Computing

Google Chrome

Today, Google release a beta of their new browser software, Chrome. Like Mozilla Firefox, it will be Open Source. This comic strip explains the concepts behind it. The ideas look good, very solid.

There is the possibility of 'Browser Wars' re-erupting - but if they do, I don't see it repeating MSIE/Netscape, as there new features were introduced ad-hoc. There is more emphasis today on being standards compliant - and this is a good thing. I don't imagine that Google would want to promote non-standard html code, it'd make their core business more difficult - and so another standard compliant browser out there will be a kick to MSIE to get those remaining issues quashed (especially with CSS).

The bigger risk is google being too big, too powerful and breaking their 'don't be evil' motto (some would say 'too late'). Fingers in too many pies and all that. Whilst Chrome has the potential to squash all before it - I don't get that vibe at the moment. Let's see how things develop.

Links:

Load Errors

I've been having CPU Load errors of late. I don't know why this is - something to do with SQL requests, but it's very frustrating. I can only assume that something is over-zealous in the SQL calls. Therefore, I've removed any plugins that weren't immediately needed, removed things like the calendar (which to my mind is just 'cruft' - who cares if a post went out on the 3rd August? Aren't people more likely to use the search box?)

One thing I found was that the database backup script ran on both murky.org and the backup domain simultaneously - this was killed with extreme prejudice!

Plan for the future:

  1. Continue to tag old posts.
  2. Remove/Reduce categories so that I have a few main categories only
  3. Work a new theme which I've done from scratch - I have my plans, but this isn't a quick thing.
  4. In the age of decent search engines, do I really need archives which are date based, category based etc? Should I not redirect data based links to some other archive, allowing for fewer cached pages?

It's possible that one cause of CPU load is the tag editor I'm using behind the scenes - it accesses many posts at once - so it's possible that the CPU load thing might sort itself out once this task is done - or when I limit the number of posts edited at once!

It could be that there's something much more fundamental and the host itself is just not up to the task of running a low-traffic site which has WP SuperCache on it. In which case, I may have to change hosts. Up until the last few days, this hasn't been a problem though, so hopefully removing a few database lookups, and tagging fewer old posts at once might make things play nice again.

Either way, Argh! Don't just tell me that there is a high load, tell me which scripts are responsible!

Digiguide

DigiGuide, the best TV guideFor several months now, I've been using 'DigiGuide' - and I have to say that it's pretty good. It's a Tv listing piece of software, which allows for flexible alerts (not like the radiotimes system which requires you to find the programme first).

One can set alerts based on actor, title, 'new episode', genre... generally, if you can find something to search on, you can search for it.

Clicking the above link gets to a free trial. I took a free trial and found it to be so useful that I signed up for the software.

World Cup, Computers and the Yanks

Following the BBC's announcement that all the World cup games are to be streamed over the internet, there have been the usual hysterical reactions: 'the BBC is being charged with jeopardising corporate networks, and by implication the UK economy.' Really?

If Spain plays, say, Iran - will this really bring down the UK economy? If there's an England game, perhaps - but then, workers are likely to be distracted anyway.

If a corporation which relies on the net for it's key functions insists on a 'no TV' rule, doesn't do it's workers a favour for a critical England game working out a solution and cannot put in a simple fix on the network to prevent the network being used for this purpose, then frankly they shouldn't have the net as a mission-critical part of their operation.

For the rest of us, we're going to be watching the game, so we won't notice!

Yes, I know that it shouldn't be a distraction, and people should be professional but let's get real. If there is a critical game going on, people will get resentful if they miss it - this in itself is 'bad for business'.

Let's pause for a minute and look at just when and how the UK teams (or rather team, Scotland and Wales did not qualify) are playing.

For England, the games are

  • Saturday 10th, 2pm
  • Thurs 15th, 5pm
  • Thurs 20th, 8pm

...and then the knockouts start. The first of which are on the weekend of the 24th, (the knockouts extend to Tuesday, but England will only play on Saturday or Sunday).

If England comes second in group B and gets to the quarter finals, then they might play at 4pm on Friday 30th. Surely most businesses would see this as an opportunity and would use this as a staff bonding thing?

The remaining games are 7 or 8pm.

Yes, some people will have to work at these hours - but surely the dire predictions of a 2pm network crash are unfounded? Unless I've made an error, there are no weekday afternoon games for England. As far as the UK is concerned, the problem might have been overstated a little?

On a not unrelated note, on cable (either More 4 or E4, they merge into one for me) at 8:30pm there is 'The Daily Show'. It's a US import. Last night they were showing a re-run, as it's been taking a holiday in the US. They showed one with Denis Leary, and someone (I think it was John Stewart) said 'Isn't it the World Cup of Soccer this year?' About two people in the audience (an audience that normally whoops and hollers the way US audiences seem to do) went 'yeah'.

Add to this that the man had to ask! It's an interesting contrast with almost anywhere else in the world you care to look.

The Register has an article on the scheduling conflicts that may well take place this summer

"People are suffering schedule stress," warns psychologist Harry Witchel, who tested his theory by sticking electrodes into Lost fans and forcing them to miss an episode, the big bastard. The results, says Harry, were "dramatically stressful".

