Monthly Archives: June, 2008

Thought for the day

If you give a talk in a research establishment,
is that a lab-oratory?

Today’s highlights

Here’s a useful site: the Awesome Highlighter. It lets you create a short URL link not only to a page, but to some text you’d like to highlight within that page. There’s a bookmarklet and Firefox plugin to make it easier to use. Quite clever.

Here’s an example of the results. The yellow bit isn’t in the original page:


Purity of fields

from xkcd

Hurrah for Ireland!

Hee hee… The Irish have voted ‘No’ to the Lisbon treaty. Splendid stuff!

Now, the Eurocrats have a long tradition of bypassing the democratic process. In 2001, they asked the Irish people to vote again until they got the answer right. A bit like Mr Mugabe.

This time, they changed the name of a previously-rejected treaty, and most of Europe didn’t even get a chance to vote because the French and Dutch got the wrong answer under the old name and they might not quite be bamboozled into voting differently this time. So, no doubt, the suits in Brussels will now come up with another way to ignore the wishes of the people. Ah well…

Europolitics is like Eurovision. The votes are highly dubious, it gets sillier every year, and it too is likely to go into serious decline when Ireland stops winning.

Homer page?

Neil Davidson from Red Gate software was visiting the other day, and since he’d seen my interest in the Iliad, he brought his along:

My brief experiments left me quite impressed. It’s beautifully manufactured and has the best e-ink-type screen I’ve seen yet. It has wifi, too, and I gather from friends that it’s rather more ‘hackable’ than some of the competition. And unusually, you can also write on it with a stylus:

Nice for notes & sketching, but you can also annotate PDFs.

Of course, there are downsides. Joe Newman tells me that it’s slow to boot, and the battery life is around 5 hours of reading… both of which are markedly different from my Sony. I guess you have to keep more bits powered up on the Iliad, to detect stylus contact etc, whereas the Sony uses almost no power at all until you turn a page. I felt it really needed a processor with double the speed, which no doubt would swallow a battery even faster. And, of course, the biggest problem is the price: at £400, it costs more than two Kindles.

Nonetheless, I think this, and not the Kindle, is really the shape of things to come.


Rose found my ‘cute story of the day‘ for today.

The three roads to happiness

Public footpath signs

I’ve always felt that one of the things I’d miss most if I ever left the UK for, say, America, is our network of public footpaths. I’ve spent many a happy weekend afternoon on them, discovering places I’d never seen before.

An example from this afternoon for all you Cambridge residents. Where, within 10 miles of the city centre, can you find white limestone cliffs? You can’t see them from the road.


They’re a lot more dramatic than they look here, too.

But as well as drama this afternoon, there was beauty:

a rose in sunlight

And history:


and cuteness:


But the cutest moment came near the end of my walk when, hearing lots of cheeping coming from the river, I went closer and saw a couple of swans and three cygnets heading homewards:


There was quite a current, and the little one were having to work hard to keep up.

But no, wait, I was mistaken. Four cygnets:


One had obviously found the current a bit too much and had to be given a lift.

They headed off in the evening sun.


And so did I.

More photos here.

Rock and Edirol

I must be just the sort of customer Apple love, I think. Having had fun playing with iMovie, I long ago upgraded to Final Cut Express, and I’m a big fan of Aperture, their offering for those who need more than iPhoto.

This week I decided to splash out on Logic Studio, which is a substantial upgrade from GarageBand, and I’m looking forward to getting to grips with it. A key part of the decision was that it includes Soundtrack Pro which is an exceedingly powerful audio editor/mixer and has good facilities for creating video soundtracks. The package isn’t cheap, but some of the individual components used to cost substantially more on their own in the not-too-distant past. And hey, who knows when I might have to mix a 5.1-surround soundtrack to my home movies! One thing was clear, though, I really needed to replace my miscellaneous cheap mic pre-amps, phantom power units etc with a better audio interface if I were to make the most of Logic.

The default manufacturer of such kit for amateurs like me is usually M-Audio – I have some other bits from them, and their Fasttrack Pro USB interface was recommended on Gear Media Tech.

But USB is almost always an inferior technology to Firewire, especially if you’re concerned about latencies or the number of channels. It’s something PC owners often have to live with, but Macs all have Firewire, so I thought about the M-Audio Firewire 410, which you can buy from the Apple Store or, at nearly half the price, from StudioSpares. However, as I read up on this, people seemed divided on whether M-Audio are good value for money, or just cheap, and in addition, they had taken a very long time coming up with Leopard drivers for the 410.

So in the end, I went for the Edirol FA-66, also available from Studiospares. (It doesn’t need any drivers for Mac OS X.)

On my first quick experiments, I’m very pleased. It does everything I wanted and more. All I need now is some talent to go with it!

Cambridgeshire Art Fair

For those in the Cambridge area not heading for Strawberry Fair to smoke illegal substances, I’d strongly recommend the Cambridgeshire Art Fair at Chilworth Hall, the best art exhibition/sale I’ve been to in a long time.

The quality of work was, I thought, very high, and with nearly 50 exhibitors from all over the country, many of them galleries showing several artists, there’s bound to be something to suit everyone’s tastes, if not their budgets.

Highly recommended, but the last day is tomorrow, so you’ll need to be quick.

Feeling powerless?

On Sunday morning we had a brief power outage at home. Everything went quiet, and my little electricity monitor, which normally shows a usage of somewhere around 1kW, displayed a number I hadn’t seen before:

All of a sudden, I understood the appeal of trying to generate your own power and get ‘off the grid’. It must be quite satisfying to see how low you can get this number in normal daily life.

Don’t get left behind

Hee hee…. this is fabulous…

At the ‘rapture’, when all good Christians will be whisked away to heaven, they may be kicking themselves that they didn’t leave behind some words of wisdom for their loved ones below, perhaps a last plea for them to accept the gospel. My knowledge of escatological theology is far too rusty for me to remember whether changing your mind at this stage is actually an option still on offer, but if it is, I’d have thought that the sudden disappearance of millions of people would be enough of a hint that it might be worth considering.

However, if you’re still worried, you can relax because there is, of course, a web service to cater even for this. At you can upload and store securely all your important messages and documents, which will automatically be sent by email to those who are left, a few days after the rapture occurs.

You can include your bank account details, powers of attorney etc so that your unfortunate friends and relatives can have fewer legal hassles after you’ve gone because, let’s face it, that’s the last thing anyone wants to worry about as they prepare for the everlasting fires of Hell.

Thanks to Bill Thompson for the link. Wonderful stuff.


The Telectroscope looks very cool, and some of the ideas further down in Tom Taylor’s post are just the kind of things we want to do with CODA before long.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser