Monthly Archives: May, 2008

Twitter, glorious twitter…

One of my favourite local cafes is more switched-on than I’d realised….

OpenSSL bug

If you run any Ubuntu or Debian systems, or have users who do, you should read this if you don’t already know about the OpenSSL security bug. I fear it’s going to be important.

Textual healing

I’m one of those people who has no idea how many free texts I get on my phone, because I never get anywhere close to the limit.

It may be something to do with getting into the Blackberry thing early, so it’s always just been cheaper for me to send emails. Or it may be that I just never really like small keyboards, so while I read a great deal on my phone, I don’t write very much (despite my E61 having a nice QWERTY keyboard).

When I do want to send a text to someone, I often go to my laptop and right-click on their name in Address Book because it’s just so much easier to send it by Skype.

Anyway, what prompted me to post was the discovery that my mother is changing her phone plan because 100 texts a month aren’t enough for her. I probably don’t send that many in a year! So am I way uncool, or is it cooler not to be sending texts now that my Mum is being so prolific? How many texts do you send?

Where would you like to put your buddy list?

The latest product to use the DisplayLink technology is Samsung’s 2263DX, which is, I suppose, a monitor and a half.

I haven’t seen one in the flesh yet, but it looks cute. Ideal for buddy lists, twitter status, today’s calendar…

Surreal Safety

Here’s a fun way to increase your visibility when cycling at night:

It’s called Monkeylectric, and a search will find various other videos and photos.

The gorilla in the room

Michael and Laura today gave me a fabulous present. It’s a Gorillapod, a beautifully-designed device which lets you put cameras – or other things with similar mounts – almost anywhere.

Gorillapod on chair

Here it is on my bike handlebars:

We had fun today thinking of other things to do with it.

And I mounted my little Ixus on it and recorded video in unusual places. (Such as the view from the top of my head while walking home from lunch – I got to see what the world would look like if I were several inches taller)

If you need to find a present for someone with any interest in photography or video, I’d strongly recommend one of these. It’s fantastic. It’s also very tactile – a great stress-relieving executive toy…

UK readers can get them from Amazon.

Useful phrases

Hap has given us a wonderful book which includes some extracts from the “Travellers Manual for French Persons in Germany and German Persons in France”, written by Mme de Genlis at the end of the 18th century. It includes the following useful phrases, which you may want to look up in other languages in case you need them next time you get off your RyanAir flight:

Listen, postilion, if you drive at a good speed when the road is good, and slowly on corners and bridges or in towns and villages, then I shall give you a good tip. Otherwise, you shall have only the fare.

Postilion, a man has just climbed onto the back of the coach. Make him get down.

The descent is quite steep. I wish the brakes to be attached.

I believe that the wheels are on fire. Look and see.

The postilion has fainted. Administer the eau de Luce.

Gently remove the postilion from beneath the horse.

Cambridge opportunities

A quick note to let you know (if you didn’t already) that Camvine is looking for really good technical people and sales/marketing/bus. dev. people. (One of each, at present).

Contact me if you’d like to know more about life in a fun Cambridge startup…

A wee thought from down under

I’ve walked past the Sofitel in Queenstown, NZ. But I never popped in to use the gents’ loo. Which is a pity, because it’s rather fun!

From ‘Mental Floss‘.

A perfect day

A hot, beautiful, lazy day here today.


We walked for miles. England at its best.


How the zebra got its stripes…

Zebra striping is the practice of using alternating background colours in rows of a table. It’s supposed to make the table easier to read.

Jessica Enders did a study and discovered that a small majority of people preferred the look of striped tables. But did they actually help? Find out here.

Save us from the dull

As my friends will tell you, I’m not a political animal. I tend to vote for a different party at each election, and I often make up my mind when I’m actually in the polling booth, typically using some highly-sophisticated reasoning like, “Big majorities are bad – they’re like big monopolies – so I want to support the little guy”. Well, it’s often not far from that. And that’s assuming I actually remember that it’s polling day.

Now, it’s not that I don’t care about what happens to the country, or that I don’t value democracy.

It’s partly that I feel insufficiently informed to make a judgement. I don’t have time to follow the news, I’m highly sceptical about most of what I read in the papers, and like all well-brought-up Englishmen, I know that politics is not a suitable topic of discussion at the dinner table. (I remember amazing some American friends by telling them that I had no idea how my parents voted and that I certainly wouldn’t dream of asking them.) To raise the topic of politics is to invite an argument or to assume that others think the same way as you – neither is very polite, though in some circles you can get away with it if nobody present has any strong views.

Meanwhile, back at the polling station, there’s generally so little to differentiate the candidates and parties that it’s hard to make a judgement unless you believe very strongly in a few specific issues – always, I feel, a bad basis for electing a government that may be in power for a long time and is unlikely to worry too much about its manifesto once they’re there.

What I really long for is interesting politicians. You could have an opinion about Margaret Thatcher or Neil Kinnock; you could guess what they might say or do differently on a particular topic. But William Hague or Gordon Brown or, well, anybody recent really… in hindsight some of them may have been better choices than others but not really in any way that could have been predicted in advance.

Where are the old rogues, the wits, the orators, the rebels, the great statesmen? People you could applaud, curse, or admire? People who have the balls to make big gestures and risk big mistakes. Have they really gone, or is it that we and the press have just got more sceptical, more risk-averse?

Anyway, whatever you may think about London’s choice of mayor, both the departing and the arriving one, Londoners do at least have an advantage over the rest of the country in having politicians who can be readily distinguished from each other. Much more interesting..

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser