Feet up!
Friday, November 29, 2002
Community Wi-Fi UK style
Interesting article at Guy Kewney's NewsWireless site.

It's about a small UK company called Invisible who are acting as supporters of rural broadband enthusiasts, they supply know-how and kit to get wireless coverage installed and working, whilst the enthusiasts get their friends and neighbours signed up to the program. Very cool, I was trying to do this with my neighbours a few years ago, but the costs of getting a leased line for internet connectivity at the time were prohibitive, something like £6K p.a. for a 64kbps line as I recall, one possible solution was to nail up an ISDN connection, but even that was still a ludicrous price.

There's also another article about another company called Wialess who provide Wi-Fi solutions for pubs, restaurants, offices, house builders, and homes. It's great that this stuff is starting to get everywhere, but I really can't see how people like BT and Starbucks expect people to pay big money to use their access points when the pub over the road is offering access for free.
Thursday, November 28, 2002
Thurday night jolly
I'm off for a corporate Xmas bash tonight, so it'll be best behaviour time (for the first hour or so at least). When I was told I was going to a bar called Livebait I quite expected it to be something rather risqué. Fortunately (or not) it seems to be a fish restaurant/bar.

As we're getting the train into Blackfriars station it seems a shame to miss out on the wondrous gothic interior of the Black Friar pub, I wonder if I can persuade everyone to drop in there for a quick warm-up beer?
Finally the real reason for USB
USB powered Xmas lights.
Erik announces a couple of neat free Web Services, Zip distance calculator and Credit card validator.

The cool bit is that he thanks me (and Russ) for testing them, ok Russ probably asked lots of pertinent questions, but I just had a quick play and they seemed to work fine, maybe I was doing the idiot testing. What I know about Java and web services could probably be written on the back of a small sized stamp...
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
We interrupt this program to bring you a message from our sponsors
Picture of David's snooker tableWell actually, from the in-laws. One of the downsides of moving house is that you don't always have enough room in the new one for some of your bigger and better toys.

For sale - Full size snooker table. Slate bed, excellent condition. Includes: cues, rests, spiders, scoreboard, shade and lighting, specialist iron and cover. Priced for quick sale due to house move £1425 ono. Professional removal and delivery available at extra charge.

Email me or phone David Mason on +44 (0)1227 768887 for further details.
Cool Bluetooth headset
Nifty Bluetooth headset in violent yellowHorrible colour, but this is the sort of thing that's going to appear all over the place very soon. This Bluetooth headset from Korean company OpenBrain also has up to 128MB of built in flash memory for playback of MP3 files (or WMA files if you really have to).

Now I don't understand some of the complexity of Bluetooth profiles and roaming, but I can imagine a Bluetooth headset (maybe not this particular model) being able to communicate with your mobile phone, and your office phone system (no phones on the desks, just a Bluetooth access point) and your PC for telephony, as well as your PC, PDA and other music devices. Give it a year or two and we'll all be walking around with headsets on full time, I wonder how long it will be before mobile phones evolve such that they no longer have a speaker and microphone?

I don't think the "Bluetooth is dead in the water, wi-fi has won" point of view is valid, they're similar but very different beasts. It's about as nonsensical as the very old argument that TV would kill radio.
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Lazy wi-fi
Too lazy to make your own Pringles can antenna?

Go and buy a Cantenna then! Actually all joking aside, their store also seems to have some other useful wi-fi stuff like pigtails.
Monday, November 25, 2002
Cool new Siemens phones
Nokia 7650 and Siemens SL55
Despite the niceness of their UI and the Symbian OS I'm not as excited about all the shiny new Nokia phones as everyone else seems to be.

I'm not sure why, probably two main reasons I guess: one is pure snobbery, every man and his dog has a Nokia phone and I want something a bit different; secondly Nokia has an MS like history with using proprietary standards for everything from connectivity to their phones to storing their "MP3s" in another incompatible format.

Still, it moves the breed on, and I'd hate to get stuck with the retro style nonsense that the US has to put up with. The shot above shows the SL55 alongside a Nokia 7650, and those below show the S55, the SL55 (slid open) and the 7650

S55, SL55 and 7650 - front viewS55, SL55 and 7650 - side viewBoth these new Siemens phones look great to me, I guess the S55 is going to be out in the next month or two and the SL55 is going to be a bit later to market. The S55 looks like an updated and even smaller S45 (a hugely underrated phone) with Bluetooth and Java, and the SL55 is just too funky for words.

Quick article from Gizmodo on the SL55, and S55 info from my-siemens.com Both phones seem to be a similar spec (there's not much info on the SL55), and they've got everything, tri-band, Bluetooth, IR, Java, etc. These pics make the 7650 look very chunky, it is a bit portly by recent standards, but it looks like a brick here!

I'm due for a phone upgrade from my S35i I wonder when Voodoo-phone are going to get some S55s in?
Xmas is coming
I'm not exactly ready for it (it can be questioned as to whether I'm ever actually ready for anything), but going by all the Xmas markets and lights it looks like it's going to be here pretty damn soon.

This weekend, Canterbury had a Euro-market and jolly good it was too. Bromley had a French market over the weekend and looks to be getting some sort of faux-Bavarian market in little wooden huts by the end of this week; that'll be good, a cup of Gluehwein should keep me warm on the station platform in the evenings.

And I nearly forgot that December 7th there's a Christmas Street Market in Tankerton Road, about 200m from home, so expect to see Santa and loads of Christmas related stuff on this webcam rather than the usual street scene.
Friday, November 22, 2002
Java Blogs
It looks like the Java Blogging boys (and girls?) are getting themselves quite a neat little community going.

Dominic Da Silva is hosting this Flock site as a portal for them to start things off, cool!

It's strange how many Java bloggers I keep stumbling across, sure there's plenty of Perl and Python guys blogging, but I don't see many C and C++ bloggers. Maybe it's because C/C++ are less good for quick prototype apps and after all a blog is often primarily a playpen.
Ashes news
Had a long chat to Russ about cricket as England (under the nom de jeu of the MCC) are playing Australia in the Ashes series currently. I think it was all a bit surreal for Russ, he said at one point that most of what he knew about cricket had come from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

It didn't help that the BBC's Test Match Special hadn't managed to sort out rights for internet coverage, and the Australian coverage had finished for the day.
Thursday, November 21, 2002
C++ layout tip
Actually this idea works in lots of languages although the code below would work straight off in any of the C dialects (C, C++, Java, C#), and it's something that I've been doing subconciously for quite a long while, see below:

if (4 < x && x < 11) // x is between 5 and 10

if (x < 5 || 10 < x) // x is outside the range 5 to 10

I'm using the less than operator when I have multiple conditions and arranging the elements in increasing numerical order, to me this looks natural as it combines the usual (Western) trends of counting upwards and reading left to right.

Also with this sort of layout the variable appears "inside" or "outside" the range as appropriate. I know Python & Borland Pascal/Delphi/Kylix make this sort of thing trivial, it's a shame something simpler for range checking wasn't added to the C99 or C++ specs.
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
C++ linkfest
I got asked a few C++ questions today, and realised that most of the resources I use every day aren't actually here, apart from Guru of the week.

So here's a brain dump (expect this to grow a little over the next day or so as I add items I've missed):

Boost, world class free C++ libraries. If you roll this sort of functionality yourself it's very unlikely to be this good (been there done that).

C++ FAQ lite, there's nothing lightweight about this; good sane guidelines for writing modern C++.

Diranieh Technologies, Yazan's extensive C++ how-to, very Microsoft based, and the site sucks and blows chunks on Mozilla, but there's some really good stuff in here.

ACCU, the Association of C and C++ Users, if you're serious about C++ you'd be daft not to join these guys. Their website has a huge number of book reviews and the mentored developers programmes (especially the Python one I'm leading :-) are great for personal development.

Bjarne Stroustrup's C++ page, you do know who Bjarne is? If not read this one first, the second paragraph of his homepage says it all. Bjarne's C++ page has some more good links.

Cplusplus.com lots of resources, a bit patchy but there's a few nuggets in there.

SGI's STL documentation useful but slightly misleading as SGI's Standard Template Library implementation is a tiny bit non-standard - different header file names being the main difference.

Bruce Eckel's Thinking in C++ available on paper or electronically, I've been using C++ too long to use this to learn C++ but I found it useful for picking up good ways to do stuff. Bruce's concept is spot on you've got to use the correct mindset to get the best out of a language, or you fall into the "Real FORTRAN programmers can program FORTRAN in any language" trap.

KDOC a rather cool Perl based JavaDoc style code documentation package for C++
He's done it again
Mark's done it again, he's come up with an interesting tool that suggests further reading based on the links on your weblog.

The suggested reading list for me is here there's some interesting stuff on that list, and I really need to add a few people I read frequently to my blogroll.

This sort of thing is what the Semantic web is all about, I suppose a step further would be for it to take foaf data and use that too.
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
May you live in interesting times
Ben at Blogtastic has what I reckon is a pretty good take on how life will become if Microsoft really do move further into making Smart Objects.

That could be rather exciting!
Project Genesis
I'm sure this project will remind you of something you've been involved in, hey at least it got delivered...
Monday, November 18, 2002
Where not to land your glider
It's amazing what useful(?) info you can find on developers mailing lists, here's something that cropped up on the ACCU general mailing list last week. This site Field-landings.co.uk has a number of aerial and ground level views of various arable fields and recommendations about which ones you should or should not attempt to land a glider in!
Germ warfare
It has been said that having small children is a continual episode of germ warfare, and I'm not going to disagree with that. The lad brought home a nasty stomach bug last week, which has infected at least a dozen people to our knowledge.

Anyway to cut a long messy story short, I'm a few kilos lighter and feel rather jetlagged, normal service will be resumed shortly.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Spoof blog?
Tom Ocean (come on, what's your real name?) internet millionaire, I don't think so...

Oh course I could be persuaded otherwise, and a large amount of dosh sent my way might be very persuasive. I'm sure Ben at Blogtastic wouldn't mind some money for his design either.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Elizabeth's Christening
Back in July Elizabeth was Christened, and my mate Derrick has just sent us a few of the shots he took.
Me and Elizabeth, it looks like a nice sunny day
Here's one of Elizabeth in my arms on the way to the church (you don't put a baby in an expensive silk dress until the very last possible minute), and one afterwards at the party in the garden at home (also not in the expensive dress), and I'm just wondering why we bothered buying the expensive dress...
Elizabeth on the small slide
Monday, November 11, 2002
Bonfire night - Lewes
Lewes (pronounced Loo - iss) is the top place in the UK for burning effigies, plus assorted other smoke and fire related activities on Guy Fawkes night.

I haven't been for a few years, but here's a great bunch of links from Kevan.org before and after. The Cliffe Bonfire Society are responsible for most of these effigies. I'm sure Russ would have approved of this year's choice.
McDonald's Workers' Resistance
Whilst I obviously can't condone the suggested behaviour of the McDonald's Workers' Resistance group, it doesn't mean I don't find some of it highly amusing...

Do yourself a favour, skip the burger, and try some slow food instead.
Harry Potter - Chamber of Secrets
We went to see the new Harry Potter film Chamber of Secrets at the grandly named Imperial Oyster Cinema on Saturday night; nice cinema it's got plenty of leg and elbow room and a proper bar so one can sip a decent pint through the film rather than some sickly fizzy drink, I was on Shepherd Neame's Whitstable Bay organic ale and very nice it was too.

Anyway I digress, maybe the beer was better than the film, the wife loved the film but to be honest it left me a little cold. I know it's a kids' book, but the humour was just too heavy handed (the kids in the audience lapped it up) and Harry came across as a dumb kid who survived his scrapes through a few scrapes of luck, maybe the books are proving too complex to condense into a couple of hours of film, or maybe it was just dumbed down, but I didn't feel this way about the Philosophers Stone. Roll on Lord of the Rings...

The Harry Potter automatic news aggregator looks useful for you mad Tanya Grotter fans though.
Saturday, November 09, 2002
Luckiest countries in the World?
I reckon these guys must be up there: Three countries to lose golden arches

I wonder if the improved health of their citizens will show up in statistics in a few years time?
Friday, November 08, 2002
Referendum on Gibraltar
It's all very well the Gibraltarians voting to remain under British rule, but I don't recall being asked if we Brits actually want them?

Hey, xenophobia can cut both ways...
Medical news
I'm think this is a joke, but I'm not entirely sure...

A British doctor says "Medicine in my country is so advanced that we can take a kidney out of one man put it in another and have him looking for work in six weeks."

