Endless 3.9.0 Beta 1 Trip Report

Back in April I wrote a Trip Report of the last major Endless OS Beta release. It was fun! I use Endless OS every day and have a very soft spot for it after Product Managing it for a couple of rewarding yet high stress years. Now the team has released their first beta of the 3.9 release series. If I was still there this is the sort of thing the team would get in a blizzard of Google Docs and Phabricator tickets.

Endless 3.8.0 Beta 1 Trip Report

Endless have recently released the first beta of the 3.8 series for their Linux based operating system. As someone who used to work there in product, and is still friends with a number of Endless-ers I upgraded my personal machine and checked it out. This is a “trip report” of my notes and may be a little bitty but I hope it’s useful feedback for the developers and designers and maybe encourages a few other people to give Endless a go.

Linux Application Summit 2019

I was lucky enough to be sponsored by the GNOME Foundation to attend the 2019 Linux Application Summit, hosted in Barcelona between November 12th and 15th 2019. It was a great conference with a diverse crew of people who all care about making apps on Linux better. I particularly enjoyed Frank’s keynote on Linux apps from the perspective of Nextcloud, an Actual ISV. Also worth your time is Rob’s talk on how Flathub would like to help more developers earn money from their work; Adrien on GTK and scalable UIs for phones; Robin on tone of voice and copywriting; Emel on Product Management in the context of GNOME Recipes and Paul Brown on direct language and better communication.


The start of a new year often brings change. Our family has increased in size, which is very exciting. I’m also moving on from Endless and have a new job Managing Product at Lucid. I’m sad to be leaving my friends at Endless after a couple of delightful and very satisfying years but I’m also very pleased to be working with Jonty and Jono again. I still remain as emotionally invested in the GNOME and Flatpak communities as ever - I just won’t be paid to contribute, which is no bad thing for an open source project.

GUADEC 2018 - Product Management In Open Source

This year at GUADEC in Almería I was lucky enough to give a talk entitled “Product Management in Open Source”. I’ll give a text synopsis of the talk below but if you prefer you can watch the whole thing as delivered at the Internet Archive or have a look at the slides, which are entirely mysterious when viewed alone: The talk begins like so: I’m Nick Richards. I’ve been a GNOME User for 20 years and a contributor and Foundation Member - 10 years (off and on).

Pinpoint Flatpak

A while back I made a Pinpoint COPR repo in order to get access to this marvelous tool in Fedora. Well, now I work for Endless and the only way you can run apps on our system is in a Flatpak container. So I whipped up a quick Pinpoint Flatpak in order to give a talk at GUADEC this year. Flatpak is actually very helpful here, since the libraries required are rapidly becoming antique, and carrying them around on your base system is gross as well as somewhat insecure.


“Woloch hits his stride with a compelling analysis of the four pages or so in The Road to Wigan Pier devoted to a description of the long, gruelling ‘commute’ the miners undertake to and from the coalface. The significance of this, Orwell notes, is something ‘one is always liable to miss’, for the precise reason that it has already been missed: nobody gets paid to commute, even though the time it takes is company time.


This blog does seem to be a bit of a ‘look! I have a new job!’ notifier these days. So, look! I have a new job! I’m just about to start working as a Product Manager at Endless, working on making devices and software that empowers the other 75% of people in the world. It’s going to be fun.


A text message has flooded in: Your Data Test Drive ends on 18/01/2016. You currently have 6.0GB included in your bundle and on average you have used 14.6GB a month. To avoid extra data charges and unexpected costs add 2GB UK data for £10 a month. Text 2GB to 97888 for free. To keep an eye on your data usage download the free My Vodafone app at Helpful advice.

Some links from week 41, 2015

A thing I used to do was write blog posts full of links I’d found interesting in the past week or so. Twitter and Pinboard mostly ate that content, but for old times sake I thought I’d go back through some things I’d saved and see if there was anything useful. How to know if where you live is “up and coming” JPEGtran, a command whose man page is essentially a handy cheat sheet of the operations it’s possible to perform losslessly on a JPEG file.


I’m excited to say that I’m going to be joining Klarismo as a Product Manager. It’s a great opportunity to be able to join a company that has already been made fun of in a BuzzFeed listicle. Whilst I’m sad to be leaving Collabora after a year of making the world safe for open source software, this was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. If you’d like to join me, then we’re hiring!


If you read Augmenting a user interface with information and Augmenting a user interface with additional information you’ll see that several of the concepts I worked on at Intel have been patented. I have mixed emotions. I am strongly and publicly against the concept of software patents. I don’t believe they’re useful for the advancement of the software industry; nor do they really give enough information to actually move forward the state of the art.

Gitorious Closedown

The not-super-great-open-source code hosting system Gitorious has been acquired and shut down by the much-better-and-open-source code hosting system GitLab. This is an overall net win for humanity but does have a few downsides. A few years ago Intel and Nokia selected Gitorious to host the source code for their MeeGo Operating System. With the upcoming shutdown, that code was about to go offline. Since I have a sentimental attachment to MeeGo I’ve copied the repos for the MeeGo Netbook UX (source code) and MeeGo Tablet UX (source code) to GitHub.

Google Maps 2014 Redesign

This talk from Google IO 2014 is about a redesign, that of Google Maps - but to me it feels like the process behind a really good design for any sort of complex dynamic system. Lovely to see the working being shown and some really interesting examples of the ‘double the hypothesis to get a reaction to see if you’re moving in the correct direction’ technique as well as the wide variety of locations tested and visualised.

First as tragedy

Nine years ago I drew some diagrams attempting to reverse engineer the coffee, milk and foam proportions available in the beverages served at Eat. I’m not going to pretend that this was particularly original work but when walking past one of their branches the other day I noticed some uncannily familiar design. Actually pretty decent communication, well done. Avoid the actual drinks there though.

Pinpoint COPR Repo

A few years ago I worked with a number of my former colleagues to create Pinpoint, a quick hack that made it easier for us to give presentations that didn’t suck. Now that I’m at Collabora I have a couple of presentations to make and using pinpoint was a natural choice. I’ve been updating our internal templates to use our shiny new brand and wanted to use some newer features that weren’t available in Fedora’s version of pinpoint.

Suburbs Driven by Trains Not Cars

I was reading Maciej Cegłowski’s excellent talk, ‘The Internet With A Human Face’ and aside from it’s persuasive argument found something interesting in the tension between his argument rooted in American reality and his German audience. I’ve also recently been reading ‘Concretopia’, a book about the post war rebuilding of Britain and realised that there, in the gap between the wars was the suburbia he wasn’t aware of. I am of course talking of Metroland, where I grew up.

My Incredible Journey

Yesterday I resigned from Lumi, ending my startup journey for a while. I’ll be starting a new job working for Collabora in a month. I’m really looking forward to be back working on open source software and the new challenge. This’ll be my first job without ‘Designer’ in the title for about 10 years. Although I’ve been doing lots of solution definition, product/project managing and suchlike this’ll be the first time it actually says that on a business card (we didn’t have job titles or business cards at Lumi, it was that sort of place).

Some Computations

Sheep per capita in the UK (0.49), Australia (3.32), New Zealand (7.49) and Wales (10.2). All based on 2009 data.


Alt-rock band The Cooper Temple Clause formed a kabbadi team in 2001 and were, at one stage, ranked seventh in the British domestic standings. A learning.

Large Targets

People note that designing for touch screens requires you to have much larger tap targets, because tapping is less precise than clicking — your finger is way bigger than a mouse pointer. They conclude that this creates user interfaces that are inherently bad for desktop PCs, because desktop PCs use mice. But if you’ve ever seen normal people use computers, squinting at the screen to position the mouse cursor just exactly over the icon, and then carefully clicking it to make sure that they don’t accidentally move the mouse while clicking and initiate a drag, you’ll probably agree that desktops can really benefit from larger click targets, too.

First Ride

This morning: a little sun, a crisp snap in the air, dry. It must be time for the first ride of the year. Over the past few weeks of relentless rain, cold and drizzle I’d been looking mournfully outside, waiting for the weather to break a little and thinking that I was ‘running behind’ last year, which was a good one in the saddle for me. I know you can say that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.


I’m not going to go into too much detail in a public forum but I’m delighted to say that my wife and I are going to have a baby. Priorities are shifting, standard middle-class life trajectory is ongoing.

Fighting Back

If you actually want to do something to ‘fight back’ then use proper crypto on websites you control and change any defaults to use HTTPS on websites you don’t control. There’s no excuse, it’s free. It took me about 20 minutes of fussing to move my sites over, and most of that was just fixing CSS to be protocol independent. After you’ve done some actual concrete steps to help communications privacy and identity verification you can set your twibbon and feel justifiably indignant.


One of my favourite adverts on Japanese TV when we visited was for a travel company called Jalan. Their spokescat, Nyalanappeared to be a middle manager who after a hard days work needed to check-in to a middle of the road business hotel to chill out. I’ve recently discovered that he’s been branching out into other activities. ‘Classic’ Business cat Tiny luggage Cat takes onsen Tiny sidekick http://www.


Getting things out on a deadline can be hard. In Assassins Creed 2 you’re constantly holding down B, even when you’re not. “I’m at my desk thinking, why don’t the players just hold the B button? It’s that simple!” Plourde remembers. “So I taped the B button down. It’s automatic, and it works… it took maybe two hours to code in that cheat so that when you’re walking you’re just automatically holding the B button.


