Saturday, April 29, 2006

Look at 'em go!

Those US Dollar / British Pound exchange rates are the highest for over 120 days. Now is the time to buy stuff from America, I reckon. Like domain name renewals. Or summat.

I have a few points to make.

Why is AOL called AOL in Britain? It stands for America On-Line, right? But Britain, belive it or not, is not America. So why didn't they change the name? Weird.

Three weeks ago I had a theory to eliminate the world of spam (assuming it could be forced onto all email systems in existence - I admit, without a time machine, it was flawed). But I noticed that in last week's Technology Guardian supplement that it's already been done, though a little differently! It was quite strange to read, as I'd thought of my own idea myself. It wasn't like when Chris Rea went into the studio with a great melody for a song and was told a few bars in that it was the theme tune from Postman Pat. (I think he had a baby at the time).

I've lost count of the number of domain names I've bought over the last 7 years. When I first bought them they cost about £180 per year, so you really had to put some thought into what you got! Then Easily came along in 1999 and changed everything. .co.uks were, and still are £9.99. .coms were £35 I think (and still are - too expensive now). I bought lots, with the intention of developing fun sites or selling them to interested parties from my mountain hideout in downtown Charminster. Most of the ones I didn't renew have been registered again, so I wasn't too wrong with the choices. I do hate these sites which are just a page of links to crap. Totally useless. I'd rather see a 404. I thought about getting cantbebothered.com, and just visited it to see one of these generic template full of links pages, but related to "power management and blushing". What the hell is that when it's at home!? (English as a foreign language students - you'll learn to love idioms!).

Nylabone. If you have a dog you'll know about these. Essentially, nylon bones. But the price? Outrageous! I know they're American (there's a theme emerging in this post) but they seem very expensive for a nylon block. They're something like £3 or £4. I suppose I'm jealous. If I had a company that made bones for 20p and sold them for 2,000% profit.... well, if indeed!

Podcasts. I'm not keen on the name - corporations like Apple take over at any opportunity, and I'm sure there are more non-iPod MP3 players out there than there are actual iPods. But nevertheless, they're quite an interesting and free way (unless it's the over-rated Ricky Gervais) to get a large MP3 file onto your PC to listen to while you do something else. However, I don't like the way that websites who are jumping on the podcast bandwagon aren't just posting a link to the actual MP3 file on their website. They make you subscribe and download it via iTunes, which I resent due to the unfair pricing of downloads for UK customers compared to most other countries. It's not like it costs more to send it to the UK because we're an island separate from mainland Europe - this is the bloody internet. I think I've mentioned it before, but once I asked a friend if he would buy a Mac or a PC. He said a Mac because Bill Gates is too rich. "But", I said, Bill Gates is giving 90% of his personal wealth away to good causes. Apple are a corporation who don't give anywhere near that much away." Needless to say, I won the argument when I'd got him in a headlock and kicked him in the groin. PC World staff didn't look too pleased.

And who the bloody hell made Bono some sort of representative of Earth? He's a paddy pop singer with shades on even when he's indoors. Why doesn't he give 90% of his wealth away - then I would respect him slightly more that I do now (which is about the level of respect I give a squashed sprout!).

Well, I've just bought two cool domain names that I'm highly surprised were still available. I know, I'll never learn! Time to publish before this post gets any worse!

Awesome and ambitious staging!

Photo

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds concert.

Photo

Friday, April 28, 2006

War of the Worlds Musical

I've just seen it at the Newcastle Arena and it was cool.

A 20 foot tall virtual Richard Burton head, a 60 foot tall martian fighting machine with heat ray - yes, it wasn't a conventional concert!

Justin Heywood from the Moody Blues and Russell Watson were both on stage to sing a couple of songs each, but the main body of music was the 48 piece strings orchestra and Black Smoke rock band.

No pauses, so you just sat there and were assaulted with amazing sights and sounds.

If you have no idea what I'm on about, visit www.thewaroftheworlds.com and allow pop-ups or click on the red button at the top right to launch a music player window which will play a few minutes from each track of the whole album.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

26 Not Out

The day started off badly, when I received my celestial watch from Accurist and couldn't figure out for the life of me how to actually put it on! In the end I decided I needed to call their helpline. But my Amstrad E3 Emailer decides to throw a wobbler every couple of weeks and refuses to let me use the phone until I check my emails for 20p (and sneakily update some adverts).

So I tried another phone, and the line was dead, which is quite common on my somewhat unreliable VOIP line. Unplugging the VOIP unit normally works, but not on this occassion. So I tried my ntl landline. Dead too. I ended up using my little used mobile phone with Pokia handset, which was quite liberating - wandering round the room with a bakelite style handset with modern bean-like mobile hanging from the coiled flex!

One of the ladies at Accurist gave up on me, but she really wasn't explaining what I had to do very well at all, and when another lady spoke to me I had it figured out within 20 seconds. There were instructions with the watch on how to use it to view star constellations at night, but not how to put it on!

Then I switched on the PC to check emails, and upon replying to one realised that my new Apple pro keyboard (yes, I have a PC and got an Apple keyboard - it has nicer keys!) is ignoring every 10th letter I type, which is unbelivably frustrating. I later found out it is because it was connected to a USB hub which it didn't like, as the keyboard is a USB hub itself with 2 ports. It was very easy to prise off the keys to convert it into my favoured Dvorak keyboard layout (look it up and convert).

A business associate had sent a CD ROM containing a video of a product which I had said I'd edit and produce to put on my company site to see what effect it has on sales. Not only was the CD loose in an un-padded envelope, but he'd stuck an address label on one side, so the thing vibrated like crazy when it was in the drive! The video was in mp2 format (never heard of it before), and it imported into Pinnacle ok. It's the 2nd time I've used this editing software, and it kept flashing a warning that it wasn't keen on the integrated display card. So I nabbed the 64Mb one from an old PC in the loft, and after much riving about, it slotted in. I have to admit I was getting quite ratty at this stage, but thankfully my puppy was looking adorable, asleep in his bed next to me so a bit of thearputic petting calmed me down instantly. While the side of the PC was off, I thought I'd install the Pinnacle video capture card too. Would it fit? Would it bollocks! Apart from the fact that the last remaining PCI slot is at the very bottom of the PC so I can't see anything, there's a big cable getting in the way that is connected to the sound card, and it seems that there are too many 'pins' of the capture card, or at least they don't seem to be in the same formation as the socket. I stuck it in as far as I could stick it, but no message came up on Windows to say there was new hardware discovered. So I'm not sure if it works. It's certainly plugged into something! I don't want to get involved and set up a video to play into it to see if it does, because if it doesn't I don't have a suitable socket on the PC to plug it in anyway, and I'll have had to move a lot of equipment about to get the two things connected together.

And I've almost given up with this virtual laser keyboard I got. Amazon said it was cabled, but it's actually bluetooth, which is not a technology I understand nor want to get involved in, but under duress I purchased a £5 dongle from ebuyer (I obtained one from PC World for £20 but couldn't get it to work) and am having no luck in pairing the to things together. I wants a passcode which the keyboard doesn't have, and typing '0000' as someone suggested doesn't work either. It seemed like such a great idea at the time, too...

To prove how much I dislike the thought of wireless internet (my concern is over its security - surely something in the air is pretty open to everyone to hack?) I am using 30 metres of CAT5 cable to connect mum's PC in the extension to the internet. It will go out of my window, into the garden and then through her window. But it will be secure!

Spending money before the end of the financial year is going okay, although I do feel I may be buying things for the sake of it. Mum deserved a new PC so I bought her it, and will donate my 17" Sony TFT monitor to her as well. The watch mentioned earlier was a director's gift, and is very nice (although for a company calling itself 'Accurist' I would have expected less deviation than up to 30 seconds each month!). Garden lights for the dog to see where he's weeing (I had a plan to create a computerised sequencer for them, but not sure if I can be bothered now), a cheap ultrasonic water fogger, two DAB radios, a large fluorescent office lighting fixture, an ergonomic mouse (which I must review on here at some point), a touch screen monitor, a toner cartridge, a few years added on to most domain names with the current favourable US Dollar exchange rate (I've resisted .eu names - I think they are set to become the .biz of tomorrow), some LED lamps to replace GU10 fittings, etc.

I think I'm realising that I'm a bit of a telephone collector, judging by the number I seem to be accumulating recently. While the Amstrads are excellent phone books for dialling out, I prefer the feel of my 1967 red 'hot line' GP 700 series with LOUD bell ringers, or my 1987 BT Ambassador in beige. The handsets are a nice size, and the ringers loud enough to be able to hear anywhere in the house. I tend to rotate them around - sometimes I'll have a Binatone office phone which is very well built, or maybe a pristine 1980s BT Viscount. Maybe I'll even get out the BT Tremolo in its original box. I'm getting tired of the poor battery life of the 4 cordless units I have. They tend to die just as they're ringing with an incoming call, meaning you have to rush to base station alpha to use a corded one. Someone like the Pokia guy should design a new large telephone like the dial-type 700 series but a little bit sleeker and in the nice matt finish plastic their other handsets are in. Maybe pop a little caller ID display on the front, and bam - I'd buy one, no danger. But instead of a rotary dial, normal tone dial buttons on the base unit. But bell ringers, I think. Yes. In black, white (for the iPod people) and red. And maybe a wood effect. Wooden telephones are very popular.

I also got some cheap t-shirts from Mat Alan (£3 each!) and new trainers (Lacoste Carnabys - the dog has eaten my 6 year old Nike Cortez which were great).

Do you think I've waffled on too much in this post? It must be this keyboard.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sky TV's New Customer Offers

Why is it always the new customers who get the discounts? What about us poor buggers who've been paying full-whack since 1991? £25 a month for a range of crap channels - £42.50 a month for crap channels with boring movie and sport channels. All with adverts for debt consolidation and lawyers. ON TOP of the license fee!

I go with the household flow, but I think if I lived on my own I wouldn't have a television for receiving broadcasts.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pure Elan DX20 DAB Digital Radio

Design flaw: putting the solid metal handle up, located next to the aerial, obliterates any DAB signal being received.

DAB is so poor, reception-wise. It bubbles like a cauldron unless I'm in the loft and I live in a big city. Let's hope the government turn up the transmitter power before they go switching off analogue signals to sell the bandwidth to commercial enterprises for billions (which is what the whole switch to digital is about).

Saturday, April 22, 2006

.EU Domain Name suffix

I don't understand these at all. They're all taken! Virtually anything good has gone, and they've only been going a couple of weeks. And there's nothing on any of them - they don't even forward to an existing site.

PLUS all the ones I've checked have either been registered to American or Australian addresses. What about the "you have to be in the European Union to register a .eu domain name"???

Rubbish! Another naff money-grabbing suffix to go with .biz, .info et al.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Inner Circle

Donald Sinden was exceptionally entertaining on tonight's Paul O'Grady show. I always think guests on chat shows work best if they're not actually there to promote anything. Sadly, of course, they often are.

I think BMW, Mercedes and Range Rover drivers should all be made honourary police. They seem to think that they are above the law when it comes to speed and parking wherever they like. A BMW driver nearly ran me over today so that he could get his wife as near to the pillar box as possible. She seemed scared when it looked like I was about to open her door for her. I took my time before crossing the road so that he had to reverse to drive off. Idiot.

I don't understand people who leave their curtains open so that the entire world can see them in their lounge watching TV and picking their feet. Even if you stand and stare at them they don't do anything. I could be making a list of what to nick for all they know. And it would be so obvious when they're out 'cos you wouldn't be able so see them!

As most people's financial years ended at the end of last month, I've actually had no customers at all in 22 days!

My good friend David C. Evans has informed me that this blog is esoteric. If you are still reading this - welcome to the inner circle, my friend!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Digital cameras and beaches don't mix

I was having a very pleasant walk on the beach with my puppy and brought along my excellent Canon IXUS 700 digital camera (£280 when new, exactly 1 year ago to the day). I was taking photos of him as it was only his 3rd walk out and the first time on the beach. I joked about how at university we were banned from taking the Hi8 cameras onto the beach at Bournemouth and shown a bag of sand that the technician had removed from a camera once.

Well, bugger me - I'd just finished taking a series of shots of the port to merge together into a panoramic image and the bloody zoom lens wouldn't move when I switched the camera off, making an awful grinding noise!

It's off back to Canon now, who estimate the repair at £96.00. I had taken over 9,000 photos with it in 1 year.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Football and Friends

Football is a ruiner of friendships.

Football 'supporters' seem to think that they have an obligation to attend or watch every game played by their team, little realising that it's all about the money - the 'clubs' are corporations who want as much cash out of their gubber 'fans' as they can possibly get their hands on. They don't care. Why should they?

It's just frustrating that certain friends would prefer to watch football on TV rather than spend an evening out with you.

And another thing, ING Direct are rubbish 'cos they don't let you log in after late evening. Grrrr!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

You couldn't make it up

I asked my friend at work who is 17 what she was doing this weekend.

She replied "I'm going to a fancy dress party".

So i ask "Who are you going as?".

She said, in all seriousness, "I'm going as James from the fresh meats counter at Asda".

You see, today's trend is for girls to stalk attractive boys in their place of work, most notably supermarkets.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Website 'hits' or 'visits'

I've just seen a website boasting on how it has had 22 million hits in the last 12 months. Meaningless!

If you have one web page with 100 images on it, and ONE person visits it, you have received 101 hits (including the page file itself).

If I had a webpage with a million tiny images on it, and just 22 people visited it, I would have had 22 million hits.

Unique visitors means more. But there were probably only a couple of thousand of those, which makes the boast less impressive, although factually more meaningfull.

Is it really worth it?

This week has been an odd one. I'm starting to value time with friends and my dog more than earning money. There is an economic theory on this topic, but I can't remember what it's called (I hated economics!).

I'm trying to think of what my company can purchase with the profits from my business, but am having quite a job! It's the end of the financial year, and whatever profit there is gets taxed (gasp!). So therefore, it's wise to buy some things for the business (such as comfy chairs, computers, capital items, etc.) to spend some of this profit so that there's less of it to be taxed, yet the company benefits from the additional investment. Even if it is just a comfy chair (which I've got two of already, so I can't justify any more this year!).

But then you start thinking, 'am I just earning as much money as I can for the sake of it?'. 'If I am happy now, why push to earn that extra £100 just for the sake of it?'. 'The more I make, the more I get taxed'. (I'm sure the Roman Empire had this feeling).

Well, I don't know. So I don't. And I think it puts you in a more care-free frame of mind. I look at my dad and see what a penny-pincher he is and how little he likes to spend money, and ultimately what a miserable old bugger he has become and I just don't want to be like that. I really don't.

What's the best price?

I get thoroughly insulted when people call me to ask for discount on things I sell which they're already getting nearly 44% discount from the list price.

This is usually large nightclubs whose turnover every night is in excess of £20,000. They fuel binge drinking, burden hospitals and police services, turn a blind eye to drug use and stink.

The fact that they're in Wallsall, well...

"You're trying to con me" they say. Well, I'd rather not deal with you at all if that's your attitude.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

London by Night - Frank Sinatra

Strangely, within the last week, three people have asked me what my favourite song is. It's Frank Sinatra's "London by Night". It's beautiful.


London by night is a wonderful sight
There is magic abroad in the air
I'm often told that the streets turn to gold
When the moon shines on Circus and Square

Deep in the dark that envelops the park
There's romance in each cigarette glow
Down by the Thames, lights that sparkle like gems
Seem to wink at each girl and her beau

Up comes the moon when the city's asleep
He's not alone, for it seems
Somewhere up there stands an angel to keep her watch
While each Londoner dreams

My love and I saw the sun leave the sky
Then we kissed in the fast-fading light
Most people say they love London by day
But lovers love London by night

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Chindia

Is this really the new term the business world is using to describe cheap labour in China and India?!?!

Personal Fitness

Leonard Rossiter and Gene Pitney

Both fit and healthy men, both sudden deaths.

Does keeping fit really help give you a long life?

I'm hedging my bets - no.

Now pass me that lard sandwich!

Victor Lewis-Smith - hoax phone calls

Lewis-Smith is particularly infamous for his hoax phone calls. These include:

Calling the office of That's Life! pretending to be a trombonist in a wheelchair, who then collapses while trying to play the Sailor's Hornpipe at extreme speed down the phone. (Lewis-Smith appears to have a particular loathing for Esther Rantzen.)

Telephoning the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and asking them why there was only one such organisation.

Phoning Harrods department store and asking if he had got through to the H.A. Rods shop, before enquiring about returning an allegedly faulty vacuum cleaner which he claimed (in a halting voice) to have bought 'to suck dust off sausages'. As the conversation progressed it became increasingly clear to the call staff and the listener that the caller had bought the appliance for purposes of simulated oral sex and had injured his penis while attempting this act.

Phoning BBC Radio and applying to be a continuity announcer, while pretending to have Tourette's Syndrome and reminding them of their equal opportunities policy.

Drip Drip Drop Little April Shower

It's great when it's light in the evening. It should be like this all year.

I bought and set-up a Fujitsu Siemens X102 PC for my parents to replace their old Mesh one which sounds like it's about to take off. The X102 is virtually silent. Not much thanks from father, as he's still in his grumpy male menopause mood and has been since summer last year. He's an idiot.

I also had to buy another 30m CAT5 cable 'cos he'd closed the door on it and fried my mum's network card in her laptop. The fact that he mopes around the house feeling hard-done-by does nothing but generate further contempt for him.

I'm not overly impressed with my hosting company at the moment. There seems to be someone sharing my server with me who periodically uses huge amounts of the processor, thereby making all the 41 sites I have slow down to a crawl when I'm in the control panel. Doesn't seem to affect serving the pages, but email polling is slow. A server load of 1 means the processor is at 100% capacity. Sometimes when I check it's at 17. That's 1,600% over what it can optimumley handle. But Hostroute don't seem to be too concerned - in their words, "this server is currently running within normal limits".

I'm also trying some new gadgets - a virtual laser keyboard (still have to get an appropriate bluetooth dongle to get it working), a touch screen monitor and a vertical mouse.

Had some photos printed with PhotoBox - excellent quality and speed.

Doesn't it say something when Kellogg's Variety Packs now contain two boxes of Coco Pops and a box of Coco Pops Crunchers? Where's the variety in that?


 
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