Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gmail IMAP support tip

If the title means nothing to you, skip this tip. If you are waiting for Gmail to update your account to enable IMAP support, and you have your settings as 'UK English', simply switch them to 'US English', and the IMAP settings will magically appear.

No, don't bother to thank me, it's all part of the service.

Morse code

The Wall Street Journal reports: [edited]

From his high-desert home crammed with computers, radio receivers and a very patient wife, Mr. Adams uses homemade software to download online books with expired copyrights, convert the typed words into Morse code tones and record them on compact discs he sells on the Internet.

"I do it because it's fun, and to keep it going, but I have no delusions of grandeur that I can save Morse code from extinction. I'm not Don Quixote. I'm not going to go out and fight windmills."

Morse code is the creation of a painter, Samuel F.B. Morse, who needed a way to transmit messages over the telegraph that he and Alfred Vail had invented. In 1844, the men famously sent a transmission from Washington to Baltimore that read, "What hath God wrought?"

The telegraph replaced the pony express. As late as World War II, ham operators found themselves using their Morse skills as radiomen in the military. During the Vietnam War, POW Jeremiah Denton, later a U.S. senator from Alabama, blinked "T-O-R-T-U-R-E" in Morse code when his captors put him on television.

Mr. Adams and other Morse aficionados don't speak of dots and dashes; that imagery is too visual, and Morse is an aural language. So they prefer to describe the language in dits and dahs, the sounds of the short and long tones. A, for instance, is dit dah. B is dah dit dit dit, or simply dah dididit. Between two letters, the sender allows a three-dit silence. Between words it grows to seven dits.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fastest laptop for Vista...

PC World reports: [edited]

The fastest Windows Vista notebook we've tested this year - or for that matter, ever - is a Mac.

Not a Dell, not a Toshiba, not even an Alienware.

The $2419 (plus the price of a copy of Windows Vista, of course) MacBook Pro's PC WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 88 beats Gateway's E-265M by a single point, but the MacBook's score is far more impressive simply because Apple couldn't care less whether you run Windows or Mac software.

The Discovery of France

Times Online reports: [edited]

La douce France, land of cafe terraces, of long lunches, of village charcuteries that outshine Fortnums, where trains run on time, roads are pothole free, and even mountain tracks are blazed every few yards with a dab of red paint. A tamed and familiar land, as comfortable as an old espadrille. Or so we think. But this France is not particularly old. Much of its landscape is “younger than the Eiffel Tower”, notes Graham Robb, made by draining malarial marshes and planting trees on ancient heathland and naked mountains – compare the French and Spanish sides of the Pyrenees.

Its “traditional” food is an invention for tourists; “the true taste of France was stale bread”. Nor has its geography long been familiar, even to its inhabitants. Many picturesque place names were thought up by map-makers or promoters of tourism. The spectacular Verdon gorges, Europe’s grand canyon, were known only to a few woodcutters until 1906 – decades after their Colorado counterpart became famous.

The lengthy process of discovering rural France (always incomplete, because so much of the way of life he explores disappeared before the outside world arrived) is Robb’s theme. A distinguished literary historian, and the biographer of Balzac, Hugo and Rimbaud, he began 10 years ago to explore on his bicycle “the country on which I was supposed to be an authority”.

He has followed in the footsteps of earlier explorers: surveyors, mountaineers, speleologists, ethnographers, administrators, writers and generations of tourists. Among the pioneers was the Cassini dynasty, who risked lethal violence from suspicious locals to make the first complete map of France between the 1740s and 1815 (a member of one of their expeditions was hacked to death by the natives in a remote hamlet in the Massif Central).

Such efforts to explore and possess the country fell short of the immense task. Empress Josephine, following a route chosen by Napoleon using a Cassini map, found that the road was imaginary and her carriage had to be let down a slope on ropes. Soldiers and officials in the rural outback still needed guides and interpreters in the 19th century: even in 1880, only about a fifth of the population was comfortable using standard French.

Tourists had to be tough. Phrase books included “I believe that the wheels are on fire” and “Bring us some sheets, I warn you I shall examine them carefully."

Only in the 20th century were all parts of the country finally pieced together by maps, roads, railways and telegraphs: the first event made known to all of France on the same day was the outbreak of the first world war in August 1914.

Robb has an infectious taste for facts, the more prodigious the better.

Pyrenean shepherds had a language of whistles with a two-mile range. Packs of dogs were trained to smuggle tobacco and alcohol. A pedlar’s pack in 1841 contained 9,800 pins, 6,084 bobbins, 3,888 buttons, 3,000 needles, 18 snuff-boxes, and much besides. In the Landes, postmen in the 1930s made deliveries on stilts.

The book is an elegy to what has disappeared, a retrospective exploration of that lost world. Robb shows vividly that it was a cruel and precarious world – where people went into semi-hibernation during the bleak and hungry winter to conserve food, and where the elderly were expected not to linger once they were useless – but it was also a place of unimaginable variety and ingenuity.

No only did postmen use stilts as a speedy way to get around; so too did shepherds. “The shepherds of the Landes spent whole days on stilts,” says Robb, “using a stick to form a tripod when they wanted to rest. Perched 10ft in the air, they knitted woollen garments and scanned the horizon for stray sheep. People who saw them in the distance compared them to tiny steeples and giant spiders. They could cover up to 75 miles a day at 8mph. When Napoleon’s empress Marie-Louise travelled through the Landes... her carriage was escorted for several miles by shepherds on stilts who could easily have overtaken the horses.”

THE DISCOVERY OF FRANCE by Graham Robb, Picador, £18.99, 427pp

Monday, October 29, 2007

Top Gun c. 1911

Wired reports: [edited]

The airplane is introduced to warfare for the first time in a reconnaissance flight over Turkish lines during the Italo-Turkish War.

Aerial reconnaissance was not new to warfare; observation balloons had been deployed over battlefields since the 18th century. But when the Italian pilot climbed into his Blériot XI - the flying machine of choice ever since one of its number successfully crossed the English Channel in 1909 - and flew over the Turks, the nature of warfare changed forever.

This conflict, a predecessor to the First and Second Balkan Wars and a precursor to World War I, also saw the first use of an airplane as a combat weapon.

In December 1911, an Italian plane flew over the Turkish lines and its pilot dropped four hand grenades on the troops below. Within three years true aerial combat would become a reality and within a generation the airplane was the decisive battlefield weapon.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mum proved right... AGAIN!

New Scientist reports: [edited]

Scientists have finally confirmed what your mother knew all along – that flu spreads best in cold, dry weather.

As the first few cases of the northern hemisphere’s annual flu epidemic are trickling in this week, scientists may finally know why winter is flu season. It appears the virus lasts longer in cold, dry air, and our sluggish, cold-weather mucus cannot clear it out.

Astonishingly it has taken until the publication of research this week to settle the basic question about how flu spreads, and why it girdles each hemisphere every year during winter. Ironically, that research was made possible by the rediscovery of a report by army doctors in 1919.

Flu is hard to study in the lab because virtually no lab animals get it the way humans do. Mice, for example, do not get the same strains, or catch flu from each other. The most useful animal has been the ferret.

However, studying disease transmission requires too many animals to be practical with ferrets. “They’re big, they’re expensive, and they bite,” Peter Palese of Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City told New Scientist.

But in 1919, US Army doctors at Camp Cody in New Mexico reported that the 1918 flu pandemic had killed their guinea pigs – kept at the time for medical tests. “We didn’t know guinea pigs got flu,” says Palese. "They are no longer popular lab animals, and no-one had tried them."

So Palese’s team exposed hundreds of guinea pigs to a human flu strain at different temperatures and humidities, in cages that allowed only air to pass from sick animals to well ones. This settled a longstanding dispute over whether flu can spread solely as an airborne infection, or whether physical contact is needed. “It spread solely via the air they exhaled,” says Palese. “Guinea pigs with flu don’t cough or sneeze.”

At room temperature, they found flu transmission peaks at low relative humidity (20-35%) and again at 65%. It spread less well at around 50% humidity, and not at all over 80%. This parallels the stability of flu virus in aerosol droplets at different humidities, and also the droplets’ ability to remain airborne. At over 80% humidity, droplets containing flu virus themselves fall out of the air.

The effect also happened too quickly to be due to dry air damaging nasal tissue so that it is not as effective a barrier to viruses, which has been suggested as a factor in humans.

But temperature trumped humidity: at 5°C animals caught flu at humidities that stopped the virus when it was warmer, possibly because sick animals’ noses shed virus two days longer at cooler temperatures.

To find out why, Palese’s team charted 13 early immune reactions in infected animals, but they were unaffected by temperature. Mucus, however, normally flows up through our respiratory tracts to clear out contaminants. “Mucus becomes more viscous as cold air hits our upper respiratory tracts,” he says. “So we can’t clear the virus as easily.”

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tardigrades in space

Back in March 2006, I blogged about a hardy little organism called the Tardigrade.

Well, now their legendary toughness is being put to the ultimate test. They've been into space! Why? Well, in the words of the TARDIS (TARDigrades In Space) blog:

"There are many answers to this question. One would be: to see if these animals are able to cope with the extremely dry conditions of deep vacuum and the harmful solar and galactic radiation up there. In the past, several biologists have suggested that Tardigrades may be one of the few animals that have a chance to come back alive after a trip in real space. Finally we will be able to find out if this is true.

"At a more mechanistic biological level, exposure of organisms to space conditions will reveal how living cells react to the potentially very stressful impact of space parameters. And organisms that can handle the damaging space parameters will be important sources of knowledge for how to generate the space ecosystems that will be necessary for the more permanent human establishments in space that is envisaged today.

"The TARDIS experiment consists of two sets of samples: one set exposed to both space vacuum and solar radiation, and another set exposed to space vacuum only. All tardigrade specimens included in the study are in a dry, anhydrobiotic state. Once on the ground again, these samples will be analysed for survival and reproductive potential, and for damage on DNA."

You can follow their adventures on the TARDIS blog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2

DPreview reports: [edited]

The 8-megapixel model features 4GB of internal memory and can store up to 40,000 VGA-quality photos or 1,000 8-megapixel pictures, eliminating the need to manage multiple media cards.

The camera’s album folder makes it easy to organize and access thousands of photos in-camera. Images can be viewed in chronological order and displayed in a calendar view. By installing the bundled Picture Motion Browser software, you can also view images by events like birthdays or Sunday BBQs.

Beloved photos can be selected and moved to the camera’s “favorites” folder for virtually instant retrieval, without having to navigate through hundreds of pictures. In favorites, photos can be arranged in six separate subfolders with a touch of a finger.

The camera has a new look with a compact silver body; black LCD frame; and a sliding lens cover available in blue, green, pink, white or black.

Its touch-panel LCD screen replaces small buttons with on-screen icons and a user-friendly interface to make camera operation fast and simple. You can touch the screen to select the subject you want to focus on (shooting mode) and where you want to zoom in (playback mode).