This post has been stuck in my ‘drafts folder’ for too long, sorry about that. When I left you last I was leaving Intel - now I can say that for the last year and a bit I’ve been working at a company called Lumi. It was a hard decision to leave Intel, the OTC guys are a great team and I’m proud to call them my friends but the opportunity to work on something new and take it all the way to launch was too good to miss.


I really enjoy following my local Safer Neighbourhood Team’s Police Sargent on Twitter, however occasionally the difference between legal terminologyand common understanding can lead to anomalous thoughts.

Further Anecdotes

Further information around my word of the year:

Lumi is Hiring

So, you know that thing I haven’t told you about? The place where I work? Well, we’re looking for some good peopleto join us.


My word of 2013. It received a little dusting off in the last couple of months of 2012, but this year, this’ll be it. Anecdata.

Leaving Intel

Today was my last day at Intel. It’s been an exceptional experience working with the guys and girls in London to make things that people haven’t seen before and do it in an open fashion. It would (and did) take a wonderful opportunity to make me want to leave and I’m really looking forward to telling you all about it when we announce what we’re up to. In the meantime, have fun.

GNOME Shell: Iteration's what you need

I was delighted to be asked to give the GNOMEcommunity keynote at the recent Desktop Summit in Berlin. It was entitled “Iteration’s what you need” and talked about getting better at making software. GNOME of course was one of the early pioneers of time based releases. They allowed things to get better, six months at a time and started to decouple features from releases. This is a process that has been taken on and intensified by the major browser makers and of course, websites.

Moblin language style guide

Moblin is not you, we do not use ‘My’ anywhere. As Moblin is your friend we use ‘Your’ this should be an informal you if your language has differences in status. Moblin is your friend. She’s one of our design personas - a single woman approx 30 years of age with a teenage son. She speaks informally and demotically to you, but not disrespectfully. You are treated as a partner throughout.

MeeGo 1.0

New today, part of the last few months work. MeeGo 1.0 for Netbooks. Hope you like it.

Blog all kindle clipped locations

Being stuck in another country certainly does allow you to spend more time doing things that you like to do, but which the urgency of proximity based interaction usually displaces. In this case it’s spending some time putting things onto here. Not much, but a little. In this case, here’s some things I’ve highlighted on my Kindle. Heretics (G. K. Chesterton) - Loc. 292-93 Changing My Mind (Zadie Smith) - Loc.

A couple of presentations

I’ve given a couple of presentations about designing Moblin in the last few months. Since they’re now public on the internets I can talk about them here. This is quite difficult to do since they contain a lot of video, attempting to show how we create (with our lovely hackers) the compelling motion that Clutter can deliver. So you’ll miss all that ‘behind the scenes’ excitement. The two presentations are quite similar in many ways, you’ll certainly see repeated motifs, but that’s just because we’re trying to create a family of design around Moblin (and I’m a bit lazy).

What Moblin Did Next

We designed an operating system for phonestoo. Another awesome job from everyone in design and implementation. As ever, I’m proud to work with you all.

Full Screen, Like A Hurricane

I’ve often been asked why the Moblin Web Browser doesn’t support full screen mode and I always answered with two points. One of the design features of Moblinis the Toolbar, which hides at the top of the screen until you need it. But when you’re in full screen mode, not only do you not need it - but you’ve told us that you don’t want it at all. You’re watching a movie or making an important presentation and our values of politeness and focus mean that we really don’t want to get in the way.

Talk at GCDS

If you happen to be heading to the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit in a couple of weeks then I’d encourage you to come and see my talk on designing Moblinat midday on the 8th July. It’ll be fun.

iPlayer mobile on N95

I’m delighted to say that the BBC launched iPlayer Mobile on the N95today. It’s one of the projects I’m most proud of working on and it’s still great. So if you have a decent Nokia phone and are on the 3, Vodafone or ‘WiFi’ networks, give it a spin. Well done David Madden and the team.

Moblin 2.0 Netbook Beta

Moblin is different. If there’s one phrase that sums up what I’ve been trying to do with the last six months or so it’s that. After all, all of the stuff that’s out there right now already exists. Doing the same thing again does not create a compelling reason for people to use your software. So we set about putting our money where our mouth was and started building something. Starting today you can see where we’ve got to so farwith the beta release of the Moblin 2.

Mobile Design UK - 22nd April

If you’re in and around London on 22nd April I’d strongly encourage you to come along to Mobile Design UKwhere you’ll see an array of excellent speakers. Hume! Pollitt and Demmel! oh, and some bloke called Richards talking about iPlayer mobile. On second thoughts, I’d give it a miss if I were you. Seren’s office at 55-57 Rivington Stis the place to avoid on 22nd April 2009 from 1830ish.

