That's not a drill bit... This is a drill
I'm running some network cabling from my home server
cabinet to my desktop PCs, and as usual the shortest distance between two
points is through a wall. Or, in this case, several walls. I believe in
future-proofing, so 20mm holes lined with length of white plastic water
pipe to keep things neat seemed to be the best way forward. I didn't have
such a macho drill bit to hand, as it happens, but thanks to an
unbelievably quick delivery from
Screwfix (ordered at 2pm on Sunday afternoon, delivered at 5pm
Monday!) I'm now looking at just the right tool for the job. I drilled
pilot holes yesterday, so this coming weekend it will be out with the big
guns to finish it off - which will probably be a great relief to my
cleaning woman, as I don't think she's at all keen on having CAT5
underfoot while she's trying to vacuum.
Meanwhile, Dan is still doing what he does best: mixing
and helpful technical advice
with a dry sense of humour that really tickles me. I was talking to one of
my PFYs about CPU heatsink goop, today, and mentioned Dan's
comparative test between
expensive silver or aluminium-based compounds, and Vegemite or toothpaste
- definitely one of the all-time great technical articles, and typical of
Dan's wonderfully gonzo style of IT journalism.
As often, the throwaway links in Dan's articles are
gems, and this one is no exception - on a bulletin board for airliner
a serious enquiry about the mythical country of
Elbonia from the
Dilbert strip brings exactly the sort of responses you would expect.
Incidentally, the same site has a large collection of
the sort of pictures of airliners that one is much happier viewing
online than experiencing in the flesh.
Elsewhere, a collection of
hundreds of scanned
advertisements from 1980s computer magazines. They're in Italian, as
it happens, but the images and layout are exactly the same as the ones I
remember from my own salad days - especially those for the Commodore Pets
and Sharp MZ series, which for some reason have really stuck in my mind.
Boy, but those take me back... <Lsigh>
It's been a busy weekend, so just a few random links...
Sticking it to The Man! - at the CoCo 'blog, how to remove the
artificial forced expiry date of HP inkjet cartridges. There's currently
a class action
suite brewing over this issue, as well...
puts donations toward MPAA payoff - having spectacularly backed down
from its earlier "we'll fight to the death" stance, the ex-torrent site
Loki is playing fast and loose with the money it raised.
Underwater bike ride to launch crime spree - two Cornish students
intend to break as many bizarre or absurd America laws as possible. I'm
still scratching my head over this one, I have to say...
marketing industry about silent calls - telemarketing call centres
often set up more calls than they can handle at once, and the overflow is
now becoming increasingly unpopular with consumers.
European Commission investigates iTunes pricing - in the UK it costs
€1.14 to download a single track, but the same costs only €0.99 when
downloaded from Apple's other European music stores.
iPod well and truly 0wned - by configuring it to dump its firmware as
a series of musical tones (how clever is that!) an enterprising hardware
hacker has effectively opened the platform up to the future.
in court over shill bidding - another class action suit alleges that
eBay is artificially running up bids in order to maximise the charges they
can levy. eBay says that it's just confused users...
McBride not going down with his ship - as the SCO vs. Linux court case
becomes increasingly tenuous, SCO's fortunes are looking far more
uncertain than those of the lavishly-paid McBride.
Lords and Ladies - a small-budget German production of Terry
Pratchett's novel, with some really cheesy digital effects and a
dreadfully miscast Granny Weatherwax. Hmmmm.
Scanner trailer online - the trailer for the forthcoming movie of Phil
Dick's "A Scanner Darkly" has been released, and it looks
brilliant. The stills really didn't do justice to it, but the effect
So Veritas have released a service pack for Backup Exec
V10, already. That has to be a new record, as the product was only
released on January 18th, and since then we've had four patches containing
six hotfixes, and now a service pack - not bad for five weeks! Admittedly,
the service pack seems to be mostly the existing hotfixes bundled into a
single file (although there are a couple of new tweaks), but still... A
little more beta testing called for, perhaps?
My own bug, where over-writable tapes are sometimes not
correctly highlighted in blue, is still under investigation - but if that
turns out to need a hotfix of its own it will bring my score to two from
Veritas and three from Microsoft. What it is to be an early adopter...
A quick note - if you have one of the unusual laptops
that only use a single internal Wi-Fi antenna for their mini-PCI card, and
you're having all sorts of puzzling problems with intermittent
connectivity and poor wireless performance, it's important to check that
Antenna Diversity is disabled in the card's advanced driver settings. I'll
explain how I know this when I have a little more time.
Tiki god USB
enclosure - as if to punish me for my recent comment about silly USB
devices, one that defies both description and belief. You name it, someone
will put a USB interface on it...
Guide revisited - in the wake of the renewed interest in the
Hitch-Hiker's opus, the original Infocom text adventure game is now online
at the BBC website - complete with fan art!
Mike's Classic Cartoon Themes - just what it says on the tin... Theme
music, stills, logos, and more - and I haven't yet been able to think of a
cartoon that he hasn't included.
Hard drive wind chimes - turn those dead disks into something pretty
with this clear and comprehensive set of instructions. Keychains, too!
Star Wars Landspeeder - up for auction at eBay, this converted Harley
Davidson trike chassis proves once again that there are no limits to the
twisted imagination of an engineering geek.
Ursula K. LeGuin
apologises for Earthsea - following a particularly disappointing
production of the classic "Earthsea" stories on American television, the
author explains what went wrong.
police probe cheap downloads site - I warned last week
that the AllOfMP3.com music downloads couldn't last long, and sure
Steal This File Sharing Book - reviewed at The Register, "a
guidebook to trading music, movies, photos, software and just about any
other type of file" - and how to get away with it in the face of
increasingly intrusive and deceitful behaviour on the part of the RIAA and
And talking of which - do you know
your online rights? The 21st century's equivalent of the classic
Citizen's Guide When Busted pamphlet, the
Chilling Effects site (a
joint project of the EFF and various high-powered law schools) aims to
provide advice for anyone who has been threatened over content they have
written or hosted online. It's more appropriate for America than Europe,
of course, but fascinating and informative all the same.
And, finally, British Telecom are now under fire from
both sides - hot on the heels of their recent decision to stop proactively
barring the scammers that use rogue diallers to fleece the consumers, a
move that has just been
roundly criticised by the Citizens' Advice Bureau, BT are actually
sued by said scammers for cutting them off! I guess that when you're
an incumbent monopoly with a decades-long history of stifling
technological innovation, holding prices artificially high across the
board, and making it impossible for the competition to compete on a level
playing field, friends are few and far between.
I don't have an iPod (am I now the only one?), and
considering that I'm extremely happy with my Palm Tungsten T3's audio
abilities, as well as everything else it does, I'm not especially
interested in acquiring one either - but the latest gadget from speaker
gurus Bose is certainly an impressive beastie. The
SoundDock is basically a large Wave speaker with a slot for one's iPod
in the front - as the saying has it, plug and play. Everybody raves about
the Wave technology, and although I've never actually heard it in the
flesh I'm quite happy to believe that it's as good as the reviews. The
downside is the cost, which at £250 is just as extortionate as the rest of
Bose's Wave offerings (and the main reason why I've never heard one
in the flesh) but if I did have an iPod and was feeling extravagant
then it would be an easy decision...
One reason why I'm less and less likely to own an iPod,
aside from the aforementioned Tungsten T3, is Apple's continuing descent
into the tenth layer of Dante's hell, newly created this century and
reserved for corporate bastards. This is not the first time I've said it
here, and it won't be the last, but Apple are no longer the cool, hip,
'insanely great' company of the eighties, committed to its users and to
hell with the industry. These days they're more than happy to sue even
their most ardent supporters at the drop of a hat, and are also starting
to spend significant time in court on the other side of the dock. This
week sees them both
action against a keen Mac enthusiast for "accidentally" leaking a beta
version of the Tiger OS, and also defending against
a multi-faceted class-action suit accusing them of scamming their
customers with shortened warranties and second-hand hardware.
Interestingly, the former has provoked co-founder
Steve Wozniak to speak out against what he sees as corporate bullying,
and he has even pledged $1000 towards the hapless student's legal costs.
The worms are starting to turn, it seems, and without their fanatically
loyal user base Apple are just another over-priced niche hardware company.
Let the seller beware...
Another company which doesn't seem to have its users
interests at heart is British Telecom, which this week has announced that
will stop proactively blocking premium rate numbers used by rogue
dialler scammers, instead waiting until enough consumers have been caught
by these pernicious frauds that regulatory body ICSTIS obliges them to
take action. This is a real step backwards, as far as I'm concerned, and
makes a mockery of last summer's commitment to protect the consumer - they
prepared to play along while
attention of Parliament was on them, but as soon as other issues
distracted the MPs the telco has gone back to its old ways of taking the
money and running. Shame on them.
Dead pixels in the headlines again - the story resurfaces at News.com,
and things aren't getting any better... Complete with
a handy tool for
spotting dead and stuck pixels of your own.
HP laptops hardware whitelist - more corporate bastardry, with HP
restricting which mini-PCI wireless cards will work in their systems.
Apparently IBM are up to the same tricks, too. Tsk!
Hacking your coffee machine - yet more corporate bastardry,
with even coffee makers now restricted to using their own brand of
refills. As usual with DRM mechanisms, though, there's a way around it.
[Update: it seems that the original story
may have exaggerated the situation, somewhat]
look, corporate bastards being sued - the state of New Jersey is less
than happy about Blockbuster's "no more late fees" policy, which it claims
is less than truthful.
Relics of computer history - back before anyone had even heard
the term "digital rights", there were still computers; and a bunch of them
are up for auction at Christie's in New York next week.
cassette MP3 players - I used to use the Digisette Duo model Dan
criticises in this article, and believe me he doesn't know the half of it.
Anything else has to be an improvement...
At gaming site 1UP.com,
the essential fifty
computer games of the last four decades - from Pong to Grand Theft
Auto, it's a comprehensive list.
Office romances in the IT age - beware, as the network is watching
you! [And as someone who has just installed a dozen networked CCTV
cameras around my office, I can testify to the truth of that...]
Hotel as a video game level - if you're a fan of Stephen King's novel
The Shining, and a fan of the game Duke Nukem 3D, then boy do I
have a link for you! Some people, too much time, etc...
3D laser carving - with an ability to sculpt solid materials down to a
resolution of around 20nm, this is another major step forward in
developing the tools necessary for honest-to-goodness nanotechnology.
"He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the
pain of being a man" - Samuel Johnson
Hunter S. Thompson 1937 - 2005
So long, Dr Gonzo.
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of
the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying
something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive..." And
suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of
what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving
around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the
top down to Las Vegas.
A decade or so ago a friend lent me "Fear And
Loathing In Las Vegas", and I started to read it travelling home on
the tube. I can't remember ever laughing out loud in public the way that
F&L made me laugh, that day - it was outrageous, witty, bizarre, depraved,
and outrageous all over again... I'd never read anything like it before,
had no idea that anyone wrote books like that in the first place, and
could barely believe that anyone would publish them even if they did!
I've read nearly all of Thompson's books, since then,
but I never found anything else that enthralled me the way that story did.
Hell's Angels came close, thanks to some not dissimilar adventures in
my own misspent youth, and the gonzo-autobiography of The Rum Diary
brought a marvellous sense of inevitable doom, but although I enjoyed the
political writing that was Thompson's bread and butter I'm not a political
junkie and I have to admit that I found some of it rather obscure. Even
so, there is something compelling about all his work - whether
partying with the Angels, fleeing Vegas one step ahead of the law, sharing
beer and fries with Bill Clinton, or talking football with Nixon, I
eagerly absorbed it all - and I'm glad that I still have his last few
novels yet to enjoy.
As expected, the tributes and memorials to Thompson are
already stacking up in the mainstream media, and this evening it's hard to
open a left wing 'blog anywhere without finding something poignant by
someone who was impressed in some way by his work. Conspicuous by its
absence in the list, however, is
Rolling Stone online - as I write this there isn't even anything on
the news page, let alone the front page of the site, an unexpected
omission for a magazine that undoubtedly owed a large part of its
popularity throughout the seventies to Thompson's unique style and
I was disappointed, this morning, to hear that he'd
actually killed himself. When I first saw the news of his death from a
gunshot I assumed that it would be a tragic mishap - even the most
experienced shooter can fall victim to a moment's clumsiness or
inattention, and firearms are notoriously unforgiving of mistakes. Nobody
seems to be suggesting anything other than suicide right now, though, and
I have to admit that (just as with Papa Hemingway, one of Thompson's
admitted influences), it seems like a sad and ignominious end for such a
giant of a man. I wonder if it will turn out that he'd had news of some
horrendous medical development - given his punishing lifestyle, sustained
for longer than anyone had a right to expect to get away with, that
doesn't seem out of the question. As Hunter himself would say, selah.
The Great Thompson Hunt
ESPN's sports archive
HST at Wikipedia
I've just finished re-reading (or re-listening,
rather, as this is an excellent
unabridged audiobook from Audible, read by Christopher Hurt) Robert
Heinlein's classic but controversial SF novel Stranger In A Strange
Land. I first read this story around the age of twelve, having just
discovered science fiction in the shape of some of Heinlein's "juveniles",
and after reading and enjoying (if I remember correctly) Space Family
Stone, Rocketship Galileo and then Space Cadet, I
approached Stranger confidently expecting more of the same.
I was surprised, but not disappointed - as any Heinlein
aficionado knows, Stranger is a very different type of novel. In fact, it
something of a turning point for the author, as although he did write
a handful more of the space adventure stories that had made his reputation
in the forties and fifties, the majority of his novels from then on dealt
with (often rather badly, many would say) considerably more mature and
metaphysical themes, and by the eighties he had apparently fallen very
much into the role of what can only be described as a dirty old man - the
unusually frequent references to nipples in one particular story, for
example, have lead to it being widely known in fandom as "The Number Of
Stranger is coming up to forty-five years old,
now, but in many ways the book has not aged significantly. The morals and
customs that Heinlein challenged at the dawn of the sixties are just as
firmly ingrained and accepted at the start of a new millennium, and one
can't help but think that if The Man From Mars set up church in 21st
century London his reception would be equally forceful. Indeed, even after
all this time I can dimly remember feeling, as the final segment of the
story opened, a growing sense of unease that my inexperienced twelve year
old mind was incapable of translating into "oh, no, that's not the way
the world works - this is going to end badly, I just know it..." And
sure enough, it did.
I could write a lot more, but of course after all this
time the novel has been discussed and analyzed almost to death elsewhere.
has a guide so voluminous and comprehensive that you barely need to read
the book itself... Well, that approach worked for me with Ayn Rand's
Atlas Shrugged, at least!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch... I decided to buy
another pair of TMD fans, in the end, as in spite of my
rather painful encounter with the failing one last weekend, I realised
that they had survived fifteen months of almost continuous use in a hot,
dusty home environment - which really isn't too bad. My future plans the
the PC include a move to water cooling, and I expect the TMDs will keep me
going quite happily until then. They've changed colour from gold to black,
since I bought the first pair, and thanks to the dire warnings about short
circuits and run-away failures I've also bought a set of small rubber
washers to insulate them from the metal heatsinks. At the risk of tempting
fate, I don't expect problems from the installation, and it will buy some
time while I puzzle over the intricacies of pumps, reservoirs, water
blocks and radiators. Water cooling is certainly going to be an
Friday at last, but not quite the end of the week - I
have to be in the office tomorrow to shut down the entire network so that
electricians can do whatever it is that electricians do. I wouldn't mind,
only apparently they didn't do it properly last time, and this is their
second attempt... There's a bunch of stuff that I can be getting on with
while the power is switched off, though - we've just started upgrading the
infrastructure that connects our branch offices, so there's a lot of new
firewall, bandwidth shaping and intrusion detection hardware to move from
a temporary home in the middle of a rat's nest of cables to space reserved
for it in a nice, shiny new cabinet. If I have to work on a
Saturday, I can think of worse things to do than play with cool network
Meanwhile, some links:
The Top 100 Gadgets Of All Time - a fascinating and eclectic
collection, fully illustrated, ranging from the Zippo lighter to the
abacus, via the Tickle Me Elmo and Harrison's H4 marine chronometer.
And talking of fascinating and eclectic collections,
The Lost Museum attempts to
reproduce P.T. Barnum's famous American Museum in New York, destroyed by
fire in 1865.
Looking forward rather than backward, the students of
SF author and (apparently!) university lecturer Bruce Sterling are
newspaper and magazine covers to illustrate the world of 2010.
"2010 has to seem at least as weird to 2005 as 2005 would seem to people
in 2000". Work forwards from the link above to see the later work.
Kaden at Eccentric Genius has a marvellous line in fine-art tabletop
weaponry - trebuchets, ballistae, and mangonels - as well as miniature
Guillotines and Hypnodisks. Marvellous.
Right up there with the Hypnodisks, buy yourself a classic movie style
Brain In A Jar - complete with bubbles, wires and a eerie glow. It's a
touch expensive, though, at over two hundred bucks...
Another I Robot - from Boing Boing founder and Disney
guru Cory Doctorow, the latest in a series of short stories with the same
titles as famous SF novels, intended to challenge the totalitarian
assumptions that underlie some of the originals.
At the aptly named
a hotplate made from a handful of obsolete Cyrix CPUs. Seven of them,
totalling around 1.1GHz, provides enough heat to cook bacon and scrambled
T-Shirts - submit an original design for peer review, the other users
vote on it, and the most popular are printed and sold as a (quite
reasonably priced) limited edition. It's a really neat idea.
via The Register - Microsoft's
guide to online slang for parents of connected teens. D00d, that's so
l33t! ! Micro$oft rox0rs! <grimace>
Is this a link which I see before me
The HREF toward my hand?
Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Dan has spoken out about the evils of batteries before,
but instead of the fiendish
NiCd, this time he has the
monstrous Lithium Ion cells in his sights. The horror! Oh, the horror!
Via a casual reference in Dan's article, Wikipedia
has a nice little potted
history of the Colt 1911 automatic. I usually link to the
Firearms site, but I have to admit that the Wikipedia entry
rather impressed me. Dan pointed to
an excellent FAQ on watches, as well - his throwaway links are often
as interesting and informative as his actual articles, and that's saying
Epicycle has always had a soft spot for traditional
ASCII art, and this site certainly has
it in spades - art, animations, and even clips from recent Hollywood
movies. Until you've seen the bullet-dodging scene from The Matrix
rendered in ASCII, you haven't lived.
I may have a 40U server cabinet full
of computer hardware in my kitchen, but that doesn't mean I approve of
technology flagrantly invading such a traditional part of the house - and
this new gadget from Black &
Decker is an example of exactly the sort of thing I want to go on
record as not approving of: "The Lids Off Jar Opener takes the struggle
out of your hands, opening the stickiest jars at the touch of a button".
Something I do approve of, however, is the work
of SF/fantasy author China Miéville, and
Boing Boing (via Teresa Neilsen Hayden's
links to his list of
science fiction novels for socialists. Miéville
is an unusual and esoteric sort of person, and I'm not surprised that I
haven't read (or, indeed, heard of!) a fair number of them - but it was
nice to see old favourites such as Iain Banks' Use Of Weapons and
Phil Dick's A Scanner Darkly, both of which I seem to remember
mentioning here in the last few weeks. Good stuff!
es mas macho?
I've been feeling in the mood for some difficult
listening, tonight, and who better to provide it than the diva of
alternative music, art, performance and electronics, Laurie Anderson. So
I'm currently listening to
the webcast of her 1999 Moby Dick concert from London's Barbican Centre (I was there in the flesh, too, and it was remarkable!) and here
are a few links to keep my fingers busy while the almost overwhelming
bass from her heavily-modified cello is vibrating up and down my spine:
lyrics from one of her seminal albums, Home Of The Brave,
including the song Smoke Rings from which the "Que es mas macho?"
line is taken. There's a live video of a date from the tour, too, which
has to be the best place for a new fan to start - as well as a collection
of excellent songs, it provides an excellent introduction to some of her
highly unusual musical instruments - flexible guitars, tape bow violins, a
keyboard embedded in a necktie, and the remarkable Voice Of Authority.