A German doctor says, "That's nothing, we can take a lung out of one person put it in another and have him looking for work in four weeks."

A Russian doctor says, "In my country medicine is so advanced we can take half a heart out of one person put it in another and have them both looking for work in two weeks."

An American doctor, not to be outdone, says, "You guys are way behind, we just took a man with no brain out of Texas, put him in the White House, and now half the country is looking for work, and the other half preparing for war..."
Thursday, November 07, 2002
8th March 2003
Something very important is happening on that date, it's my birthday! Oh, and some rather strange sounding chap is going to release some odd photos on the 'net: 8march2003.com

I wonder if he'll let me use the domain afterwards for photos of my birthday?
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Immobile wireless coverage
A bit of lateral thinking here, but if one was to live or work near one of these Megabeam WiFi hotspots (as reported by El Reg), what's to stop you signing up for a year's contract (with introductory offers it's approx €500 per annum), which gives you ADSL level pricing and maybe far more bandwidth, interesting...
Why blog?
Sorry chaps, long post, feel free to ignore it, normal service will be resumed shortly.

Russ asked earlier today why people read his weblog, and gave his reasons for why he wrote it.

This made me ask why I write this weblog, so partly to remind myself in those days in the future when I'm wondering what the hell to write here, and partly to let you guys know why this blog sometimes rambles unexpectedly into seemingly random directions I'm compiling a list of some of my reasons for blogging. It won't be complete because I don't think I've captured all of the reasons, and as with all things I'm sure this list will mutate and grow over time. I'm going to post some fuller breakdowns of the categories later, and probably amend this post over the next few days as I get further ideas.

What's the point of this blog?
  • Annotated distributed bookmark file
  • Diary
  • Jotting pad for ideas and concepts
  • Reference library

What do I blog about?
  • Things that I find interesting
  • Events in my life

What don't I blog about?
  • Work
  • Politics
  • Sex
  • My family
  • Personal things

Who is the intended audience?
  • Me
  • Other developers
  • Friends and family

What's the point of this blog? - long answers
This blog as an annotated distributed bookmark file; sure it's very sub-optimal in that searching for stuff is a pain currently (searching coming rsn), but if I come across a link to something I'm interested in, I'll post about it or add it to the blogroll. A distributed bookmark system is useful to me because I use different computers in different locations (and multiple browsers), I can also tell someone I saw something useful and point them at one of my posts which will often have links to a number of related products.

It's a diary, I don't tend to keep track of major events like weddings funerals, etc. So a small post in here helps me remember these events.

Maybe it's part of the "Getting things done" philosophy, but when I have ideas rattling about in my head sometimes I need to let them escape to stop them getting in the way of things that need to be done, so these things will appear every now and then, sometimes to be revisited, usually just to be noted for possible future reference.

Reference library, maybe... Probably more like a library catalog pointing me to useful reference info, although to be honest Google is usually my first port of call.

What do I blog about? - long answers
Things I find interesting, now that's nice and non-specific! In brief, gadgets, computers, networking, Python, C++, some meta-blogging, football, motorsport, good food, music, Aussie rules football, beer. Events in my life, generally big stuff like weddings, births, christenings, and funerals although sometimes an observation outside the window will creep in.

What don't I blog about? - long answers
Blimey, all the rules that are meant to be broken. I suppose this should be better categorised as things I shouldn't blog about rather than things I don't blog about.

Let's take them one at a time; work, sure it's interesting but writing commercial software in the financial field invariably means working on something that is commercially secret, or even financially sensitive and I really don't want to be sued, so I'll very rarely blog something work related, it's just not worth it. Politics, for one thing I'm an amateur at politics there are other better informed and reasoned blogs about politics, so apart from specific issues I'll leave politics alone. Sex, no thanks we're British... My family, ok they do keep cropping up, but as they haven't asked to be talked about I'll try to protect a little of their privacy.

Personal things, what a wonderful catch all, rightly or wrongly I'm not going to fully open the kimono, I reserve the right to put what I want on this blog, sometimes I'll withhold things, sometimes I won't tell the entire truth, it's my ballgame...

Who is the intended audience?
Me, yep, as far as I'm concerned I'm the primary audience, it's my playpen, sandpit, pigpen, blah blah blah. Ok, that sounds very selfish, but it ties in with the primary uses detailed above. Think of it as one man muttering and cursing to himself. Frankly if I imagine there's 100s of people reading this stuff then I tend to either showboat or clam up, so maybe me thinking about the blog in this way prevents me being too annoying or quiet.