Sony’s “smile shutter” function automatically detects and captures a person smiling without the need to press the shutter. If there are several people in the frame, you can select the primary subject for the camera to watch by touching the screen. A sequence of up to six smiling shots can be taken without the need to manually press the shutter.

Other features include face detection, optical image stabilization and high sensitivity (up to ISO 3200).

The Cyber-shot DSC-T2 has a 3x optical zoom, is 129g, 87 x 57 x 20mm and will ship in December for about $350.


Ugress is one of several projects from Norwegian producer, composer and remixer Gisle Martens Meyer from Bergen. The music is built upon a massive bed of samples, loops and sounds, as well as recorded with live musicians - everything from complete symphonic orchestras to vocalists.

Ugress is a witty, cinematic landscape of samples, loops and sounds. The sources include sixties easy listening, seventies funk, computer games, television commercials and sci-fi B-movies.

The site has a range of free-to-download MP3s.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Buzzword is: [edited]

"The first real word processor for the web. Buzzword makes it easy for you to create a document from any computer on the Web, share it with colleagues, and review and revise it as a team.

Buzzword works on any PC or Macintosh that is connected to the Internet and running Adobe's Flash Player. Buzzword runs from Virtual Ubiquity's secure servers, and your documents are always available on the Web. And always securely private, except from the people you invite to share them.

You'll soon find that Buzzword offers a distinct alternative to traditional word processors. For one thing, you do not have to install the product. For another, you'll be able to use Buzzword on any computer that is connected to the Internet and have your word processor and your files at your fingertips.

A third difference is that you'll find it easy and convenient to share documents with friends and colleagues without having to use email attachments. Because we store your documents on our secure servers, all you need to do is invite someone to share your document and you'll both have access.

Buzzword runs on any computer with Flash Player 9 that is running IE 6 or 7, Safari 2, Safari 3 (Macintosh only), or Firefox. This means that you can use Macintosh or Windows computers interchangeably.

For example, you could start an essay at home on your iBook, go to the school library and work on it using a Windows machine, and then share it with a friend who uses either platform. You'll have the same file and the same product regardless of the platform you choose."

Monday, October 22, 2007

No sex please, we're Bdelloid Rotifers

Reuters reports: [edited]

A microscopic organism has thrived despite remaining celibate for tens of millions of years. The question was how the creatures found in pools of water accomplished this feat without the gene-swapping made possible by sexual reproduction.

In the words of one of the researchers, "Sexual reproduction is supposed to be a good thing in evolution, so when you come across an organism like the bdelloid, which hasn't engaged in sexual reproduction for tens of millions of years, you begin to question why sex is important."

Although research is continuing, these creatures seem to have processes that allows their genes to drift apart and evolve on their own, using molecular cloning techniques.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

London, Lincoln, London 21-10-07

London to Lincoln
The Underdog - Spoon
Don't Rain On My Parade - Barbra Streisand
I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Mister Sandman - Emmylou Harris
Ladies Night - Kool & The Gang
Serious - Richard Hawley
Shut Up and Drive - Rihanna
New York Groove - Hello
If you want to be happy for the rest of your life - Coasters
Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
Everthing's Odd - Misty's Big Adventure
Headbutts - John Otway
Crabbuckit - K-OS
Castles in the Sky - Ian Van Dahl
Valerie - Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse
Our Bovine Public - The Cribs
Who put the bomp - Viceroys
Little Arithmetics - Deus
Kiss The Bride - Elton John
Cut The Midrange Drop The Bass - Cylob
Dignity - Bob Dylan
Prescilla - Bat for Lashes
Wuthering Heights (Rubadub) - Kate Bush
Who's That Lady - The Isley Brothers
Love Steals Us From Loneliness - Idlewild
California Love - 2Pac (feat. Dr. Dre)
Another First Kiss - They Might Be Giants (Tmbg)
Lady Writer - Dire Straits
Thunder In My Heart - Leo Sayer
Dream lover - Bobby Darin
The Tide Is High - Billie Piper
I've Never Been To Me - Charlene
You and Me Song - Wannadies
Shooting Star - Dollar
Superhero - The Priscillas
Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running) - Foo Fighters
Let the river run - Carly Simon
Brand New Day - Forty Foot Echo
Run-Away - Super Furry Animals
The Sound of the Suburbs - The Members
Frankie - Sister Sledge
On My Own - Vincent Vincent and the Villains
Tell Him - Hello
Me, Doctor - Monty Python

Lincoln to London
Solomon's Shoes - Margaret Becker
Running Out Of Fools - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Stop Messin' Around - Fleetwood Mac
Walk On - John Hiatt
World Without Love - The Johnny Arthey Orchestra
Sky Fits Heaven - Madonna
Low - The Violet Burning
I Want You To Want Me - Dwight Yoakam
Pony - Kasey Chambers
Uptight Jet - The Kleptones
Every Breath You Take - Tammy Wynette & Sting
I Walk The Line - Rodney Crowell
Tweeter And The Monkey Man - Traveling Wilburys
Parting Gift - Fiona Apple
Shadowland - Steve Earle
Sir Casey Jones - The Eighteenth Day Of May
Too Late - Alice Martineau
Revelator - Gillian Welch
Kiss On My List - Daryl Hall & John Oates
Cleaning Windows - Van Morrison
Streets Of Fire - The New Pornographers
Sorry - Madonna
The Night Visit - Christy Moore
Eveningland (alt) - Hem
Eddie and Sheena - Wayne County and the Electric Chairs
Tear Stained Letter - Richard Thompson
Talk Talk (Single Version) - Talk Talk
Bird In The Hand (Is Worth Two In The Bush), A - The Velvelettes
Dance Little Rude Boy - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Congratulations - The Andrew Oldham Orchestra
Any Day Now - Missy Higgins
Levi Stubbs' Tears - Billy Bragg
Right Stuff - Black Uhuru
Lead Me On - Amy Grant
Brand New Strings - Ricky Skaggs And Kentucky Thunder
You Came, You Saw, You Conquered - The Ronettes
Colours - Donovan
The Deacon's Hop - Big Jay McNeely
Liar - Dar Williams
Only A Scratch - Vigilantes Of Love