Bach's weblog, a pair of recordings in MP3 format - the first is an
interview before a live audience where Laurie discusses songs from the
album Mister Heartbreak, the second is on the origins and
variations of her "hit" song, O Superman. Big downloads, but
fascinating for the enthusiast.
One of Yahoo's discussion groups,
Anderson Club has a fair collection of pictures from the Moby
Dick and Happiness tours, as well as some of the classic
publicity shots and some considerably less formal. The chat seems to be
lively and mostly spam-free, as well, and looks to be a useful source of
information and trivia.
official web page (if unfortunately rather static and lifeless), the
excellent fan site
list of articles from Wired magazine that feature or reference
Laurie in some way, and the dates of
her current touring schedule (she's back at The Barbican in May of
The teaser from City Lights Media on their forthcoming video of
the Moby Dick tour - although, unfortunately, this has been forthcoming
since late 2000 and has so far resisted all my efforts to find out what
the hell is going on! Come in Mike Figgis, your time is most definitely
And, finally, questions and answers about Laurie's role
first "artist in residence", which will apparently culminate in a film
to premier at the World Expo in Japan later this year. As so often with
her work, though, the answers given somehow leave one with more
questions than at the start...
So here are the questions:
Is time long or is it wide?
And the answers?
Sometimes the answers just come in the mail
and you get a letter that says all the things you were waiting to hear
The things you suspected, the things you knew were true
And then in the last line it says:
A little late, but this is just too good to save for
Roses are #FF0000
Violets are #0000FF
All my base
Are belong to you
To a geek, that's funny - and clever - on so
many levels. :-) [Update: Apparently there's even
Meanwhile, I'm currently connected into the office via
VPN, pushing the new Backup Exec V10 client to all thirty-something local
servers. It's boring and repetitive, but needs just enough attention that
I can't do it on autopilot, and so is turning into rather a long, trying
job. The overtime will come in handy to pay for all the furniture I've
been buying for the new house, especially as I've just found out that I'll
also have to be in the office for most of Saturday to shut down and then
(eventually) restart all the network systems while yet another bunch of
electrical wiring is replaced. There will be plenty to do while I'm
waiting, though, as I need to move a bunch of network hardware from a
small cabinet to a much larger one, and the users do fuss so when I power
off half of the infrastructure in the middle of a working day...
Elsewhere, as predicted, the latest corporate bastardry
perpetrated by the media industry is continuing to arouse ire - at
ShutDownThis.com a group
calling itself The MPAA vs. An Army Of Mice has created an angry
response to the poster that appeared at the now
defunct torrent host Loki, the
Marv On Record
'blog has a guide on turning Napster's day free trial into a large stack
of music CDs, and a quirk in Russian copyright law (a quirk big enough to
drive a truck through, it seems) means that for the moment it is
apparently legal for the e-commerce site AllOfMP3.com to sell
a whole raft of online music that isn't
available elsewhere, such as the entire Beatles catalogue - and for around
20 cents per track, at that. As the saying has it, walk, don't run,
before global IP legislation catches up with them!
Animals in space - a collection of animals used in early space flight
tests, including monkeys, cats, fish, spiders and, of course, dogs. And
then, oddly, the gallery is rounded out with two covers from Cliff Simak's
SF novel City, presumably because of the story's highly-evolved
And talking of animals -
watched this twice, and was more mystified the second time than the
first. Via The Sideshow, et al, and the best way to describe it
does seem to be a line from noted SF editor
Patrick Nielsen Hayden:
"The expressionist dream-life of Kermit the Frog". It has to be
seen - at least once, but probably best not more than once. Trust
me on this, Ok?
All the news that's fit to 'blog...
From the people who brought you the excellent
which provide all sorts of useful information about UK members of
parliament and their activities, and allow you to contact your local MP by
fax, comes a new site called
WriteToThem. This provides a similar facility for local government
councillors and the London Assembly, as well as MPs and MEPs, and like its
predecessor is sure to become an invaluable resource for the politically
aware in the UK. The group behind these sites,
mySociety, is a non-profit
organisation staffed by volunteers and, surprisingly, is actually funded
by the government. More power to them!
Via Boing Boing, the new Napster To Go is
discussed, and fails to impress. For a flat fee of $15 per month,
users can download as much music as they like - but once they stop paying
the monthly fee, the DRM insures that they'll no longer be able to play
anything they've downloaded! Another point worth noting is that Napster is
informed every time a file is played, or transferred onto a portable
device, or played on that device, and other statistics doubtless up to and
including the colour of a user's underwear. It's interesting to look at
the service in the context of the RIAA's claims of massive financial
losses due to illicit downloading, though, if they themselves value
unlimited music tracks at only $15 per month per user...?
National Lampoon tests simultaneous release - moving away from the
staged releases in cinemas around the world, and then later on DVD and
ultimately on television, their new movie Blackball will be
available on DVD a mere four days after the theatrical debut. This is
partly a response to the fact that last year cinema revenues in the US
amounted to $9.4 billion, while DVD sales substantially exceeded that at
$15 billion, and partly a tactic designed to cut the losses of a movie
that is not actually expected to do very well in the cinemas anyway - but
either way it's an extremely interesting precedent.
Multicore licensing terms annoy CPU makers - with Intel's dual core
chips just around the corner, and AMD and IBM's own offerings due later
this year, the software manufacturers have to decide how they're going to
implement licensing for a single chip containing two or more discrete
CPUs. I've been interested in this since the introduction of Intel's
HyperThreading gave the illusion of dual processors, but as far as I'm
aware all the software firms treated this (rightly, in my opinion) as a
single CPU. Now, however, Oracle and some other companies have announced
that their software will need to be licensed per core, which is likely to
increase the cost of running their applications significantly. Microsoft
and Novell have committed to sticking with their current per-chip
licensing mode, though, and this may bring them some headway against the
competition in the aggressive enterprise database arena.