A new danger

If we, memelike, are just vectors for the continued propagation of tabs into web browsers around the internet. Then Tom Humeis the patient zero. Fight the virus. Close your tabs. Don’t share or be friendly. Look after yourselves, and each other.


Hearty congratulations to the BBC for winning “Best Mobile Music or Video Service” for iPlayer mobile and to New Bay for winning “Best Service Delivery Platform” for LifeCache 2.0 at the recent Global Mobile Awards. Gentlemen (and ladies), it was a pleasure to work with you.

Fable 2

I saved the dog. After twenty or so hours of trials, tribulations, entertainment and saving my life I traded the lives of thousands of innocents I’d never met for that of my faithful dog. Oh sure, there was my wife Alex and my strangely needy Daughter thrown in with the bargain but they’d never been with me on the Bandit Coast when I was on the narrow winding path. Dead of night, sea crashing against one side; sheer cliff the other.


I am delighted to say that when we were on holiday in San Francisco I asked Emma to marry me. Thankfully, she said yes. This makes me an extraordinarily lucky man.


After a very happy and rewarding time I’ve left Fjordand today I started working in the Intel Open Source Technology Centrewith the old Opened Handcrew in London. It’s good. We’re going to make some nice stuff. I’ll let you know when you can have a look.

Today: badly hacking laconica

If you’re trying to mess around with the html head area in laconica(to stick in a load of mobile stylesheets for instance) then the file you’re looking for is lib/util.php. This post is yet again brought to you by my inability to remember anything that isn’t written down, and preferably indexed by google.

S60 Browser User Agent

If you’re using the UserAgent Switcher Firefox extensionyou may want a profile that matches the S60 browser as found on most decent Nokia phones. Import this XML fileinto your extension and you’ll have a profile that matches:

Better Mobile Google

If you own a nokia smartphone I would encourage you to try this rather decent productthat our friends at Google have created. It’s good. Later I shall tell you why.

Where's London

Where’s London Yahoo? Wrong!Where’s London Google? Wrong!Where’s London Multimap? Wrong!Update: According to Natasha, who knows more: Nelson’s Column not Charing Cross. Still wrong though!


If you’re walking in soho, to my office perhaps, you might want to use this Walkittip to save a couple of minutes. Be a walking pro and know the shortcuts!

Had an accident

My friend froze, steeled himself for the worst, and asked what had happened. “Well, he’s deleted the printer icon from the desktop … and wants to know if there’s any way of making it come back again."Thisis the truth of my life. and yours


The Dyson DC16is the most masculine object I have ever owned. For certain values of owned of course, in that my girlfriend owns one, my parents own one, my friends own them, I do not. So I thought I would write a little about why I like it and why I think it’s a successful product. The key to the allure of the DC 16 that it actually delivers on the promise of a handheld vacuum cleaner.

A gamertag

I get a lot of email into my gmail that isn’t for me. This is to be expected, and no, it isn’t spam but i have the (fairly common) firstname.surname (which is also firstnamesurname) and many people in the world just can’t read, write or understand. But this is a new low. Someone seems to have linked their Xbox live gamertag to this address, no worries as far as I’m concerned except that I could clearly 0wn them if required.

multiple windows (s60)

very silly tip of the day: to get multiple windows on the s60 browser (in S60 3.1 - n95) open a popup then options > windows to switch between the two. It gets you a different UI to the History with the page screenshots on a standard S60 tab widget but works all the same. It’s the feature they didn’t want you to see!

Actions only please

Potential mobile design pattern for a traditional device: Put only actions on softkeys and collapse the traditional ‘options’ list into a list of buttons at the bottom of each screen. Potential plus: Allows customer to more easily discover the most important actions in a path Potential downside: Puts less frequently used options on a slow road.

Quicksilver and Java

For reasons best known to myself I wanted to start a Java application in OS X. Now this Java application (the rather good JDarkRoom) comes as a Jar which works fine, just double click and it starts. But of course, this is where it gets a bit more complex. I want to start it in Quicksilver, the excellent launchbar for OS X, but quicksilver won’t see my Jar file. Now I’m sure I could do a workaround:

some archives

For reasons of laziness I recently put a shabbily restored cut of my archives back onlinealthough I can’t recommend them as literature. At some point they may come back and live in the database but until then all the permalinks etc. are likely to be broken but really, you didn’t want to comment on some badly spelt livejournalesque stuff that I wrote six years ago did you?