Saturday, October 20, 2007

London, Lincoln, London 20-10-07

London to Lincoln
Didn't I? - Amy Rigby
Just For You - Alan Price
I Don't Wanna Know - Fleetwood Mac
City vs. Country - Mobius Band
Future Lover - Madonna
This Is How It Goes - Missy Higgins
Railroad - The Zutons
The Ballad Of Carol Lynn - Whiskeytown
Masquerade - The Skids
Cambodia - Blake Boy
This Old House - Loretta Lynn
Nightlife - Kenickie
Over The Hillside - The Blue Nile
The Other Side Of The Coin - Solomon Burke
It Is What It Is (And That's All) - Steve Forbert
I'm Gonna Follow You - Silverwind
Little Thoughts - Bloc Party
Love Come Around - The Blue Aeroplanes
Are friends electric - Republica & Gary Numan
Fault Lines - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Obviously 5 Believers - Bob Dylan
Blonde - The Wedding Present
Nobody - Tom Waits
Wack Wack - The Young-Holt Trio
Rock Of Ages - Gillian Welch
Pressure Drop - The Maytals
Last Train to Forever - Télépopmusik
Jumble Sale - Jake Thackray
Gotta Get Away - The Offspring
I Don't Know What I Can Save You From (Röyksopp Remix) - Kings Of Convenience
Judas - The Charlatans
I Want It Now - Yazbek
She Said She Said - The Beatles
Green Mansions - Van Morrison
Drive On - Johnny Cash
Son Of A Bitch - Eels
Escher's World - Chagall Guevara
Kiss Me Like A Woman - Charlie Peacock
Creek Between Heaven And Hell - Jesse Dayton
Cry Wolf - a-Ha
Cuban Soldier - June Carter Cash
Ain't Ever Goin' Back - John Hiatt
Ecstacy - zZz

Lincoln to London
The Size of a Cow - Wonder Stuff
Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival
OMG we got it - Todosantos
Give Yourself A Stereo Check Out - The Bran Flakes
Valerie - The Zutons
Draw Your Brakes - Scotty
Clint Eastwood - Gorillaz
You Are Alive - Fragma
Twist - Goldfrapp
Freak Scene - Dinosaur Jr.
Can't Get You Out of My Head - Kylie Minogue
Metarie - Brendan Benson
Major and Minor - The Procession
The devil went down to (georgia) scunthorpe - Toy Dolls
Monster - The Automatic
Doing It Right - The Go! Team
I Don't Want a Lover (2001 mix) - Texas
The Real Thing - Gwen Stefani
lousy, but different - Statler & Waldorf
Sinful - Pete Wylie And The Oedipus Wrecks
On The Radio - Donna Summer
The Boat That I Row - Lulu
Ride Wit Me - Nelly featuring City Spud
Wild Wild Life - Talking Heads
Valerie (Baby J Remix Ft Rukus, Precha, Alex Blood and Malik) - Amy Winehouse & Mark Ronson
Lover - Devendra Banhart
Baby I Love Your Way - Big Mountain
Happy Days - Pratt & McClain with Brother Love
The Rock Show - Blink-182
Copacabana (Disco Remix) - Barry Manilow
Let's All Chant - Michael Zager Band
In The Morning - The Coral
Lovers Who Uncover - The Little Ones
Second, Minute or Hour - Jack Penate
Upside Down - A*Teens
Boss Of Me (Malcolm In Middle) - They Might Be Giants
Stay Another Day (Less Sad Mix) - East 17
Electric Avenue (Ringback remix) - Eddy Grant
Those Dancing Days - Those Dancing Days
We Care A Lot - Faith No More
She Sells Sanctuary (Original) - The Cult
Valerie - Amy Winehouse
Chase the Sun - Planet Funk
Jaded - Aerosmith
Man! I Feel Like A Woman! - Shania Twain
Buck Rogers - Feeder
(Keep Feeling) Fascination - Human League
(You're The) Devil In Disguise - Elvis Presley
Bones - The Killers

Friday, October 19, 2007

Monster under the bed

MK 1 Studio reports: [edited]

Where do you hide your 50" plasma screen? Why not under a King size bed? Requires only 8” of clearance, deploys in under 35 seconds.

Visit the site for videos of the mechanism in action.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

iPod touch v.2 wishlist

The iPod touch is a beautiful thing, but it is a typical 'Version 1' product, desirable enough to persuade early adopters to part with their money, but with enough features missing to allow 'new, improved' models to be released in 6 months time.

Things I'd like to see added to the next 'touch are

- Stereo Bluetooth headphones

- Connection to the internet via a mobile phone

- The ability to make notes, calendar entries etc.