And, finally, for (and by!) the truly obsessive - a
diagram charting who
kissed who in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and a catalogue of
MAD Magazine covers since the very beginning, complete with a
summary of the contents of the issue. Some people have far too much time
I've added another entry to the page where I
gripe about online shopping, with
a write-up on my experiences with adult toys supplier
Writing an unfavourable review of an online supplier really is a last
resort (for all sorts of reasons!), but I've given them plenty of
opportunity to redress the situation over the last four months and
although they were happy enough to take my money, all my many efforts to
contact have have been completely ignored. Definitely a company to be
Elsewhere - now here's a clever thing,
spotted at Arnie's: from Mad Bull Airsoft, a design for
drop-in CO2 mechanism that replaces the electric
gearbox in a Tokyo Marui AEG, using 12gm gas caplets to provide a claimed
470 fps complete with "recoil". At $200 it's not exactly cheap, and it's
not clear whether any of the products detailed on their new site
are actually available as yet, but it's certainly one to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile, over the last week I've been noticing a
slight oscillation in the fan noise coming from the PC, and today I
finally gave in and pulled the side panel off to see if I could track it
down. With ten fans in the case locating the noisy one was not an easy
job, but after a while it became apparent that it was almost certainly one
of the wonderful YS-Tech
Tip-Magnetic Drive fans on my Xeon CPU heatsinks, and sure enough a
gentle pressure on the central hub caused the noise level to escalate to
slightly past the pain threshold. Unfortunately, relaxing the pressure did
not return the noise to its previous level of merely annoying, and it was
clear that something would have to be done.
Incidentally, while desperately trying to undo whatever
I had just done to the bearings, I discovered that it is really quite easy
to stall a TMD fan completely by accidentally sticking one's fingertip
into it - which was painful enough in itself, but it was the same
fingertip that I'd carelessly burned on a hot drill bit earlier in the day
so the air was temporarily blue as well as filled with PC dust. Ouch! Once
my fingertip had stopped complaining I powered down and pulled the fan off
the heatsink for maintenance: It's often possible to revive a noisy
bearing with a careful clean and a few drops of oil, and as the TMD design
means that all the complexity is in the rim rather than the hub I was
quite hopeful of being able to affect a repair. Unfortunately my efforts
were completely unsuccessful, and it was clear that this particular fan
was now a deader.
A quick look suggested that YS-Tech has now ceased
production of the entire TMD range, and although they are still
available online (my old friends
have them in stock as I write this) it's obvious that in spite of their
innovative design the product is now dead in the water. In fact, during my
search I came across all sorts of
rumours and reports
about run-away failures caused by the metal casing shorting onto the
heatsink, and at one point there was even a suggestion of a product
Fortunately I had built up
quite a collection of fans during
the initial build of the system, and once I'd determined that the TMD was
beyond repair it only took a few moments to put the standard Akasa back
onto the heatsink. The CPU temperature is a few degrees higher than with
the TMD fan, and the noise level is a touch higher too (which goes to show
how good the TMD design is in principal) but nothing that will cause any
problems until I can come up with a better solution. I do still have that
JMC Phoenix 70 coolers tucked away somewhere, which is certainly very
tempting as I've always been a sucker for orb designs... We shall see.
The new version of Backup Exec seems to have fixed a
number of small but annoying bugs that have been present all through
version 9 - the DLT-7000 tapes I use in the server are no longer described
as having a capacity of 1.6Tb, leading to wildly inaccurate compression
statistics given their real capacity of 35Gb, and the hardware data
compression ratios on the VXA library are now calculated correctly at an
average of 1.5:1 across a full backup rather than languishing down at
around 0.8:1. These two problems seem to be related, so I imagine that a
media handling module has been re-written from scratch and now works as
On the other hand, even after applying four hotfix sets
(how can anyone complain about Microsoft's code when Veritas can write an
application that needs
six patches within a week of release!) another annoying little quirk
has emerged - tapes that are ready to be over-written are no longer
highlighted in blue, this colour now apparently being reserved for tapes
that can be appended to. This isn't nearly as much use, in my opinion, and
is going to make choosing the next batch of available tapes from the three
hundred or so in use at the office rather a chore. A very similar problem
occurred early in the V9 lifecycle, though, so I'm hoping for a cure in
the next batch of hotfixes - and given the timing of the last set I don't
expect I'll have to wait very long to find out!
Meanwhile, last night on a whim I installed Microsoft's
ClearType Tuning Wizard onto the laptop, and the effects were so
spectacular that I put it on the desktop as well. I've never really paid
much attention to
for some reason, but I have to say that I'm impressed - the display on
both the 19" Iiyama LCD of my desktop and the comparatively miniscule 13"
of my venerable Dell Latitude CPi is generally clearer, more readable, and
somehow just more satisfying than before. ClearType is easy to
enable and disable, especially through the Tuning Wizard - which lets you
choose better or worse like an optician's test - and if you're using an
LCD display it is definitely worth a look.
Beware the unexpected attack vector - we shouldn't fall into a sense
of complacency, says The Register, especially in light of certain
recently unearthed security weaknesses - last week it emerged that
security products from Symantec are vulnerable to a flaw in the
component used to scan UPX compressed files, and a few days ago a very
similar issue emerged in
products from F-Secure, this time in a library used to scan ARJ
archive files. When one's anti-virus, anti-spam or firewall software can
be attacked by rogue code, it's time to worry...
Trojan disables MS Anti-Spyware - "BankAsh-A" is the first malware to
attack Microsoft's new security utility, although its main function is to
steal passwords for UK online bank accounts. it remains to be seen how
effective it will actually be, though, as Anti-Spyware is a fairly keen
little tool and won't go down without a fight.
Meanwhile, a group calling itself the "419 Flash Mob"
taking the online law into their own hands by attacking web sites
hosting the fake banking and financial sites used by phishing scams. Their
first targets are mostly hosted by one ISP in China, which is probably a
smart move - it will be as hard for their dubious customers to take action
against the attackers as it is for law enforcement agencies to take action
against the scammers themselves.
Given the general mood of militancy amongst the ethical
hackers, right now, it seems likely that the RIAA and MPAA will find
themselves back in the line of fire sooner rather than later. The MPAA,
aroused considerable ire by not only taking down the web site of the
previously defiant torrent host Loki, but then proceeding to post a smug,
confrontational message in its place. They may live to regret that when
their own site is 0wned in revenge...
After last week's revelation that
the Eiffel Tower at night is copyrighted, it has now emerged that
Chicago's Millennium Park has fallen victim to the corporate
greed-heads as well - and to make matters worse
over-zealous security guards are harassing members of the public who
try to take photos of the area. These are signs of a worrying trend, if
you ask me...
Another worrying trend is the slow but steady erosion
of any and all civil liberties in America. The latest development has come
the Supreme Court upheld a conviction obtained by what would have
traditionally been thought of as an illegal search - and although
apparently unrelated, this may actually have huge ramifications for online
privacy as well.
On a considerably lighter note, I followed a link from
Boing Boing to indie movie site Kontraband, and found one of
the funnier amateur films I've seen recently -
a pastiche of
the classic training montage from the movie Rocky, reproduced by
someone with a lot of moxie and no sense of dignity. I loved it...
And finally, not something for the faint hearted, a
weblog devoted to Ugly Breast
Implants. I'm not a fan of augmented boobies, myself (I much
prefer them as nature designed them, whatever the size, shape or sag) and
the images here only serve to reinforce that preference... Approach with
I've been having major problems with Backup Exec on my
home system since I installed Windows XP Service Pack 2
last autumn, and Veritas have been
about as much help as a chocolate welding mask. In spite of the fact that
the evidence clearly pointed to an issue with the newly applied service
pack (I ran a perfectly successful backup immediately before installing,
and the problems started immediately afterwards) they seemed to want to
blame everything from my tape hardware to the phase of the moon. I ran out
of patience with them sometime in December (they kept asking for reams of
job logs, system logs, diagnostic logs, and eventually even Yule
logs, in spite of the fact that they were all functionally identical) and
eventually I became a touch terse with them. At that point they started
sending me an automated notification every couple of weeks, saying that a
senior engineer had been assigned to my case and would contact me soon -
but then that was the last I'd hear until the next, identical, automated
However, this week the new
BE version 10 was released, and
as usual I installed it on my home systems to see what horrors were in
store before upgrading the rather more critical systems at the office. The
upgrade was relatively smooth (although both times the installer refused
to display its summary log at the end of the process) but in fact it
doesn't seem to have brought any significant changes over the
previous version. There are a handful of
new enterprise-level features that seem interesting if one can justify
the additional licensing costs, and a few cosmetic enhancements to the
user interface, but very little that is going to change the way the
application works for the majority of SME installations.
One significant change on my home network, though, is
that the problem on my Windows XP system now seems to have gone away -
although I doubt that Veritas will ever admit it, it seems quite likely
that there was some basic issue with V9 and Service Pack 2 which they
didn't feel like fixing given the imminent release of V10. I can't say I
blame them, as its fairly standard behaviour under the circumstances, but
mostly I'm just glad to have my data nice and secure again - I've been
running disk-to-disk backups onto the server, but to an old fogey like me
it's just not the same as a nice
library full of VXA tapes.
[Update: There are already four hotfixes out for
the product, by the way, and one of them fixes quite a nasty cataloguing
issue. Run, don't walk, to Veritas Update and do that thing...]
Anyone who wants to catch me with a phishing scam is
going to have to do better than send an email purporting to be from MSN's
administrators using a CompuServe address - especially if they choose to
start the message with "Darling MSN user"... <DING>
deranged rant at SFgate.com by Mac fanboy Mark Morford, which had me
shaking my head in disgust a few days ago, has been met
with an interesting and surprisigly balanced response around the web.
Leaving aside the enthusiastic bleating of the other fanboys, threads at
both Slashdot and
Ars.Technica, neither of which are generally known as hangouts of
Windows evangelists, are generally critical of Morford's deluded "Macs
are immune. Period" attitude. Many contributors have linked, as I did,
to the warnings of critical vulnerabilities at Secunia - at least two of
which both remain
unpatched and have
exploit code circulating in the wild. The Ars thread follows on
interesting article by staff writer Caesar, who discusses some of the
social aspects of human-computer interactions in the light of the original
Panoramic images from the Apollo missions - 360°
interactive panoramas in Quicktime, almost as good as being there
lost 1984 videos - Steve Jobs, resplendent in a bow tie, at the Mac
launch event, and several adverts that were under consideration instead of
the classic "1984" sequence.
At Boing Boing - apparently that old dog
Fidonet is still alive and well in the 3rd world, and is even being
linked into the regular WWW via cunning gateway applications.
Finally, also via Boing Boing (it really is
a directory of wonderful things!) how to turn an old favourite T-shirt
cushion or - and I swear I'm not making this up -
pair of panties. Um, yes.
When I was starting out in IT, sometime back around
when dinosaurs roamed the earth (or, at least, the computer room) I
nurtured a dream of one day managing a huge fire safe full of neatly
labelled data tapes. Well, it's taken twenty years, but I finally have one
of my very own (the company thinks it's theirs, but I know better!) and
although they're not the
quarter inch reels I envisioned back then, I have to admit that LTO is
rather more convenient in every way.
Ten tapes per row, six rows per shelf, and (when the
tape library is emptying out at the end of a month) six full shelves. With
around 150Gb per tape, that comes to something over five terabytes of data
in a rolling archive - I think that's a sign of a proper, grown-up
Meanwhile, to offset yesterday's exclusively techy
entry, here are [FX: looks around furtively, dons wig and dark glasses] a
couple of political and cultural snippets:
Should we jail deep throats? - the legendary Watergate insider is
critically ill, it seems, so after three decades of secrecy presumably
we'll soon learn his identity. This is bound to reignite the long-running
argument over the anonymity of journalists' sources, especially
considering that a US District Court judge is currently handing out
contempt of court sentences to journalists in the investigation of the
leak of the identity of CIA operative. Given the speed of the US
Government's descent towards a right-wing totalitarian dictatorship, this
is not a good sign. Thanks to
The Sideshow for
Parastone Mouseion collection - also via The Sideshow, a
remarkable and (in my experience) unique idea - sculptures taken from
great paintings, including the works of Hieronymus Bosch, Breugel, Dali,
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Edgar Degas and many others. They're
wonderfully executed, and the demonic figures from
triptychs Garden Of Earthly Delights and Temptation Of St
Anthony are especially effective - and spooky, too!
It's been an amazingly busy few days, but I have to
admit that they've been alarmingly low tech ones, too - since Thursday
I've assembled and installed two large office desks, four waist-high
pedestals, four bookcases, an entire wall (floor to ceiling!) of metal
workshop shelving, and heavily modified a corner shelving unit to fit a
very unusual corner - complete with a standard lamp passing up through the
middle. Add to all this traditional carpentry and manual labour the fact
that I only scored a paltry 68% on one of those spreadsheet geek tests
that circulates around, compared to my IT Director's far more respectable
78%, and I think I'm in danger of
knack. I shall have to do something plausibly technical to
compensate, and very soon - possibly getting my
motion-following webcam setup working properly at last...
Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to retain some tech
credibility - some tech links:
More ultra-high-res photography - a home-made camera constructed from
surplus U2 spy plane hardware, with a resolution of four gigapixels.
As the Wired article puts it, that's enough to photograph four football
fields together and capture every single blade of grass. It certainly
sounds like an impressive and unusual piece of hardware.
