Archive for the 'technology' Category


Stan Winston R.I.P.

It was with great sadness that I learned of the untimely death of Stan Winston, who’s work in fantasy films enthraulled a generation. So I was insipred to write something about his work on Geek, here.

He\'s behing you Stan!


WiFi Theft – utter garbage

Can you steal a wireless broadband connection service? Apparently, according to Birmingham police, you can. The story covered by the Birmingham Post tells us that ‘Dishonestly obtaining free internet access is an offence under the Communications Act 2003 and a potential breach of the Computer Misuse Act.’. Doh! This has to be the dumbest story I’ve heard for a long while and based on other things going on currently in the news it makes you wonder where this officers priorities might be. Was the owner of the link aware? Did he care? Did it cost him anything extra this month? How was he deprived by this act? At what point was he being dishonest? When asked by the police officers what he was doing, he told them!
If the owner of the access point had wanted it closed, surely he should of closed it?
I’m not legally trained, but surely stealing is the act where you intend to permanently deprive the owner of a possession? But he never intended to take anything, unless it’s possible to filch electrons or direct them illegally.
Based on the logic of this, if you walk past a house where someone is listening to a CD in the garden, then you’re stealing their music? Or if light from a property is falling on your newspaper, allowing you to read it while you wait for the bus, that’s stealing too?
But again I come back to my key point. With gun and knife crimes a major concern, along with terrorism, the effort in the pursuit of someone what is effectively a victimless crime seems inappropriate at best.


Are Journalists threatened by Bloggers?

Last week I went to an event called PlayBite, which was to bring Journo’s and various hardware makers together for mutual benefit. There I was able to talk to Seagate, Toshiba, Belkin, ZyXEL and others about current and upcoming products and potentially plan some reviews in advance.
Good stuff. But what was also interesting was the questionnaire they asked me to complete as I left, which seemed to be concerned about the impact of Blogging on us erstwhile hacks!
I know that some people are very worried about this, and I can understand why, but myself I’m not. You see I don’t see bloggers are actually a threat to conventional journalism, but another potential outlet for people with genuine writing skills. By day I’m an ink journalist, meaning my work is printed and distributed, in much the same way that it’s been for hundreds of years. Yes, it’s all composited on a computer, and sent to a computerised press, but it’s an ink and paper deal like it’s been since Caxton.
Luckily I work for a weekly mag, so there isn’t a huge time difference between the actual events we discuss and them going into print. It’s not got the instant appeal of a blog or online mag, but sometimes it’s good to let a little time go by without spouting, to get a better handle on the underlying story.
So will this type of product go away entirely and be replaced by Bloggs? I don’t think so, not in the short to medium term. If you go back in time you’ll find that people predicted the demise of print when Radio and TV was invented, and again when the Internet took hold. But it’s still going, and many of the daily still sell more than a million copies!
Now I’m writing a Blog, and it’s given me a whole new perspective. This is an immediate medium that allows me to talk about things that don’t generally fit into either the readership or interest of the print publications I produce for. It also doesn’t currently pay me anything, but it’s a ‘work in progress’ so I’ll accept that for the moment. At some point, I’ll expect it to pay its way for the time I spend on it, or I’ll reduce the amount I do.
Looking at what other Bloggers are doing, I don’t see anything different from what most journalists do, which is the see an idea or a story and then find their own angle. The Blogs that do well are either written skilfully or have imagination, despite what some think there is no ‘free lunch’ for the Blogger. Those that manage to get large numbers of people reading them have had to work hard to achieve that. There are millions of blogs that are read by few people, and some that will never get thousands of people a day tuning in.
The medium might have changed, but the rules remain the same. If you can produce material that people like or interests them then you’ve got a future, if you don’t you haven’t.
I think those in the printed press that feel the Bloggers are going to consume their occupations, by offering something similar for free are missing the point, I’d suggest.
In the same way that a picture taken with a mobile phone isn’t going to make you Photographer of the year. Those with genuine skills will shine through, irrespective of how they’re labelled.
The interest I’m seeing is that marketing people like the ‘new and exciting’ aspect of commercial Blogs, which they see as easier to influence than the battle-hardened hacks they’re used to dealing with. Once the Web 2.0 world has matured a little, I think they’ll find it isn’t any different, and many of those hacks are the same people they will deal with in a new context.
In the meanwhile, I’ll just keep writing…for any medium that has an outlet.


Server Build

Server BuildThis week I’ve been working on building a server, for my friend Mr. Cheng. As with all these things it will also be a feature in Micro Mart. The machine is actually finished now, but I’ve had a few ups and downs along the way. The system uses an embedded Linux solution called NASLite V2, written by a great guy called Tony Tonchev. But when I first built the rig it used a Sapphire motherboard which didn’t pass the drive details on correctly, and the two 500GB SATA drives in there didn’t register! I switched to an ASUS board and it’s all cooking now!