- A speaker

- Streaming of music/video via WiFi

- Physical volume buttons

- A couple of programmable macro buttons

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

France to get unlocked iPhones?

RegHardware reports: [edited]

French law prevents carriers from tying handsets exclusively to their networks - consumers have to be able to move to a different network provider and take their phones with them. The upshot is that Orange will sell a locked iPhone for 399 Euros alongside an unlocked model for a price that's yet to be specified by either party.

However, the arrangement is a tricky one for Apple. What can it do to stop, say, British or German punters popping to Paris to pick up a SIM-free iPhone? Since its deals with O2 and T-Mobile are believed to be founded on taking a cut of the money the networks make from iPhone users, that's not an outcome Apple will be happy with.

New iPods, hands on

After my thespian activity on Saturday, I walked to the Regent Street Apple Shrine to get my first proper look at the latest range of iPods. Here's my first impressions.

iPod Touch: Quite beautiful. Supermodel slim. Gorgeous screen, I can quite imagine watching a full-length movie on it. Touchscreen interface works intuitively and quickly. Web-browsing is smoothly handled, and text is legible. Coverflow was made for the iPod Touch, flicking through the album covers is a tactile treat.

iPod Classic: Feel like 'stop-gap' items. Everything works well, but the screen isn't big enough to watch videos on, and the 160GB model feels positively chunky.

iPod Nano: 70 x 50mm (a credit card is 86 x 54mm), 6.5mm thin (think 5 credit cards, inc. embossing) 50g light (eight 10p coins). It looks a lot better in real life than it does in photos, and it is lovely to hold and use. The screen has the same 320 x 240 pixel resolution as the Classic, which is plenty to display cover art, track data and photos, although, like the Classic, not so great for using Coverflow or watching videos.

iPod Shuffle: Apart from colours, no change here. Still Apple's most elegant model, although I like to 'see' what's playing. And it's just begging to be made into a watch, with Bluetooth headphones.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do you want WiFi with that?

The Guardian reports: [edited]

The fast food chain McDonald's is to introduce free high speed wireless internet access at most of its 1,200 restaurants by the end of the year in a move which will make it the UK's biggest provider of such a service. It has already introduced the free scheme in 8,000 of its 13,000 outlets in the US.

Faced with the prospect of young people spending hours surfing the net after buying just a single cup of coffee, a spokesman for McDonald's said: "We would be comfortable with that. There will be no restrictions."

The service is expected to be available at all UK outlets by the end of 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

Google Mail - now twice as good

Google are upgrading the capacity of their email accounts from 2 to 4 Gigabytes.

I use my Google Mail account as a 'collection point' for all my email accounts, forwarding every mail i send, and get sent, to it. This gives me a searchable database of all my email correspondence that I can access from just about anywhere (primarily from my Nokia E65, via the excellent Google Mail application).

I have been regularly deleting stuff (from 2005) to stay within my 2GB limit, so the upgrade is very welcome indeed.


Following on from my 'discovering' Slings & Arrows, my good friend 'Mr Henry' treated me to a visit to the Gielgud Theatre to watch Rupert Goold's production of Macbeth.

Patrick Stewart plays Macbeth, on a stark set dominated (and often lit) by a massive lift entrance. Other persistent set pieces are a battered fridge, an ancient television set, some tables and a large sink.

The atmosphere is enhanced by 'make you jump' sound effects and huge images projected onto the brick walls of the set.

I don't watch much theatre. And I'm not used to the (archaic/opaque) Shakespearean prose. Sometimes it reminded me of listening to a Bob Dylan song, you don't fully understand what the words mean, and yet you still understand the emotions that they are conveying.

The main actors performed superbly. Macbeth is intense, a man used to war, morally torn and defiantly aware that he is caught up in something beyond his control.

The relationship between Macbeth and his wife (Kate Fleetwood) moves from Lady Macbeth being a dominant, sexually aggressive woman to a broken, tormented creature.

The Weird Sisters (I'm told) were played a little differently from usual, but they were appropriately sinister, going about their witchly duties in an unsettling and efficient manner.

I enjoyed Macbeth very much. Mr Henry is even now searching out another play for us to visit. This time it's my treat.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Is it a mobile phone, is it a UMPC?

RegHardware reports: [edited]

The SPH-P9200 runs Windows XP, has a 1GHz CPU, 512MB RAM and a 30GB hard drive.

A SIM card slot allows users to tune in to GSM/GPRS/Edge and 3G HSDPA cellular networks, and the machine features WiBro, Korea's answer to Mobile WiMax. Wi-Fi connectivity - most likely 802.11g - is built in too, but there's no mention of Bluetooth in the new model's specs, even though it featured on the P9000.

There's a 5in WVGA (854 x 480 pixel) display and a folding Qwerty keyboard.

The screen's principally operated by a stylus, although a mouse could be connected through one of the machine's multiple USB ports for use on a desktop, and there's a 1.3 megapixel camera.

Users will get around 2.5 hours of life with the standard battery. The machine weighs 650g.

Samsung hasn't yet confirmed when the SPH-P9200 will make it onto the market, but in time for a Korean Christmas could be a good guess.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wii Fit

Reg Hardware reports: [edited]

Nintendo has announced plans to launch its anticipated Wii Fit home fitness game in Japan later this year.

The game, which is based around Nintendo's Balance Board peripheral, initially goes on sale in Japan on 1 December for the equivalent of £36, although the company hasn't yet mentioned when the game will be available in the UK.

The Balance Board [Irritating smiley child not included, Ed.] looks slightly larger than a set of bathroom scales and contains pressure sensors that detect when the user leans, moves or jumps in time with the action on screen.

Nintendo has said users will be able to head virtual footballs or take part in ski-jumping. There's also expected to be some more traditional fitness pursuits too, including yoga and aerobics.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Airtight Interactive reports: [edited]

TiltViewer allows you to browse images in a 3D space. It's designed to provide a fun, intuitive user experience. Images are pulled from Flickr's Interestingness list.

Always look for the 'Super Hi-Vision-ready' sticker

EE Times Asia reports: [edited]

The people at the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) see their ultrahigh-resolution broadcasting, which they have labeled Super Hi-Vision, as the next generation of consumer TV.

The specs are impressive. Super Hi-Vision's resolution is 7,680 x 4,320 pixels - 16 times that of today's 1,920 x 1,080 pixel HDTV. NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, has demonstrated it at several venues over the past two years using 600 inch screens.

Based on their experience with HDTV, NHK officials said it takes about 30 years for a broadcasting system to be developed and accepted. NHK began working on HDTV in 1969, and it was the first to start HDTV broadcasting in 1989.

It took 31 years, until 2000, for NHK to start satellite digital HDTV broadcasting in Japan. Terrestrial digital TV broadcasting, in collaboration with some private TV stations, followed in 2003. And by last December, coverage of the terrestrial digital HDTV service had spread to all corners of Japan.

Based on that 30-year-cycle theory, since NHK started working on Super Hi-Vision in 1995, the technology should be ready around 2025.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


ThinkGeek reports: [edited]

Thanks to the ingenious ThinkGeek robot monkeys you can display the current Wi-Fi signal strength to yourself and everyone around you with this stylish Wi-Fi Detector Shirt.

The glowing bars on the front of the shirt dynamically change as the surrounding wi-fi signal strength fluctuates. Finally you can get the attention you deserve as others bow to you as their reverential Wi-Fi god, while geeky chicks swoon at your presence.

You can thank us later.

Dear Sarah

Every once in a while, I come across a typeface that is special. 'Dear Sarah' is one of those typefaces.

In the words of its creator, Christian Robertson:

"Dear Sarah harks back to a time when people wrote to loved ones in longhand on wax-sealed stationery. Until the advent of OpenType, the magic of handwritten characters was ruined when identical letters glaringly showed up twice in a row.

Dear Sarah Pro uses OpenType to its full potential, with hundreds of contextual alternates that allow natural cursive connections, plus swash, dingbats, and small caps."

There is even a set of beautifully crafted 'ink-blot' characters.

Visit Veer Type to see the whole typeface. And download the excellently produced 6-page PDF to see how beautiful it looks in print form.

At a mere $119.00, it's now at the top of my 'find a project that gives me an excuse to purchase it' (FAPTGMAETPI) list.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bicycle sound

In my day, the nearest we got to music on a bike was by taping bits of carboard to the front forks so they made a 'flap-flap-flap™" noise as they contacted the spokes. Apparently things have moved on a bit since then...

FeedMoo reports: [edited]

If you want to wake up the neighbours and bother everyone with your music while you ride your bike, the wireless iPod dock is the bike speaker for you.

Working with the old-school iPod nano (and probably working with any iPod with a dock connector), it's a wireless speaker, and no, it's not using Bluetooth. It's using the Kleer Audio transmission that claims to be 10 times more energy efficient than Bluetooth.

The Cy.Fi speaker is about the size of a deck of cards and mounts on your handlebars. It spreads its stereo sound to let to the left and right, and makes it so you don't have to wear earphones that might obscure important noises of impending danger. Get more speakers, and one iPod can broadcast its signal to everyone in your riding group.

You can also control volume and skip tracks right from the speaker. Available sometime in 2008, it'll cost you $149.

Thanks to Gareth for the link.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

London-Lincoln-London, 07-10-07

Lover - Devendra Banhart
Hush - Kula Shaker
jerk it out - Caesars
My Perfect Cousin - Undertones
Please Stay - Kylie Minogue
It's My Party - Lesley Gore
Brush Up On Your Shakespeare - Cast of Kiss Me Kate
There is nothing like a dame - Reel Big Fish
Woman In Love - Barbra Streisand
Where's me jumper - Sultans of Ping
Mr Mom - Lone Star
Let's Dance To Joy Division - The Wombats
We don't have to take our clothes off (ext) - Jermaine Stewart
Born to Hum - Erin McKeown
How Will I Know - Whitney Houston
Suspicious Minds - Fine Young Cannibals
Real Girl - Mutya Buena
Love in the first degree - Bananarama
Destination Venus - The Rezillos
Love Shack - The B-52's
The Second Summer Of Love - Danny Wilson
Rubber Bullets - 10cc
Alcohol - CSS
Amylase - Cajun Dance Party
Nervous Breakdown - King Kurt
My Best Friend's Girl - The Cars
Machines - Biffy Clyro
Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit - Gina G
I’m A Cuckoo - Belle & Sebastian
Bad to good - Statler & Waldorf
Is This The Way To Amarillo - Tony Christie
She Couldn't - Montgomery Gentry
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go - Wham!
Radiation Vibe - Fountains Of Wayne
The Champ - The Mohawks
American Girl - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
All The Things She Said - The BossHoss
Delivery - Babyshambles
Fall to Pieces - Avril Lavigne
This Ain't No Beach Party - Cruiserweight
Ode To A Superhero - Weird Al Yankovic
Save Your Kisses For Me - Brotherhood Of Man
I Wanna Do It All - Terri Clark
king of the jungle - Tommy Cooper

Lincoln to London
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 - Antony Billington
Fire Brigade - The Move
Sister Surround - Soundtrack Of Our Lives
25 Minutes To Go - Johnny Cash
Walkin' The Boogie - John Lee Hooker
Twist - Goldfrapp
I Got Heaven Right Here On Earth - The Temptations
Defending Ancient Springs - Jackie Leven
Adidas Hoodie - Lady Sovereign
Team Mate - Kaiser Chiefs
Jaded - Aerosmith
A Walk Across The Rooftops - The Blue Nile
Nowheresville - E
The Devil Went Down to Scunthorpe - Toy Dolls
My Baby Sure Can Shag - The Tams
World Of A King (live) - David Mead
Adia - Sarah McLachlan
Disgusted - Lucinda Williams
Tracery - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
It Wasn't Me - Shaggy
Blue Melody - Helicopter Girl
Hey Julie - Fountains Of Wayne
Aisle Of Plenty - Genesis
Always Too Late - Annie
I Know There's An Answer - The Beach Boys
Poison Oak - Bright Eyes
Nobody Knows - Paul Brady
It's All Over But The Crying - Garbage
I Dreamed I Stopped Dreaming - Sam Phillips
It's Only Natural - Crowded House
Longtime Coming - The Zutons
Nevertheless - The Rutles

Saturday, October 06, 2007

London-Lincoln-London, 06-10-07

Suburban Sweetheart - Josh Rouse
Dial Jesus For Sweetness - Republic Of Loose
Trouble, Heartaches & Sadness - Ann Peebles
Brave New Century - Tears
London Girls - Vibrators
Awful - Hole
God Bless the Child - Blood, Sweat & Tears
I'll Tell Me Ma - Van Morrison & The Chieftains
Fuzzy - Grant Lee Buffalo
The Sound Of The Crowd - Human League
Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Don't Get Around Much Anymore - B.B. King
Can't Cry Hard Enough - Judy Collins
I Wanna Do It All - Terri Clark
Which Way To Happy - The Magic Numbers
The Love You Give - The Stands
Incommunicado - Marillion
The Ballad of Billy Jo - Jerry Lee Lewis
Made To Last - Semisonic
Who Will You Love? - Bill Mallonee
Heat Wave - Tommy McCook
Ito Okashi - Passengers (U2)
Heartbreak Hill - Emmylou Harris
Reelin' & Rockin' - Chuck Berry
She Couldn't - Montgomery Gentry
Tickle Me - Alan Price
Hymn - Ultravox
Jump - Madonna
Lean On Me - Beth Orton and Terry Callier
The Bucket - Kings of Leon
Comedown (Bonus Track) - The Lilac Time
Veena - Talvin Singh
Hunting High And Low (Remix) - a-Ha
Stop & Get A Hold Of Yourself - Gladys Knight
This Side - Nickel Creek
All The Things She Said - The BossHoss
Don't Go Away Mad - Little Village
One Night - Juliet Turner
Coming Up Close - 'Til Tuesday
Run For Cover (Escort 7") - Bob Marley And The Wailers
Beautiful World - Coldplay
I Knew The Bride (when she used to rock and roll) - Dave Edmunds
Andvari - Sigur Rós

Lincoln to London
Joyride - Roxette
Livin' Thing - Electric Light Orchestra
Rapture - iiO
Second, Minute or Hour - Jack Penate
Starlett Johansson - The Teenagers
She Said - Longpigs
D & W - They Might Be Giants (TMBG)
Lollipop - The Chordettes
Valerie - Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse
One More Chance - Candie Payne
Jacqueline - The Coral
Mad Dogs And Englishmen - Noel Coward
Shut Up and Drive - Rihanna
Charm Attack - Leona Naess
Don't Rain On My Parade - Barbra Streisand
From Despair To Where - Manic Street Preachers
Ding Dong Song - Gunter
All Rise - Blue
Say You Will - Fleetwood Mac
Young Folks - Peter, Bjorn and John & Victoria Bergsman
The Land Of Ring Dang Do - King Kurt
Strictly off the record - Statler & Waldorf
It's Raining Men - The Weather Girls
La la Song - The Kissaway Trail
Song 4 Mutya - Groove Armada Ft. Mutya
Going Out Of My Head - Fifth Dimension
Good Golly Miss Molly - Little Richard
Jump - Van Halen
Theme From S-Express - S-Express
Prescilla - Bat for Lashes
Benny Hill [TV Theme] - Benny Hill
Tarzan & Jane - Toy Box
If I Had A Hammer - Trini Lopez
Toxic - Britney Spears
Good and Bad - Statler & Waldorf
Closing Dialogue - Statler & Waldorf
Can We Fix It? - Bob the Builder
The Bad Touch - Bloodhound Gang
Fell off the stage - Statler & Waldorf
Dashboard - Modest Mouse
Doing It Right - The Go! Team
Shake Some Action - Flaming Groovies
You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Bachman Turner Overdrive
Idealistic (Radio Edit) - Digitalism
I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor - Arctic Monkeys
Flawless - The Ones
It Must Be Love - Madness

Friday, October 05, 2007

Vertu Ascent Ferrari 60

RegHardware reports: [edited]

Vertu's latest creation costs £12,600, and has been designed to celebrate Ferrari's 60th anniversary.

The back of the handset is partly decked in brown leather, embossed with Ferrari's logo, and a titanium panel featuring a gear-box pattern.