Other developers, and techies. Somewhere in all the dross is hopefully some useful techie points and links and some snippets of code.

Family and friends, actually I'm not sure if any of the family bother to look at this, hell they've all got better things to be doing than wondering what I'm wibbling about. I know that friends do look in here sometimes (the joy of webstats), I hope they find something useful...
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
US polls
Ok, I really don't understand US politics, but would one of my US readers (either of you) please let me know if this article in The Independent is a reasonable overview of what you chaps are up to.

Are all the senate seats up for grabs in these mid-terms elections?
Fireworks tonight
Wow! It's loud out there tonight, walking home from the station it seemed like Beirut, shame it's drizzling a little otherwise I'd go and sit out in the garden in the dark and watch the show.
Guy Fawkes Day
Well today is the 5th of November and us Brits celebrate a failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, I sometimes wonder which aspect we're celebrating, the fact that someone tried to blow up Parliament or that they failed? Personally, I'm backing the former...

Miles Kington of The Independent has a wonderfully funny column as ever.
Network refurb
I'm having a bit of a sort out of the network at home, moving PCs around, upgrading stuff, all the things that have been overdue for too long. I moved the kids' PC last night, it's currently on Windows '98 and crashes far too often, I'm tempted to get it to dual boot 98 and Debian, maybe Debian Jr.

Anyway there's a little sticker on the back saying when it was built, and it had it's tenth birthday last week! When I got it it was reasonably state of the art, 486-33, 8MB ram, 200MB disk and Win 3.1, since then it's run OS/2, NT 3.5, NT 4, and various Debians, during which the hardware was coaxed into accepting a Pentium 133 upgrade, 32MB of ram and 1GB of disk, and all the time it was solid as a rock until I put '98 on it...
Blog catchup - Tues 29th October
Off bright and early (sort of) to Legoland Windsor with the car loaded up with four small children and three adults. I was very impressed by a couple of things, one is that the bus feels fine fully loaded and will happily cruise at 70mph (or more on my private test-track, aka the M2), and the second is how good Legoland is for small children, ours ranged in age from 18 months to 5 years, and there's still many more rides for them to graduate onto when they get bigger, I'm not sure at what age they'll "grow out" of Legoland, maybe 10-12?
Blog catchup - Sun 27th October
It was a bit breezy over the weekend, so much so that I checked Whitstable Windsurfing's windspeed page, they're a stone's throw from Whitstable Castle, and less than a mile from home; there was no data for Saturday, but Sunday peaked at 77.6mph no wonder the trees and fences were looking so distresed.
Monday, November 04, 2002
Blog catchup - Sat 26th October
I don't know if this will work, but I'll try to catch up with last week's backlog (back-blog?) a day at a time whilst interleaving current stuff, think of it as a series of flashbacks...

Anyway last Saturday we went to our friends Andrea and Paul's wedding at Herne Church followed by a reception at Whitstable Castle; it's not really a castle as such, more of a large rambling Victorian house with castellations. Top tip for mixing wedding receptions and small children: Hot Wheels, give a small boy one of these sets and he'll disappear into a corner (with other assorted rugrats and chefs) and allow you to get on with the serious business of speeches, drinking etc.

Fortunately my parents collected the children in the early evening, to allow us to party beyond 7pm and have a lie in the next morning (extra long with the clock changes from summertime). At one point I wondered if the evening was going to turn into one of those lost weekend style weddings as typified in this nightmare of Mark Pilgrim's, but a bit more dancing and a marginally slower alcohol intake saved the day.
Nice design site
I had an email from my old mate James Shaw the other day as he'd stumbled across this blog, he was very polite about it, maybe he owes me a beer?

Anyway James and his other half Michelle have got a new business Simplicity Design, their website looks very tidy, I'll have to see if I can persuade them to facelift this site for a nominal fee :-)
Saturday, November 02, 2002
Busy week
It's been a busy week, the kids have been off school all week and I've had most of the week off on holiday with them, I'll drip feed what we did as I wade through my backlog of email. To anyone waiting for a reply to an "urgent" email, don't hold your breath...