Monday, 25 February 2008


Becycle is an interesting project being run up at Aberdeen University.

In September 2007 a number of students started to develop a fully free bicycle repair workshop and bicycle lending library. The workshop supplies tools and know how to students to assist them in bicycle repair works. Additionally it has shown very successful to repair unused bicycles- gathered through sponsorships- to send them back onto Aberdeen’s roads in form of a lending library- again free of charge.

The workshop managed not only to circulate a number of bikes in the University community but also gained access to repair tools, spare parts and knowledgeable folks and runs a web page that has been having over 1250 visits since it went online in October 2007.

In only three months this project has proven very popular and could potentially grow to great things.

The aim of the workshop is to support sustainable transport, to encourage students to do simple repair works by themselves and to provide a space for exchange and skill development complementing the University’s sustainable transport policies. Source

I wish it success.

Sunday, 24 February 2008


Perhaps we could run SpeedCabling competitions? Maybe a book-token for the winner?

A new "sport" based around unravelling the mass of wires that can typically be found beneath computer desks the world over is taking off in the western US.

The first "speedcabling" competition took place in an art gallery in Los Angeles and was won by LA-based web developer Matthew Howell.

The challenge was devised by IT professional Steven Schkolne. Contestants are faced with a tangled mass of six ethernet cables of various lengths. Their task is simply to separate them in the fastest time.

To get them to replicate the conditions of the wires found snaking and choking their way around hard drive units, monitors and printers in offices worldwide, Schkolne first started by tangling them in a figure eight. Then he threw the bundles in a clothes dryer - no longer attached to any computer unit, naturally.

Full story from BBC News

Friday, 22 February 2008

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Scottish Natural Heritage

I'd just like to recommend the Scottish Natural Heritage to you. I've been playing pine marten snap and reading up on Scottish geology. All for free on their site.

Well done to the SNH.

Woohoo, just found their educational resources - handy for parents taking their kids out.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Something wicked this way comes

I was sure i saw a squirrel on they way in to work. I was sure it was grey. I am not sure if i have to report it though, nor who to.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Pods and Blogs

Pods and Blogs on Radio 5. First time listener. Show link.

Hmm - not sure why an American voice introduces the show.

Film piracy, as the recent mooted desire of the film companies to lock people off the Net for piracy. I wonder if that includes YouTube/Google? No, of course it doesn't - they are trying hard to lock down illegal posts to their site.

Interesting investigative piece by a blogger, who is then interviewed for the radio, which I'm listening to via a podcast. Strangely it is still headed as "Radio 5 Live".

7-year blogger, Neil Gaiman, is giving away a book on his site. Yup, that guy. 2 of his books/graphic novels have been made into movies recently. Interesting thoughts on how people "discover" authors. Discussion what he gets out of blogging: immediacy with readers. 16,000 votes on his site in 24 hours. Great Douglas Adams quote about books and sharks - the reason sharks are still around is that there's nothing as good as being a shark as a shark - the same is true of books. I miss Douglas Adams, he was an inspiration.

Beagle Bloggers - Charles Darwin's 200th next year. Or is it a figment of intelligent design?

Food blogs. football club podcast.

Nipped across to Radio 4's iPM show to see if there were similarities. I'm going to have to listen to the earlier shows.

That's Alright

Watched some of the "Elvis: '68 Comeback" dvd from June 1968. (trailer)

Just under 40 years ago. The youngest person in the audience looked to be around 10 years old. Some 50-, 60-, 70- year old folk are walking the streets, being pestered by thieves and wasters because they are old, but they have the knowledge that they experienced something unique. Something that the modern stolen, downloaded, processed music can't reproduce.

So; go and see live music when you can.

Will it be enough to save the Lemon Tree? Who knows, but you'll have the experience in your brain and no-one can take that away from you.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Same day, different atmospherics

Wow. Spooky or what. This time last night it was daylight, today we have a heavy fog. Awoooo!

Another day on the farm

Woohoo, a sunny day and i'm back on the 6th floor.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

First of Many

Today I went to work in daylight, and left 10 hours later in daylight. I am sure that this is a first for 2008.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

You're Fired

The Independent on Sunday article highlights some recent court cases where peoples' online life was used against them in court cases.

In Texas, a driver whose car was involved in a fatal accident found his MySpace postings ("I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunkaholic") part of the prosecution's case.

Have you written anything like that?

From Los Angeles to Lowestoft, thousands of social network site users have lost their jobs – or failed to clinch new ones – because of their pages' contents. Police, colleges and schools are monitoring MySpace and Facebook pages for what they deem to be "inappropriate" content. Online security holes and users' naivety are combining to cause privacy breaches and identity thefts.

You've read the warnings posted here already, haven't you?

Last September, David Rice, Britain's second-ranked tennis junior, and Naomi Brady, national U-18 champion, had their funding pulled and coaching suspended after the Lawn Tennis Association found pictures of them drinking beer, partying and, in Ms Brady's case, posing at a nightclub with her legs wrapped around a vending machine.

Your blogs are your chance to show your work to the world, not your drunken exploits to potential employers.

Source: Facebook can ruin your life. And so can MySpace, Bebo...

Friday, 8 February 2008

Blogging for Charity

This is a strange one. I picked up from a post from Paul Webster that he was going to blog for charity. "Hmm", I thought, "that's a good idea. Can I adSense and give any pennies raised to charity?" So, I was about to email a certain charity, but searched on Google's adSense site to find out their policy.... here's what they say...

While we do appreciate your charitable efforts, this practice is not permitted by our program policies. We want users to click on ads because they are interested in the products or services offered by the advertiser, not because they are interested in supporting a site or a charity. Using this type of language can draw undue attention to the ads, and we aren't able to verify whether earnings are actually donated to the third-party mentioned on each site. As a result, we don't allow publishers to offer these types of incentives.

But they go on...

However, please know that once you've received your payments, you're still welcome to use them however you wish - whether it's donating them to a charity, paying your hosting bills, or treating yourself to a night out on the town. We just ask that you avoid using any language on your site that would directly or indirectly encourage users to click on your ads. (source)

So, the upshot is...if I put adverts on my blog, I can't say that they are for charity. I can't imply that they are for charity. So, what is the point in me cluttering up my blog with adverts. Readers could accuse me of raising revenue via this site, and I'd be unable to say that it was for charity.

Yet more stress caused by people behind the computer systems. So, finally, the upshot is ... this site is still advert-free. Money I donate via memberships and donations are still my own business, or maybe I'll set up a "justgiving" site for donations instead - but you can do that yourself, so why should I get involved.

Prosperity and long life - it is indeed the year of the rat.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Lovely Morning

The benefit of working on the 6th floor of the tower block.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Personal Wind Turbine

This came through on Kirou's newsfeed: the alternative power source HYmini is now available for purchase.

A quick search and there's a longer article on CoolHunting. I'm more interested.

I find the manufacturer's site:

I finally see a photo giving me an idea of scale. I'm impressed. I want to see if I can secure it to a pack during the day and use it to generate and store power. Even tie it between 2 guylines overnight.

YouTube search brings up some good videos, for example, this one:

I want one for the next long hiking session. After 3-days, I get concerned about recharging the mobile phone. And finally, it looks like the output is via USB instead of some proprietary connection.

Monday, 4 February 2008

And The Clocks Were Striking Thirteen

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

And so starts George Orwell's "1984".

On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Orwell was writing it exactly 60 years ago this year, and it was published in 1949.The book is as apt today as it was when I read it in 1984.

He had been appointed to a sub-committee of a sub-committee which had sprouted from one of the innumerable committees dealing with minor difficulties that arose in the compilation of the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. They were engaged in producing something called an Interim Report, but what it was that they were reporting on he had never definitely found out. It was something to do with the question of whether commas should be placed inside brackets, or outside.

Following links from Wikipedia, there are copies from Australia and cartoon versions, even a radio play from 1949. I must re-read it before April this year. There was a good series on BBC2 recently about British Science Fiction. I think it came originally from BBC4. I used to read a lot of early sci-fi when I was travelling to/from school on the bus, but I think it was American early and "golden years" stories. Unlike tv programmes and fleeting media, I find that reading things stays more in my brain. But I'm sure that's just a sign of my age. But then again, what's the point in remembering tv programmes if you can't give a copy of the documentary to a mate - but you can point them to a book, or a film. We are losing information into the aether of marginal tv channels where the makers can generate extra revenue in the hope that we, the public, will follow. If the data is out there and we can't find it, then it might as well not exist and we should call the fire brigade.

There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means

If you've never read the book, go to the library and get it. Go to a bookshop and buy it (maybe even from one of these cheap shops or charity shops). Or read the linked file text from Wikipedia. You won't regret it. Or you can get back to your entertainment, being happily advertised as "brain-dead tv".

How Many d's in Luddite?

I won't apologise for stating the bleedin' obvious, but computers create as many opportunities for problems as they do solutions. 

There, i've finally said it! And the world hasn't come to an end yet!

Sunday, 3 February 2008



I noticed with interest that "Live for the outdoors" (Trail/Country Walking) have an advert in a photography magazine (Digital Photo, March 08). It's not great, as it isn't tailored to that market especially, and the graphic used is badly pixilated....but, in the same way that Bob's TOS allowed him to move away from 'just' being sticky content for, so this rebranding allows L4dO them to market their online content to people who are interested in the outdoors, but not the magazines.

As this involves a lot of user-generated content, I wonder how people who participate in it feel about being 'used' in this manner. No doubt, so long as there are still meets and competitions, and a feeling of community, they are happy that the hosting of photos, and cross-fertilisation of ideas and gaining of new ones is worth it. Of course, as magazine sales drop in favour of online content, one also wonders how long it will take before revenue generation becomes a bigger part of online companies. The usual way of doing this is to have basic (free) access, and additional (subscription) content. Just look at for this model.

The fight is on, not for you to buy their magazine, but for them to get you going to their one-stop-shop for all your <insert interest here> needs. If you take photographs of the outdoors, go to <insert name of site> and you'll find content that you can customise to give you the information that you want and need. Of course, there'll be advertising tailored to this, but it will not be spam, because you might find some of it interesting.

The hunt is on. The customer is the prey. You can always switch off, escape from it all, but you'd better not go near a digital media service of any sort. Artificial intelligence and marketing. All for your benefit. Just don't eat the soylent green.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Spell checker needed for windows

Oh dear. I hope it wasn't one of my students who wrote this.


d/l'd the Halo demo n gave it a whack. Sim controls 2 old Castle Falkenstein, which evolved into Doom. So intuitive. Loved the Gunny character that appeared when I quit (having failed to get thru doors in the Easy - Silent Cart'pher miss'; but also failed in my attempt to drown the warthog at sea). Sale's pitch for the full ver: "It's got tanks, guns"...all to a happy jingle. "Buy one, heck, buy two" (uToob, n spoof)

Friday, 1 February 2008

Perceptions Change

I get strange looks in my office when the wild weather outside cheers me up instead of gettting me down. Nature in its element. Inhuman. Impersonal. Uncaring. It accepts no blame for your misjudgement. It just is.

Can i check your bags, sir

I didn't take anything out of the server room meeting but a headfull of ideas. And now it's snowing. Cracking stuff.


It may not be my choice of abbreviations, but BS08 marks "Breathing Space Day 2008".

Anyone can feel down or depressed from time to time. It helps to get some Breathing Space. You are not alone and talking about how you feel is a positive first step in getting help. So don't let problems get out of hand, phone Breathing Space where experienced advisors will listen and provide information and advice.

Breathing Space Scotland's Home Page

Breathing Space Day aims to encourage people to think about what they can do to take a breathing space from their hectic lives in order to nurture their mental health and well-being.

Tony McLaren, National Coordinator for Breathing Space, said: "This is an exciting initiative, designed to get people talking about how they take care of their own mental well-being in daily life, and in general promoting awareness of positive mental health and challenging stigma in relation to mental health problems.

Who could resist an organisation that uses a photograph like this? My idea of heaven - except I'd be wearing more appropriate gear and heading up that track to see what's on the other side.

For example, Cairn Toul during a 4-day unsupported solo trek to the Cairngorm plateau, Summer 07. It's 1291m/4236ft, and the Lairig Ghru's off to one side. Topped 5 Munros in the circuit. MapLink

There's lots of information on the site: "open up when you're feeling down".


PS: Looking at the photo again, I think the chap may be caught at the bottom of the slope, concerned about it. Aye, here's the same chap again under the "Lonely? Feeling isolated" heading.