The screws used to hold the phone together have the same head pattern as those used to hold Ferrari's cars together and (just in case you don't think you're getting excellent value for money) Vertu have thrown in some Ferrari ring tones and wallpapers too.

The phone gives four hours talk time and is tri-band GSM. It also includes Bluetooth and has "precision engineered" keys to help users dial their butlers more accurately.

The Ferrari 60 handset is available now. You'll have to hurry though because only 60 are being made.

Spookily, you could buy 60 iPhones for the price of one Ascent Ferrari 60.

Gold-plate your MacBook Pro reports: [edited]

A gold plated MacBook Pro is now available from ComputerChoppers [not a made-up name, Ed.]. You can opt for the base metal and stones of your choice for the logos, anything from gold to platinum and diamonds to sapphires.

It costs between $1200 and $1500 to 24kt gold plate a MacBook Pro.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What's missing from this picture?

The apple symbol on the Command key.


For a full history click here

Free 'hand-formed' fonts

Pixilate create a range of hand-formed and pixel typefaces.

They've made a number of them available free, including the ones adorning this blog.

Blackout and Patchanka are pleasantly scratchy, while Kemie, Onder and Rafa make good handwriting substitutes.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tintin, the movie!

Coming Soon reports: [edited]

British scribe Steven Moffat is writing DreamWorks' Tintin, the movie trilogy collaboration from Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg that adapts the European comic strip created by Herge, says The Hollywood Reporter.

Moffat is best known for the new "Doctor Who" series and the BBC's "Jekyll."

In the comics, Tintin is a young Belgian reporter and world traveler who is aided in his adventures by his faithful dog Snowy. He later was joined by such colourful characters as Captain Haddock, Professor Cuthbert Calculus and bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson.

Kathleen Kennedy is serving as producer on the three feature films, which will be made using performance-capture technology and produced in digital 3-D. Jackson and Spielberg are each directing an installment, with the helmer of the third movie to be determined.

W.C. Fields

I am regularly sent emails with PowerPoint files attached.

I assume their contents are intended to amuse, inspire and edify me.

Sadly, the mixture of execrable typography, poor writing style, even more poorerer grammar, smelling pistakes and (with the religious ones) mawkish heresy inspires quite different reactions.

The most recent example to hit my server possessed many of the above properties, but some of the images tickled my funny-bone.

So, in the spirit of 'If you can't join 'em, beat 'em', I cleaned up some of the images, put them into a simple layout including some pun-some titles, and created a PDF of it for your viewing pleasure.

(Thanks to Andrew for the idea.)

Nikon D3 - no flash gun required

In August I blogged about the D3, Nikon's new 'pro' digital SLR.

The first pictures are filtering on to the internet. Cliff Mautner has blogged his initial experiences, and it looks as if one of its real breakthroughs is in handling low-light shots.

For downloadable full-res images, visit the Nikon site.

Now, how long will it be until this technology trickles down to more affordable compact models?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fairy Tower

Littlewing are one of those companies who do one thing, and do it very well. And the thing they do is computer simulations of pinball machines.

The graphics are clean and simple 2D copies of the pinball machines they are emulating. What makes the games special is the physics. The balls act like real pinballs. The flippers behave like real flippers.

Located in Japan, LittleWing's first computer pinball game, Tristan, was released in North America in 1991, and they have released a steady stream of successors.

The latest is Fairy Tower, and a free demo (Windows and Mac) is available for download.

Changing faces

Mutating Pictures reports: [edited]

A population of 1,000 random pictures, created in October 2007. You allow the fittest pictures to survive. The higher your rating for a pic the more mutated offspring it produces.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Teenagers - Starlett Johansson

Prefix Mag reports: [edited]

Like their countrymen Phoenix and Daft Punk, the Teenagers use big dumb 80s riffs that have been Frenched up to the point of acceptability. The song follows the group’s established template, with an ambiguously European creep speaking slowly, leading to an airy (and Air-y) chorus from his more dashing counterpart.

The only things these two seem to know about Miss Scarlett are nuggets gained from men’s magazines and video rentals. In the manner of a seventeen year old dolt, the actions of the parts she plays are attributed to the actress herself..

But when you hear the words, “and then I noticed/poor Jared Leto,” avoiding a grin is clinically impossible.

Revolutionising online payments

BetaNews reports: [edited]

After attempting to shake up the healthcare industry, AOL co-founder Steve Case is now looking to do the same to online payments.

The new venture is called Revolution Money and allows users to transfer money at no charge, as well offers a credit card for business that has lower fees for the money they get charged to accept it.

Businesses are only required to pay 0.5 percent of the total sale made on the RevolutionCard to the company, rather than the industry average of 1.9 percent. In addition, consumers gain the added security of a PIN number on their cards.

If the customer desires, the card could even include no name or account number on it, making transactions anonymous and the card useless to thieves who would need the PIN number in order to use it.

"Traditional, and even online, incumbents have been charging what adds up to billions of dollars of fees every year that ultimately comes out of consumers' pockets," Case said in a statement earlier this week.

The concept is enough to get Wall Street excited: Revolution Money has already raised $50 million in venture capital funding from companies that included Citibank and Morgan Stanley.

Not surprisingly, its first partner is AOL, who will allow payments through the AIM service.

The online payment system could be seen as a threat to PayPal and Google Checkout, while its credit card concept could significantly shake up the long-entrenched personal credit industry, which has three large players - American Express, MasterCard and Visa - and a host of others with limited reach.