Sunday, February 07, 2010

If it works for you.

Down the barrel

I thought I would go for a rather more surreal photo to head this weeks' entry, than the usual figurative subjects I pick; I took this shot a while back in Woolwich, outside the Royal Artillery Firepower Museum. It is a section of pipe that was sold to Saddam Hussein as part of the Project Babylon Super Gun project. Personally I think it was a real life episode of Hustle writ large. I think the whole thing was a confidence trick on the Iraqi regime. There is no way that it would have worked - the thing is huge and strong by most everyday standards, but it would have been way too flimsy to have been used as the barrel of a giant gun.

I have had several enquiries over the last week from people who generally are not that interested / bothered by computer operating systems or software, but have recently been concerned by the intense coverage in the popular press of the security and reliability problems users have encountered with the now nine year old Internet Explorer 6. They want to move onto something both more modern and secure, and have been asking me for advice. To be honest, even later versions of Internet Explorer, such as the current version 8 are better, but personally I would strongly suggest that you try one of the following web browsers:

Firefox - the most common free and open source browser. Lots of add - ons and support.
Opera - the oldest Internet Explorer alternative, with a large and active community.
Chrome - relatively new browser from Google; very fast and well regarded.
Safari - a web browser from Apple. Available for Windows too.
Camino - A version of Firefox that is customised for the Apple Mac.
Flock - a variant of Firefox for those who want to be involved in social networking.
Konqueror - the Linux / BSD Unix file and web browser under the KDE GUI.
Seamonkey Suite - the free and open source replacement for the old Netscape Navigator suite.

My own take on this is that all of the above are available as free downloads; I would suggest that if you are looking for a new web browser, I would try as many as you feel comfortable with, and see what works for you. Hence this weeks' Blog title. I do think these things out in advance.

I find it very disconcerting that Avatar has become the highest grossing of all time, yet at present I know of only one person that has actually seen the movie - and this is from someone who is high on the list of the target audience. It is not that I am actively seeking to avoid the film, more that I have just not got around to seeing it. If the likes of sci fi fans such as myself and my compatriots have yet to see the movie, who are making up the hordes that have apparently flocked to see the movie?

You can see a photo of the Psion 3A pocket computer from the early 1990's above. Of all the computers I have owned over the years, this is the one I miss the most. Small, relatively powerful and with an excellent keyboard, I really wish that I still had it. It was the size of a spectacle case, yet ran MS Word, and interfaced with a full sized printer. I used to use it to write many magazine articles, often whilst sitting in a pub somewhere. I don't think that any modern netbook or mobile computing device has come anywhere near its' combination of long battery life and clever software implementation.

Talking of sci fi, if anyone is keen on obtaining a replica of the original teleport bracelets from Blake's Seven, please get in touch with me; one of my friends is in contact with the person who originally made them for the cult TV show, and has now got a licence to reproduce them for collectors. They are not cheap, but they are an item you can obtain in no other way. A photo below for your information. Get in touch if you are interested.

Young's Brewery are meant to be opening a pub and restaurant inside the Woolwich Arsenal redevelopment; the pub was due to open late last year, but due to the poor state of the economy, it would appear to have been delayed; unlike Kent brewer Shepherd Neame, who stepped up their acquisition of new property in the down turn (properties being cheaper during the recession). Young's would appear to have taken a more cautious approach - a pity as it is an excellent site, and a very good long term investment for them. The number of high earners working in the city or Docklands moving into the secure, gated community who would rather go out for a drink and a meal than eat at home after a long day in the office would seem to be high. I will be writing to Young's for an update on their plans for the place. An opportunity not to be wasted in my opinion.

Here is a story from IT and technical news website The Register: The BBC may axe some of its digital-only radio stations, including 6Music and the Asian Network, according to a report. The Asian Network costs £25m but attracts only 360,000 listeners. It's reckoned to be as expensive per-minute as prime-time TV costume drama. Radio6Music is also under threat as part of a separate review, and despite a higher profile doesn't fare much better, but at 695,000 has gained over the past year. Those numbers may sound like a lot, but DAB-only stations are listened to by just over 3 per cent of the population, and the most popular - usually 6Music - may have only 25,000 listening at anyone time. Hence the reviews. Audience research agency RAJAR published its latest quarterly numbers today, which you can peruse here. And RAJAR reckons "all digital" listening was static quarter-on-quarter - although the agency, owned by the leading radio industry players, doesn't count time-shifting radio consumption, such as podcasts. Ominously, despite a growth in penetration of DAB sets, there isn't a corresponding increase in DAB listening. DAB listening crept up to 13.7 per cent of households from 13.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter, despite half a million more households having a DAB set. Not much point pinning hopes on saving DAB by getting us to send our FM sets to Africa, then, if most people continue to listen to use their DAB sets for listening to FM radio. It's that chicken and egg problem again: axing unique, DAB-only content gives people fewer reasons to migrate to DAB.

Something that winds me up no end is when people use the term "ping" to mean sending an Email. to someone. You do NOT "ping" an email to someone - you SEND it. "Ping" is a technical term to describe sending a TCP / IP information packet over a network, and the subsequent response, often known as a pong. If I hear anyone talking about pinging an Email in future, they are likely to end up wearing a waste paper basket on their head...

Some weeks ago I mentioned a story about an American chap who was making modern laptop versions of classic 1980's 8 - bit computers, including the Commodore 64 and the Atari 800. The machines are equipped with modern hard drives and TFT screens, but otherwise employ the same hardware as the originals.  They are certainly not cheap, as each computer is a bespoke creation that is as much art as it is technology. You can read more about the engineer / artist who creates these amazing one  - off works here.

I would sincerely love an Atari 800 laptop, as the desktop version was my first computer. It takes me way back to the time when I worked in Hatherley Road, Sidcup for pioneering computer dealer Silica Shop.

After a rather turbulent year, it would appear that Bexley CAMRA are back on a firm footing. The fifth Bexley Beer festival is planned - details below for your information.

Bexley’s Fifth Beer Festival
 8th - 10th April 2010

Sidcup Sports Club
Crescent Farm, Sydney Road,
Sidcup DA14 6RA

Souvenir glasses, snacks, Live entertainment Thu / Fri Eve

Thursday 8 th April 5pm - 11pm £2, CAMRA members £1
Friday 9th April, 11am - 5pm £2, CAMRA members Free
Friday 9th April, 5pm - 11pm £2, CAMRA members £1
Saturday 18th April 11am-11pm £2, CAMRA members £1

Does anyone else think that Swine Flu was the 2010 version of the Millennium Bug? The Swine Flu hotline has apparently been switched off, and the stocks of antidode are being destroyed. One wonders how much money the pharmaceutical companies have made from promoting the scare.

In my opinion, the best closing song from any band that I have experienced - Los Endos from Genesis.

1 comment:

  1. Cool pic'.
    Strange to think that the "Iraqi Super-Gun" ended up in Woolwich...I must visit the Firepower museum sometime. Mind you I doubt the rest of The ReV' Tribe would be interested.
    As a side note what's the best museum to take children aged 6 and under? I love the Maritime and natural History (The Science Museum was cool but always felt like the poor crowded relation to me but not been for almost 10 years).

    Thanks for the Browser heads-up. Currently I use Netscape Navigator/Camino on the Mac and #Ahem#...Windoze Explorer 6 on a borrowed laptop. Had no idea that Sea monkey Suite existed so thanks for the head's up, will defiantly try that as I find Firebox and Camino a wee bit...fiddly. That's the wrong word but I'm just not used to them and find them abit like driving a left hand drive car.

    I may have to bow to pressure and see Avatar while I'm away next week and my country pad in Dorset. Mind you down there once you get out of the towns waving your hand in front of the locals faces while going "Whooooosh!" is seen as cutting edge 3D entertainment...think C3-PO and the Ewoks in 'Jedi!

    Eeeeee...I remember your old Psion! You sitting in the pub tapping away. Whatever happened to that?
    Mind you I remember the Motorola mobile you had in what?...1987? As the saying goes it was "like a brick" but in it's defence a skinny brick.

    The Blakes 7 teleport bracelets are for Uber-geeks but even to a fan at the cost their hardly going to have people beating their door down.
    Don't realise until I looked but their being sold via a REALLY cool fan created items site:
    That's where I got my gold plated life sized Judge Dredd badge from and that is a QUALITY bit of merchandise! You might not have heard of some of the characters but take a look at the Vibrogun (at the bottom of the page) the attention to detail is stunning! I'm buying a Dan Dare cap badge soon "just because"!

    RE: Youngs pub in Woolwich.
    "(a)..number of high earners working in the city or Docklands moving into the secure, gated community.." YEAH BUT IT'S STILL WOOLWICH!!

    Thank GOD the BBC are thinking of axing BBC6 and Asian DAB stations. BBC6 I've tried to listen to on various occasions (Stuart Marconie's show showcasing phycodellica was JUST about listenable) but it seems to be made for SUCH a niche market (and I love all types of music*) I'm not surprised they hardly have any listeners. Can't really comment on Asian Network as I'm hardly the target audience but seriously, aiming at one community on a relatively new format?
    Hmm...not on to a winner.
    Can't believe it cost £25 MILLION. That's scandalous.
    I notice it doesn't discuss Radio7 (one of my fav's), from what I understood their one of the most popular DAB stations with something like a million listeners.

    Atari 800's? That brings back memories of 7" floppy's and having next to no games to play! LOL! Mind you I loved Boulderdash.

    Bexley Beerfest?
    I'M THERE!
    Just hope it's warmer this year.

    Thanks for posting Los Endos, that's one of my all time favourite tracks. God appears to me through the smoke a varilights...

    * - I only hate two types of music; Country AND Western!