Rarely do I agree with anything professional controversialist Andrew Orlowski says but he has got a point here:

A Life In Ruins

Possibly the best title for a TV documentary about an archaeologist ever: “Sir Mortimer Wheeler: A Life In Ruins”.

dConstruct 2007: Tom Coates

“a web of data” is sort of like the semantic web. it’s about designing openness and slicability into your product. Almost like turning anything into iTunes or Excel. “your site is not your product” A thought: how much power do power managers use? In other words, for what tasks is the visualisation or reporting requirement more burdensome than the task itself. But even then, do those tasks make sense to be done anyway if you can’t see what went on and how.

dConstruct 2007: Matt Webb

It was great to see Matt talk again. More than anyone else he always gives me Ideas. They may not be immediately useful, ore even connected, but they’ll sit in your mind until required. You can get his transcript/slides ontheinterweband you should, it’s well worth it. In many ways though his presentations sort of work better on the internet so you’re on good ground looking at it now. Customisation is changing something that’s intrinsic to the product wheras Personalisation is just changing the product’s defaults.

dConstruct 2007: George Oates and Denise Wilton

Firstly, excellent usage of the phrase ‘an online website’ something I feel we all need to remind ourselves of from time to time. Flickr turned itself into a website to get asynchronous. (there is lots of power in asynchronous communication although it is generally less highly valued than synchronous). “the less rules you have about progression through an experience, the freeer to are to enjoy” “community guides and taste makers are vital” “sometimes, if you’re jumping in on a message board for the first time it’s confusing when you see cunt every 5 posts.

dConstruct 2007: Cameron Moll

Some books and articles that he mentioned that I haven’t yet read (or need to read again): Bryan Lawson, How Designers Think Tog, First Principles of Interaction Design He had a nice microwave analogy where we should encourage customers to heat water in the microwave for 1 minute 11 seconds rather than 1 minute 10 seconds (3 button presses rather than 4, so overall it’s quicker). Care about edge cases and details.

dConstruct 2007: Peter Merholz

Eastman-Kodak’s promise ‘You press the button, we do the rest’ I’m fed up with presenters mentioning Apple and the iPhone already, especially American presenters who wouldn’t know a decent phone if it hit them. Makes a point about the VCR exploding into complexity and that the blinking 00:00 on the clock was a sad indictment of the ‘experience’ industry. I then thought about how time is one of those things, like email, that falls into feature lists and that every product grows to encompass.

dConstruct 2007: Lisa Reichect

I didn’t spend as much time taking notes in this talk as I was enjoying it too much. Lisa points to the successes of UCD and Agile in making great designs and programs but notes that doing UCD and then following it on with doing Agile on the result doesn’t really work. She slags of the functional spec, as you might expect, but then again she specifically notes she’s not dealing with offshoring.

dConstruct 2007: Jared Spool

Very american. I am currently in Brighton and am thus not entirely impressed. Also morning grumpy. Slags off the Sansa e210 by comparing it to the iPod but doesn’t talk about the Sansa connectwith wifi, Embedded Linux and other goodies. Sort of like slagging off the iPod by comparing the shuffle to a HiFi. Some strange stats abuse re: iTunes downloads at 650 million vs copies of Windows and iPod sales at 110 million vs Zune sales at 1 million.

Double decker

Children of Men’s unflinching depiction of a dystopian, facistic future Britain is undeniably unsettling yet you do have to admire the fact that our future post-apocalyptic overlords run their double decker buses with the doors open at all times, mimicking the routemaster hop on, hop off behaviour. Good work future, continue.

Washington Holiday

I went to Washington (DC that is) on holiday. I’m back now. I have seen The West Wing. I have seen the Oval Office. I have seen a Baby Panda. I have seen very many Flags. I have seen very many SUVs and Trucks. I have seen Coca-Cola Blak (and drunk it). I have seen sausages that are on a mission from God. I have seen through a Toilet Door. I have seen Clerks 2.


So there’s good news and bad news about Prince of Persia Classic. The good news is that it’s a marvellous remake of a beloved game where the only changes are good things. The bad news is that I’m still no good at it. On the positive side another 15 years of gaming has brought me a whole level further into the game; on the negative side I’m still no good at the fighting.

the rota

monday: Pasty tuesday: Pret wednesday: Eat thursday: Bakers friday: Wildcard! all handily on strutton ground.

do not be alarmed

this is not a hack, this is not an arg (although thanks, next time it will be), this is a server upgrade.

what just happened

<tolstoy> reimage dapper WARNING! This command will wipe your disc and start it from scratch. You should be sure that any data you want to keep is backed up elsewhere because you will not be able to get it back after this operation. If you are very sure this is what you want to do, type the following sentence exactly as printed, including punctuation, then press enter. My machine is tolstoy and I want to wipe it and lose all my data!

Video Quartet

I popped into the Tate for a little bit today because I’d seen that Christian Marclay’s Video Quartet was on show and I really wanted to see it after reading this recommendation by Dan Hill. Wow. That’s very good art. Immersive on multiple levels, beautifully pitched in ebb and flow, truly creative. It’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to feel (note: not just see) more in art galleries. If you can, go.

Virgin Media and Standby Power

Dear Richard Branson. Whilst I am pleased to see that you’re spending $3 billion on combating global warming you may wish to look at how difficult one of your companies is about to make it to save energy and still remain within the terms of use. Following a number of complex manoeuvres NTL (my ISP), Telewest and Virgin Mobile are merging and relaunching as Virgin Media. As such in the latest bill we received a handy booklet with new Terms and Conditions enclosed within a very Virgin branding.


For all of last year I forgot to update the date in the sidebar. This is probably significant. As such we’ve skipped a year. Yay. Probably I spent the time when I should’ve been pushing bits eating surprisingly tasty British food or becoming outraged at the Christian-Industrial Complex. That last article is actually amazingly good and I highly recommend that you read it, not least because it saves me writing down a lot of the stuff I’ve been talking about for the past couple of years


Saracens had an ecstatic night at Vicarage Road with a bonus-point victory over Northampton which took them to fourth place in the Guinness Premiership and stirred up memories of the days when they were serious contenders for the title. Indeed.

The System Of The Pie

Below is a long excerpt from Neal Stephenson’s marvelous book The System Of The World. I put it here because it contains as its theme, pie, a central obsession of this blog and also because it’s marvelously fun to read. I’ve been rereading the Baroque Cycle in recent weeks and, although the whole clocks in at almost 3,000 pages it mattered not to me since the work was enjoyable throughout on each level: sentence, paragraph and plot.

High Treason

“First, it is high treason to “compass or imagine the death of our Lord the King, of our Lady his Queen, or of their eldest son and heir.” The terms “compass or imagine” indicate the premeditation of a murder; it would not be high treason accidentally to kill the Sovereign or any other member of the Royal Family. However it has also been held to include rebelling against or trying to overthrow the monarch, as experience has shown that this normally involves the monarch’s death.


So I finished Oblivion, well, mostly finished. They keep trying to sell me new bits of it, and yes I’ll probably buy the Knights of the Nine. But there’s just one thing left, the most annoying fetch quest in the game, the one that breaks mens souls, Seeking Your Roots. Imagine that you had to collect about 100/150 of 307 identical items hidden within the Greater London area. They could be anywhere, within peoples homes, underground.

Silent To The Dark

Let me tell you about some things before I go off and make pretty explosions. Do you like the opening shots of movies? Do you like Punch Drunk Love? Then you’ll love this story about the opening shot of Punch Drunk Love. My cat is sitting on my lap as I type this, it basically stops me being snarky in any way, if I were you I would exploit this knowledge.

Sarrie Dancing

The new rugby season starts in earnest this saturday. The anticipation is building.

Protestantism and Foreign Affairs

A marvelous article in Foreign Affairs on the three main strands of protestantism (fundementalist, liberal and evangelical), particularly as seen from the US and how they influence US foreign policy. This should be required reading for anyone who lazily uses ‘fundementalist’ too often when describing US christianity. It also quite rightly points out some of the good stuff that religiously motivated policies have contributed to the US over the past few years, particualrly in aid.


My old university has found that tea is nothing but good for you. This is yaysome.

Illicit Fossil Fuels

Bobby climbed doiwn behind him into the unmistakable signature smell of the sprawl, a rich amalgam of stale subway exhalations, ancient soot, and the carcinogenic tang of fresh plastics, all of it shot through with the carbon edge of illicit fossil fuels. William Gibson, Count Zero p163 in my 1995 paperback edition.

1440×900 on the Acer AL1916W

I know you, you’re a sly fox. What with wanting to actually use the monitor you bought at the right resolution under Linux. But, you’re on a deadline and you haven’t got much time, not much time at all, so you hit a bit of google to pimp up those pixels and this is what you find. Edit your xorg.conf to display similar things to the content below: Section “Monitor” Identifier “Acer AL1916W” HorizSync 30-82 Vertrefresh 56-76 Modeline “1440×900″ 106.

Dumb Tshirts

Dad went to Brazil with work and bought me a football shirt from the Maracana. As you would if you valued your son or daughter. I took a photo of me wearing this shirt and put it on flickr. A little while later a nice chap named Karl dropped me a line asking if he could use my photo in some work he was doing. That work was part of the boxart for a (rather good) DVD boxed set on brazillian football which he dropped in the post and which arrived today.