The Future is a scary place…we’re told

Apparently that’s the overwhelming conclusion of the House of Lords report on the Internet, which they likened to the ‘Wild West’. Putting aside the argument that the notional concept of the Wild West is pure fiction anyway, from the portions that have been reported this document seems to have discovered that the Internet isn’t immune from exactly the same sorts of threats that people encounter every day in ‘reality’. Gosh that’s a revelation! How long exactly did it take them to work that one out?
What worries me the most though isn’t the banal rehash of what’s been true for at least five years, but the assertion that ISPs should somehow be made responsible for what others do with their service. People have been scamming people with letters and phone calls for years, since these mechanisms became widespread in fact. But I’ve never seen the government turn around to Royal Mail or BT and ask them to stump up when some old lady buys shares in a company that doesn’t exist, or hands over her details to a criminal!
This isn’t a new idea though is it, as the whole YouTube and Torrent rows demonstrate. You can’t hold Google responsible for stuff found by their indexing or put by others on YouTube. In the same way that Ford aren’t responsible for letting people drive their cars while drunk. It isn’t Ford’s responsibility to sit outside the pub and stop you driving, and it isn’t the ISPs responsibility to work out which packets of data that are travelling on their network might ultimately upset someone.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see ISPs being more pro-active on killing virus packages and mail zombie data in transit, because I think that’s entirely practical, and it’s something they could actually do. But making them liable is frankly the stupidest thing I’ve heard recently.  As many of them resell services from other providers, like BT, they could share responsibility around, eventually bringing a huge class action against the relatives of Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Alexander Graham Bell, Elisha Gray and Edison  for their contribution to the creation of this highly dangerous facility.
Clearly based on this thinking Elton John is ready for a peerage, which I respectfully suggest is given to him just minutes before the unelected second house is disbanded and replaced by an elected one with people who have more of a grip on modern technology. But then the other elected house doesn’t seem to have any of those, so maybe that’s asking too much.


XP SATA install without floppy

I know this has been possible for a while, but I’d always worked around it, either by finding a floppy drive or installing to an ATA drive and then cloning it to the SATA when happy with the installation.
But today I decided to grasp the thorn and do it the slick way with a tool called nLite. It worked a dream! I’m so impressed with my own ability to follow simple instructions, I might well turn this into a Micro Mart feature, or alternatively put it here.
The bottom line is that you don’t need a floppy to install XP on SATA! Is this the bitter end for the floppy?


Fix Broken Nintendo DS display

Cracked DS
The replacement screen for the Nintendo DS turned up
This is how I got on!


Nintendo DS Trashed…Grrrr..

Cracked DS

Children , who’d want them? This is the handiwork of mine, when combined with their cousin. Anyone fixed anything like this? Is it just a replacement screen or should I just bin it?

UPDATE: Ordered the parts…so tomorrow I get to find out if it’s fixable…if it is I’ll put the details up here.


Thunderflies are go!

ThripI’ve just had a bizarre conversation with long time friend of mine Gary Allen about Thunderflies (also referred to as Thrips from the order Thysanoptera), and the trouble they can cause. It’s annoying enough to have them craw on your skin in the summer, but Gary’s having issues with them go into the space between the matrix and the backlight on his TFT. At first he assumed that the two dead pixels that moved where the result of PSS, or Post Stella Shock. But it turns out that this tiny little beetles just love to scurry around inside thin-film-transistor displays!
The trouble is getting them out, before they die and become a permanent visual fixture. His idea, for which I take no responsibility was to train Ninja Thunderflies to go in and kick out the blighters. My idea, which isn’t much better, was to use a powerful microscope to paint lipstick on a Thunderfly and use them as a romantic lure, in the manner of those Bugs Bunny cartoon’s where he does the same.
As neither of these plans seems like a sure-fire way to extradite the little blighter’s, we’re open to ideas about how to solve this problem. So tell us if you have any ideas.
This link shows it’s just not us with this issue.


Crazy Computers – updated

I’ve added some new machines and pictures to the Crazy Computers page. Enjoy!
UV Extra


Flash SDHC – mixed emotions


I’ve been working on an SD memory group test today. Mainly because Pipex haven’t fixed by Broadband and it’s been going up and down like a the water level in Yorkshire!
It’s turned out to be an interesting exercise, because man of the card makers chose to send the latest SDHC flavours. The first problem I had was that my existing flash card reader wouldn’t accept them, which was thankfully solved by Lexar, who sent me a reader. The second, and more annoying is the lack of planning in SD technology.
Most of the cards I have are 4GB, with a few 2GB and the odd 1GB thrown in. I’ll end up keeping some of these, maybe the half I bought. But how useful will they be to me? Not sure. I’ve discovered that my beloved Nikon D50 won’t read the SDHC ones! Come on Nikon, you must be able to fix this with a firmware patch! I’ve been told that they will read some cards if they’re formated to FAT16, as SDHC are formated in FAT32 as standard. That’s great advice, until you realised that the biggest partition you can have on FAT16 is 2GB, so that’s not a huge help, is it? Even more annoyingly both the D40, D40x and D80 all accept them, so can’t see a reason why the D50 shouldn’t be able to work with them.


ADSL vs Anger Management

I’ve had my broadband drop twice today, once when I was about to post! Until a week ago any dropout was unusual, and now I’m getting them at least once at day, 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time.
As I use the Internet to earn a living this is really beginning to bug me. Since I tested or replaced every piece of wire and hardware I use, I’m now convinced it’s either a piece of hardware or some work that’s going on at the exchange which is taking away my service.
Perhaps I shouldn’t of previously mentioned my concern about Pipex and Tiscali…it’s now coming back to haunt me. I don’t want to go cable, but I can’t go on with an occasional service!