Hmm... electrodes? Lost fans? I knew I should have done some psychology!

If it were 'West Wing' that would have been cruel and unusual...

'24' and the clock

'24' is a nice little show, and I've watched it since the start. I've forgiven them the fact that CTU seems to have more moles than a country field, that Jack Bauer seems to be the only person in the entire organisation capable of saving the day. Heck, I even forgave them the Puma (but that took some time....). Overall, the occasional sillinesses are offset by some good stuff. However, in the UK we've just got to the 'reveal' about the President - I have the nasty suspicion that I may need to forgive them one more time.

Therefore, it bugs me, as someone who knows quite a bit about electronics (I'm not doing my 'cool' factor any favours here, am I?) that I didn't notice that the clock used on '24' is impossible to make with seven segment LED displays.

Firstly, the '1' has serifs, there's a little 'bar' on the top, but the top LED shows no sign of being splittable when 7 is displayed. More critically the numbers have been 'kerned', so when a 1 is displayed it is closer to the numbers to the left than it should be, this means that some transitions between numbers are never used, 0->1 and 1->2. The one exception to this is the end of the show when we see the clock move to the next hour, e.g. 10:59:59->11:00:00 or 11:59:59->12:00:00. In this case some extra space is given for the '1' so that the numbers don't have to move around.

I am SO annoyed that I didn't notice. I think I'll get over it soon....

... okay. I'm over it.

Frappr

I've been playing with a mapping website called 'frappr'. Essentially the idea is that people can add themselves to a map - the maps might be groups of friends, groups of people who like bunnies, or anything. Out of curiousity, I made a map for people who read this site (the map is here.

If you're not on the current map view, you can scroll the map around, and zoom the map as appropriate.

Enjoy!

(I've also found ballofdirt.com - which looks very useful).

3D model of the wife

3D model of the wifeMonica went to a lecture where a 3D computer model was made of her head. The model arrived today. This picture is a composite of various views of the model.

Essentially two photos were taken at different angles, and the 3D model was extracted from them. The resulting model is able to be viewed from any angle, and is very cool indeed.

The US makes moves to 'regulate' blogging

Political speech should be regulated, says the draft... actually, the moves have been blocked, but it does give some impression of the direction certain people would wish to take. (via slashdot) ... and this is in a country with a written constitution to protect free speech.

Whatever part of the political spectrum, unless you have an extremely authoritarian outlook, this is something to keep an eye on. If this goes down in the US, how long would it take Tony and friends to follow?

Geeking Along

I've started to play with ipodder and have subscribed to a few things almost at random including the BBC 'In Our Time' trial and Grape Radio. What I want to know is.... what are the 'must listen' mp3 feeds out there? I'm after any and all suggestions - I may not use them all, but it'll be nice to know what others view as essential.

Elsewhere, google news is now customisable.

Computer Mouse

Charcoal sketch of my computer mouseWhen I went into the art shop yesterday, I came away with (among other things) a small stick of charcoal. The charcoal is quite firm to hold, not flakey as I imagined it might be, and so into the pencil tin it went.

I did an earlier sketch with charcoal (not on this site) and was too delicate. It ended up looking pencil-ish. I decided to start again, this time with a darker subject, I looked around me at the black LCD screen, black keyboard, black PC.... and settled on the mouse.

I started with a faint outline - I was making the same mistake again. I then decided to be bold. The charcoal went on dark. This was fun!

What's good about the end result? The dark tones, love it.

What could be better? The perspective is shot to hell in a handcart. I know, I'll call it cubist.

The other good buy yesterday? Fixative spray. A quick blast and the thing is touch safe. Miraculous stuff! Especially vital when the work it to have other pages rubbing up against it in a moleskine!

Why is Cryptography Important?

Cryptography seems quite an esoteric subject, yet it is fundamental to our world in so many ways. When people think about cryptography, assuming they have heard the word, they will tend to think of 'cloak and dagger' stories, of spies and battles, of secret liaisons amongst lovers and all sorts of high drama.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of this sort of thing in history, from Babington writing in code to Queen mary, to the Allies cracking the German Enigma code, to the Rosenberg trials in the states.

However, cryptography is essential in everyday life. When you buy from a site such as amazon you are relying upon public key cryptography to keep your credit card details safe. When your operating software automatically updates over the internet it too will use a public key algorithm to check that the update it is about to install was really published by the right people, and not by someone trying to get into your computer.

Without cryptography cash machines would not be possible, as the machines would not be able to reliably communicate with the bank computers. Without cryptography, even the idea of electronic voting would not be possible (though they are making a mess of the new systems in the US).

Cryptographic ideas can also be used in making message easier to decode - without these ideas we would not have error checking capabilities on communications lines, and the internet would run much more slowly. We would not be able to reduce redundancy in a message and hence compress it, thus negating popular archival programs such as 'zip'.

All of these ideas, making messages compact, error resistant, secure (or all of the above) are related to cryptography.

Without cryptographic ideas, you would not be able to read this website.