Axe that Lynx

One of the most distressing things about being in America was having to watch an advert. No, not the ad for ‘once a day Valtrax’ that allows you to feel good about fighting genital herpes, oh no, something much worse than that. If you watch sport (as I do a lot) then you see lots of ads again and again, such that they inculcate themselves into your very soul and make you feel miserable all the time.


This skirts perilously close to my disclaimer but, ah well, let’s talk about Convergence. As with many things Penny-Arcade take it to absurdity to reveal essential truth (that second panel in particular is a more swearword laden version of one of my conversations from a few weeks ago). What does convergence mean? Is it the archetypal Linux toaster? Two things that most people don’t really seem to want shoved together becuase you can?

Music Subscriptions

The true value of goods is a problem that constantly perplexes economists. As someone who likes to read and think about these sorts of things it also perplexes me, by proxy. You can join the chain if you wish. After all, what exactly is the value of music? I don’t mean on a basic “well, entertainment, distraction and self expression” level but in a cold hard cash fashion. In recent years there has been an explosion of business models created around trying to sell music to people.

A Creeping Menace

Several weeks ago I saw a Crow with a Doughnut in Bristol. The object was clenched between its beak as it flew in and landed on a roundabout before proceeding to attack it. I should clraify that this wasn’t a ring doughnut either, it was great (if somewhat unaerodynamic) work from the crow. Today, walking to the station I saw a crow fly down, land on the road and snaffle a pitta bread that was lying there before flying off, it’s prize clenched between its beak.

we share our mothers health

I have things to tell you. Things like, The Knife are a great band, buy their stuff. You can get it on mp3 download or in The Shops. As is traditional the title of this post comes from a song, this time it’s one of theirs from the new album Silent Shout.If you have an Orange phone in the UK and want to use some (pay for) WiFi then send a text to 9434 and enter the username and password you get sent back.

The Maneaters Of Tsavo

An old edition of this bookthat I was given by my grandpa many years ago. I opened it up because of the big cataloguing project and was pleased to see that there was still plenty of space for future gifting.

what’s the web take batman?

It’s always good to know you’re cool. So it was very heartening this week to see that the Bloomsbury Lanes (location of our team Christmas Party and many a late night visit) we’re mentioned in this Guardian article on tenpin bowling, the new cool thing. I shall do my best to change my behaviour to be less cool. This weeks In Our Time, on The Royal Society, was very good although obviously old ground to anyone who’d read the Baroque Cycle.

Born Secular and Inconsolable

Recently work has got in the way, most particularly in relation to stuff I want to talk about. As such posting volume has gone down; apart from links which by definition can’t be anything other than commentary on what is already common knowledge. Yet I’ve been encouraged to keep talking about stuff, most especially stuff that has no relation to work and getting over the hump of talking about things is half the issue so I’ll give it a go.

Just Too Good

I’ve hosted my infrastructure at Bytemark for a couple of years now and overall I’ve been very pleased with it. Virtualisation really is the future. However just yesterday I was outraged to see that they’d upgraded the spec that was being offered to new customers, without making mine any better a clear case of double standards. I sent them an email to complain and just a few moments later got a very polite note back in response saying that all I needed to do was reboot my box and the upgrade would be there, after a slightly longer than normal start.

Shuffle Is As Shuffle Does

You may have seen a fair bit of stuff scrolling past on here that is work related. This is partly because 3GSM is going on and partly because people are talking more about stuff that interests me in mobile. However the disclaimer should always be applied. You will not find anything ‘new’ on this site to do with mobile as I’m not allowed to talk about it. In that spirit here’s a long excerpt from a pretty insightful essay by Carlo over at mobhappy.

Tickets To What You Need

This has been the story of my week. Perplex City, the story so far. It is impossible to tell stories about non viral becomings (still working my way through A Thousand Plateus) The Old Bailey, the story from 1674 to 1834. Because of a bravura piece of writing in one story I watched an enjoyed a * much better one The title of this post is from Badly Drawn Boy. You can tell stories in maps, underground maps.

The Talking Leads To Touching

Let me tell you about some interesting things. I saw that Malcom Gladwell had written an interesting long article on Rick Warren, Christian minister and author of the ‘purpose driven life‘ a book that I have read and that was most certainly ‘not for me’. More Adventurous by Rilo Kiley is a cracking album (and where the title of this post comes from). emusic is actually rather good, who knew? There are prize nominated SF short stories available to read in many places.


Texting has arrived in America, you can tell because the critical articles have started. I found this marvelous snippet on aldaily: Text messages are in their spare reality mostly devoid of complex feeling. Which, of course, suits emotional cripples just fine I suspect that’s not supposed to sound like as much of an attraction to the medium as it does. But this storm of negativity doesn’t matter at all, since mobiles are such compelling devices that even the Amish desire them.