"Why does Windows still suck?" - at SFGate, a long rant from an
another Mac bigot who seems depressingly ignorant about the realities of
either Mac or Windows computing: "The Mac really has few, if any, known
viruses or major debilitating anything, no spyware and no Trojans and no
worms ... For the most part and for all intents and purposes, Macs are
immune. Period." Oh, the confidence! Oh, the hubris! I wish I could be
around to see the smile wiped off his face, but one thing is certain:
sooner or later it will be - no computer is "immune, period", and
Kazaa is a nuisance - What's that you say; tell you something you
didn't know? Well, the latest detractors are the employees of Kazaa's
owner, Sharman Networks, who according to an internal memo at management
level hate installing their company's software because of the detrimental
effect the bundled adware and spyware has on their PCs! What a giveaway...
Napster vs. iTunes - and talking of P2P apps, a recent article at The
Register prompted some... ah... enthusiastic letters in response.
Opinion seems evenly divided as to which service will win out in the end,
which makes me wonder whether either of them will! The development of the
services running over the Web has been nothing if unpredictable,
historically, and I think it's far to soon to be as sure as some of the
spam profit horror - according to Spamhaus' Steve Linford, MCI are
making $5 million per year by selling services to known spammers,
including hosting a website selling software that is integral to the
illegal trade in compromised PCs. The software, Send Safe, is being
widely used to distribute junk mail by PCs infected by viruses like SoBig,
and Linford says that MCI knows this but just doesn't care. For shame...
Intel seeing double - after much speculation and anticipation, the
chip manufacturer has officially announced their dual core CPUs, with
availability planned for the second quarter of this year. The initial
product range will contain both regular and Extreme Edition units, the
latter of which will be Hyper-Threaded like the current Xeon CPUs -
meaning that a single package will be able to process four threads
simultaneously. This will have significant implications for server
hardware, of course, but such high thermal density processors are going to
be a challenge to keep cool.
an extremely worthy site, dedicated to debunking the pseudo-scientific
myths that proliferate in politics, the media and the law. On the front
page today: why we shouldn't demonise the insecticide DDT, that sweet
drinks are not actually linked to children's obesity, Scotland's public
smoking ban and it's likely cost to the NHS, and of course a whole bunch
about climate change. Take a look - this is excellent stuff...
caffeinated beer - Budweiser (the
bad one) brewer Anheuser-Busch's new brand "BE" contains caffeine
equivalent to half a cup of coffee, together with ginseng and guarana - as
well as a respectable 4.5% alcohol. It is intended as a rival for
non-alcoholic Red Bull, but critics of the "fast beer" warn that the drink
will leave users more dehydrated and with worse hangovers. Caveat
I have no brain, and I must link...
[Incidentally, did you know that there was
a computer game
of Harlan Ellison's famous
short story? It even had Ellison himself as the voice of the AM. What
an odd idea!!]
ballistics - shooting various pretty things with a .22 rifle. The
exploding crayons are especially nice, I thought.
Space elevator, just say no! - classic geek humour, mysterious flyers
opposing non-existent plans to build a space elevator in the Williamsburg
district of Brooklyn. Brilliant!
- straight out of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Michelin's "Tweel"
has flexible spokes supporting a flexible rim, deforming to absorb shock
without any kind of conventional pneumatic tyre.
Apple more bastardly than they have to be - not content with
conforming to the usual annoying restrictions on DVD player region
changes, Apple actually impose their own, tighter limits instead!
And Quicken are bastards, too - disabling online features to force
users to upgrade, and charging financial institutions a hefty fee to move
to their new file format. It's a risky strategy, I think...
The RIAA, however, are merciful - they've decided not to proceed with
a file-sharing lawsuit brought against an 83 year-old woman who didn't own
a computer - and who had died a month earlier.
emperor's new hump - further discussion on the mysterious bulges under
Dubya's jacket during last year's campaign debates, including digitally
enhanced photos. Whatever lurks under his jacket, though, we don't need
image enhancement to know that his pants are on fire...
Musicplasma.com - via
The Sideshow, a
fascinating (and pretty!) system to suggest music similar to your
favourites. It makes some unexpected links, certainly, but
reasonable ones nonetheless.
Periodic table displays - far too expensive for mere mortals (museums
and universities are more their target market) but Element Displays'
installations are just so beautiful... <sigh>
Airsoft Innovations propane adapter reviewed - some time ago it
became clear that the expensive airsoft "Green Gas" was actually just
propane, readily available cheap and in bulk from local DIY and camping
stores. As a follow up to their comprehensive analysis work,
the Canadian wizards are
now marketing an adaptor to allow GBBs to be filled from a standard
disposable propane tank, and also a flow reducer to allow the use of this
higher powered gas in fragile Western Arms pistols. Clever stuff indeed.
And, finally, not for the faint-hearted -
The Saga of BloodNinja.
One of the classic online trolls, usually found in AOL sex chat rooms,
BloodNinja's style was sad, outrageous, funny and original in equal parts.
Only for the broad-minded...
Following encouragement from friends I've been watching
a lot of superhero movies recently (both Spiderman films, both
X-Men, DareDevil, The Phantom and probably some others
that have blended together by now) so last night's Mystery Men
brought a welcome sense of balance. I'm still giggling over the wisdom of
The Sphinx... "When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you can
head off your foes with a balanced attack". Marvellous stuff.
Meanwhile, some random links.
spam, spam, spam - anti-virus experts think that the next generation
of worms will use the host PC's local settings to send out spam via the
SMTP server of the ISP in question, rather than directly to the target.
This will make it impossible to block infected systems without blocking
entire ISPs, and this is likely to cause yet another rise in the amount of
spam globally. Meanwhile,
it now seems certain that the Can-Spam act enacted in America last
year has lead to an overall increase in unsolicited email, exactly as the
critics of the original bill predicted. Some figures suggest that over 80%
of worldwide email traffic is now junk...
Unexpected Media - I've always enjoyed "The Pyjama Game", but I
have to admit that "Breasts of Passion" sounds even better. I loved
the way that they kept watching to the end in spite of the fact that they
were "very shocked" - evidently cheap Italian porn has some kind of
hypnotic effect on aging Baptists, and they completely lost the use of
their TV remote control finger. [Update: Ros is curious about what
sort of "small child" would buy 1950s Doris Day movies, anyway? It doesn't
actually sound very likely...]
Truly evil RAM - for sale on eBay, one of those excruciatingly
annoying memory modules that passes all diagnostics flawlessly and yet
fails horribly in everyday use. I hate those, especially when I
have to try to prise a replacement out of a dubious server support
More quizzes at BBSpot - and as often from BBSpot,
they're a little better than the majority of web quizzes elsewhere...
Website Are You?,
Which Nigerian Spammer? and
America strikes again - major defence contractors are demanding huge
royalties from the manufactures of model kits to create representations of
their aircraft and fighting vehicles. These royalties often run as high as
$40 per kit, and considering that the average kit only sells for between
$15 and $30 it's obvious why the kit manufacturers are now turning to
older and foreign originals. As Cory at
Boing Boing puts it - "Nice going, defense contractors, you
took our tax dollars and used them to rid the market of all military toys
except Nazi tanks and planes".
Just to prove that it's not only America that is
suffering from corporate greedheadedness, though - in France it emerges
Eiffel Tower at night is now subject to copyright. SNTE, the company
that maintains the tower, adorned it with a distinctive lighting display
and then promptly copyrighted the design. As a result, suddenly it's no
longer legal to publish night-time photographs of the Eiffel Tower, one of
the world's most popular landmarks, without permission. Indeed.
Soviet Calculators Collection - an online museum of calculators,
ranging from huge, mains-powered systems with wonderful nixie tube
displays, to hand-helds that look indistinguishable from the Casio and
Texas Instruments models that I used in school during the 1980s - and
given the USSR's long history of highly effective industrial espionage,
there's probably a very good reason for that!
Packed - I was in two minds whether to post this, but in the end it
does have a certain kitsch value - Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy's
annual calendar featuring himself, scantily-clad girls, and firearms. It
has to be said that
Liddy does not become more photogenic with time...
And finally, the wonderful
Create-A-Character page has been expanded and improved. It's now so
good that as I write this it seems to have been driven offline by the
unexpected level of traffic, but wait a few days for the fuss to die down
and then give it a go.
I've just finished reading
Iain Banks' latest SF novel The
Algebraist, and as usual I found it an extremely enjoyable and
compelling story. Several of Banks' "Culture"
novels have been so spectacularly good (especially Consider Phlebas,
The Player Of Games, Look To Windward and Excession,
where the Culture itself is a major aspect of the story) that my first
feelings on discovering that The Algebraist was set in a different
universe were disappointment and some trepidation! However, this passed
within the first few pages of the story, and I was soon caught up in the
course of events - in spite of my initial fears, I quickly remembered that
one of his other non-Culture SF stories, Against A Dark Background,
is just as spectacular as any of the Culture series.
As a reader I've never seen an overwhelming reason not
to have written Against A Dark Background as a Culture novel, in
fact, but The Algebraist is very different - although the basic
plot line would have been quite compatible, there were clearly good
reasons for creating a brand new universe: apart from a fundamentally
different approach to interstellar travel, the major alien species, the
Dwellers, are startlingly long-lived organisms with a civilization
stretching back billions of years, and their history just doesn't mesh
well with what we already know of the Culture.
There are a couple of weaknesses in The Algebraist,
which I suspect are to do with the story's considerable length - a sub
plot involving the central character's past seems to have been pruned to
the point of being almost irrelevant, and one of the major antagonists
also has the feeling of having been trimmed down to save weight. Both may
well be a result of over-enthusiastic editing, and although they are
certainly noticeable, they do nothing to detract from the main characters
or the general sequence of events.
If you enjoyed Excession or Look To Windward,
I think The Algebraist will have equal appeal - the hardback
edition is weighty enough to stun household pets, but a quick look on
Amazon reveals that the paperback is just becoming available as an import
and that there's even an (abridged, sadly, as usual) audio CD version too.
Is that a 19" rack in your kitchen, or are you just
pleased to see me? So I acquired a surplus cabinet from the
office (tall enough at 40U, but only 60cm wide and 80cm deep so very
little use for our rack-mount servers), and lugged it home at lunchtime
today with the assistance of a colleague's amazingly spacious people
carrier. It may be too small for a working computer room, but for a home
network it's absolutely perfect, and I've lusted after a "proper" cabinet
from the moment I first set up an NT4 server in a living room. I'd managed
to arrange the hardware into a stable pile after I moved house before
Christmas, but although a fairly aesthetically appealing pile, it was a
pile none the less and it just wasn't the same...
Can you tell what it is, yet? I drew up a
meticulous diagram of where everything was going to go, before hand, and
what sort of shelves I would use in which orientation, but within five
minutes of starting out I screwed it up and threw it away... This sort of
project is perfectly straightforward when one is fitting a dozen identical
Dell servers into a Dell rack using Dell's wonderful RapidRails, but with
assorted hardware of uncertain vintage and dubious parentage it's a very
different story indeed... Nevertheless, I've been bolting bizarre hardware
into inappropriate racks for over a decade, and as always necessity and a
very large screwdriver are the mother of invention.
Naked and unashamed. In the end,
everything fitted in extremely well. The cabinet is effectively
full, as it stands, although with some re-arranging I could free up at
least another 4U. That would require removing everything and rebuilding it
completely, though, and at the moment I'm content to leave a few rough
edges. Said edges are well hidden behind the panelling, though, and the
smoked glass front door makes everything look really elegant and
professional. It noticeably reduces the fan and bearing noise, too, and
thanks to twenty hard disks the latter is not inconsiderable... It only
took about four hours from start to finish, and I'm very pleased with the
The colour scheme, according to manufacturer
Meridian, is Pearl Grey
and Oyster Grey... I don't know about that, but it certainly fits in very
well with the cream walls and light-wood floor of the kitchen - so well,
in fact, that I think it could start a new trend in interior design. Look
out for domestic server racking on the upcoming series of Changing
One twelfth of the way through the year already, and
the pace at the office has really picked up. We have a daunting number of
major projects in hand, this year, including a major upgrade to the WAN
links feeding our regional offices (out with the tired old leased lines,
in with SDSL and VPNs) and more VPN links to other business units in
France and America. It looks as if 2005 is going to the year of
connectivity, for sure. Meanwhile, we're adding new servers at such a rate
that I'm beginning to suspect that my managers are undercover agents for
We've completely filled the first cabinet with twenty
PowerEdge 2650 servers (one is on holiday in France, at the moment) and
have started on the second. Unfortunately the 2650 has now been superseded
by the 2850, and Dell have decided to redesign the front panel as well as
the internals. Apart from looking like something of a odd man out, right
now, I can also reveal that the new fascia is actually plastic rather than
the cast aluminium of its predecessor, and at the moment opinion is
divided within my team as to whether the extra hard disk bay is enough to
compensate - it's just not the same, somehow, and there was considerable
muttering in the ranks when we unpacked the first one. Dell, I hope you
know what you're doing...
Meanwhile - gosh! A sudden leap forward in the stats,
last month, with half as many again visits and page views as in December.
There's no one particular cause, I think, but instead a combination of a
few references from The Sideshow
and better indexing in a wider range of search engines. The latter
includes a surprisingly large number of hits via AltaVista's image search
function for "Dolly Parton topless", for some reason, even though I
don't actually host the image in question
but only link to it... The photo is widely considered to be a fake, by
the way, even if a relatively convincing one. Still, I'm not proud, and
I'm quite happy to absorb traffic from a search engine's quirk and a bogus
coming, and nobody will have to mention anything about ice weasels.