-specific blocking, but then a pest can keep calling me as long as they call from a different number every time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Somehow I got un-listed from telemarketer call lists a while ago.
PPS - I'm not sure how. I never registered on the Do Not Call list.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Kitty

Via, this is possibly the cutest Friday Zombie Blog ever.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd embed the image here, but that feels like stealing.
PPS - Only because the image is the entire content I'm after.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

My phone breaks every six months

Can I get free repairs on my phone if its express warranty has expired but it is faulty? I didn't damage it, and the fault is not expected wear and tear, so I think I'm in the right here. However, I was told that I would have to pay for repairs due to the warranty expiry. I don't think I should have to pay to repair goods that were sold to me and exhibited a manufacturing fault just weeks after the warranty expired. Right?

This is the same phone that was repaired back in January, and 3 Mobile was very helpful then, given that we were just six months into the warranty period. Now it seems this Nokia 6288 is designed to fail after six months or so, and I'm not on board with that. If I am sold a phone on a two year plan, I expect that handset to last for two years without the need for repairs, especially if it is well cared-for.

I guess if it develops a fault after the warranty period, that might not be considered a manufacturing problem.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My next port of call is the service centre in Milton.
PPS - They will at least give me a free quote on repairs.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

People's Day, but no Ekka

Today is a public holiday, but only in the small area around Brisbane. It's supposed to be so that people can visit the yearly Ekka event, but Deb and I chose to drive up to the Sunshine Coast to Underwater World instead. I hadn't been there in years, but Deb had never been at all. The thing that struck me most today were the lips of the sawfish. The thing looks like it has a goofy grin from underneath. It's weird, but quite amusing. We also took the behind the scenes working area tour where we saw turtles in "dry dock", a young octopus and touched a little baby shark.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Shark skin is surprisingly soft.
PPS - At least while they're still babies.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Everyone's booting Linux

I've decided to install Ubuntu Linux on this other work machine, since it seems we might be here a while longer. My co-workers are also at least considering it too. I've been meaning to install it at home for some time, but haven't managed to free enough space yet on the old hard drive. Also, because the drive is old, I'm not that confident about its ability to survive a re-partitioning.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If I get a new PC, I'd be less anxious about it.
PPS - That might be sooner rather than later.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Pushing buttons: finger or thumb?

Do you push buttons with your index finger or thumb? I only noticed that I had started using my thumb after Cory Doctorow mentioned it somewhere (I think). He claimed it was the result of using our thumbs to write text messages on our phones all the time.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It starts feeling funny when you start noticing.
PPS - That's probably true either way.

Friday, 8 August 2008

To work from home

Today, since I am sick, I am running an experiment. Can I actually work from home, given that all our significant work artefacts are online? Well, I'm going to give it a shot. The things I will not have access to are my work email and the timesheet I'm supposed to fill out on Fridays. I'll probably survive it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I will be dressed for work, in an attempt to keep me focused.
PPS - That's part of the experiment too.

Update: It turns out to be technically possible to work from home, but if I want to do it again, I'll need a much better computer.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Haiku

I find this amusing.

It's zombie poetry recited by zombies, presumably for zombies.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It also seems to be an ad for a book.
PPS - I think I've got the gist of it, though.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Low-cost music transmission

I was thinking a while ago of getting an audio streaming device for home. It's like a private radio connected to your digital music collection on your PC. They're relatively expensive and most of them are more than a little trouble to set up. Then I got to thinking: what if I just got an FM transmitter and had it play my music on shuffle all the time? I already have radios around the house to receive that signal, so there would be no further cost on that end.

The disadvantages would be that I'd have no remote control over the music, so I can't skip a song I don't want to hear right now. However, that's the same as what happens with the radio right now, except that they're not always playing music I've personally selected. There may also be a problem of licensing, since I would be technically re-broadcasting music without permission, and other people could listen in.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - They may even ask me to pay royalties.
PPS - I probably won't bother.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

A thought about Facebook

I'm not much into Facebook as a social place. I'm mostly using it to collect and categorise my friends like Pokemon. Gotta catch 'em all.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Now if only I could send them into battle...
PPS - Knowing Facebook, you probably can, but I don't know how.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Nappies for Russia

Before Sunday I didn't know there was any such thing as a "nappy nerd". Apparently, though, there are women who gather on the web to talk about their preferences and experiences with various nappy brands and types, their own practices when changing nappies and so on. When these women (and possibly some men, I don't personally know) heard about poor baby hygiene conditions in Russia, they got the word out and did something about it. They got companies involved to donate goods and services, provided many cloth nappies themselves, and are currently shipping them to Russia under the straightforward charity name of "Nappies for Russia". Chances are good that the word will spread further and other mothers in need around the world will benefit from this nascent charity.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is what happens when a passion collides with a need.
PPS - For those who speak US English, "nappy" = "diaper".