Dual Strike

Advance Wars is so compelling that I missed my stop on the tube. And then missed it again on the way back. Dual Strike!

Christmas Countdown

Welcome to the christmas countdown. 10 exhaustively selected songs that have been in heavy rotation on my playlist this year relayed to you by the world of fun that is the internet. The New Pornographers - Sing Me Spanish Techno. There is only one line from this that means anything, “listening too long, to one song”, a perfect description of the best song of the year. The Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies).

push the button and let me know

An interesting unordered list: Phantom withdrawls in the British ATM network during the 1990s. Moneyball for american football, excellent article, well worth a read. The Epic Legends Of The Hierarchs: The Elemenstor Saga is one of the great internet collaborative creations of our times. Here’s a couple of hilariously good sample pages: Reality and Simulacra and the Penny Arcade Conspiracy Theory And Paul Golding with the wisest paragraph of the day:


“The upshot, however, is this: snark is a reflexive disorder, whether those who employ it realize it or not; the pointlessness of fiction only comes back to suggest the pointlessness of its commentator. The real question then becomes: If you don’t believe in this, what do you believe in? What do you care about? What is the purpose of this destructive clear-cutting, if you don’t have anything to suggest in its place, save your own career advancement?

Sideways Scroll

If you’re using Firefox 1.5 and thus my new horizontal scroll em up design (sorry IE users, get your browser maker to support CSS3 Columns and then we’ll talk) you might be interested in knowing that holding shift as you use the mousewheel scroll will scroll horizontally rather than the usual vertical alignment, speeding up the process of looking through the site rather markedly. This post has been brought to you by the word ‘widescreen’.

Stacked crooked all along But now I’m on my way

As I’ve noted elsewhere what I find most strange about the whole Sony XCP saga (apart from one of the largest media companies on the internet actually distributing one of the biggest infections of malicious code of all time; or the fact that in doing so it voiolated the GPL, and thus the very copyright it was trying to protect) is the names of some of the CDs the evil software was on:

Darling, We’re A Fashion, Don’t You Know?

I’m going to quote liberally so enjoy: Girls Aloud – British talent show pop girl group, yeah? Well, sure, but don’t get it twisted. They are, in fact, one of the best rock acts in the world right now. I can understand why so many people would make the mistake of believing otherwise – in 2005, rock more often than not denotes a slavish devotion to guitars and the tedium of tradition, with most good acts working within the genre getting by on charm and chops rather than a mad rush of pop energy and invention.

on a train devouring the land

Mobile web developers! I have a tip for you that should speed up the rendering of your site by a significant margin, close to 50% in my stopwatch tests. And what do you know? It’s totally counter intuitive to normal web development practice. I’ll let the Nokia team who are porting the KHTML rendering engine (the tech behind Apple’s Safari) to Series 60 (it’s the default browser in devices from the N70 onwards) take up the story from here on:

One O’Clock Rock

Here’s a couple of fun security scare stories and a heartning bit of rugby news for you. Firstly, rootkit authors are getting more clever: “So now we have developers of rootkit detectors adding detection of latest rootkits to their scanning engines - and developers of rootkits adding detection of latest detectors to their scanning engines.” A rootkit is a bit of software that is used to invisibly control your computer after it has been subborned by an attacker.

Bad Button, Bad

I have an HP nc4010 laptop at work. It’s a pretty decent machine, although it could do with a smidge more RAM for the sort of beating I tend to put machines through. The one thing that’s unacceptably poor about it is the docking station. Now I don’t know how much you know about docking stations but short order, they’re a little box that you plug your desktop mouse, keyboard and monitor into (basically everything you don’t want to take with you) and then place the laptop into when you’re at your desk.


Let’s talk about emergant gameplay. Go on, I know you want to, whether it’s the little flick of the analog stick in the correct direction of the action in Farenheit (which is ace, everyone should buy right now) or the pseudo p2p vial social network in the multiplayer of Xbox Far Cry: Instincts there seems to be a more haptic understanding of what it feels like to be represented somewhere else (in a virtual world that is) going around these days.


Visualisation is great. Even when it’s done badly it’s great which is why you should particularly check out the Color Project and Baby Name Wizard Voyager. Both of them take vast reams of data and not only make it beautiful, but make it fun to navigate. This is too short but I’ve got User Guide writing in my head at the moment and am suffering from a creativity defecit anywhere outside my choice of shirt.


I recently bought a Treo Sync and charge cable from and apart from fscking up the delivery time (for which I recieved a very nice and peronable call and apology, so fair enough) I got a nice teabag in with the order as a little rider. Most civilised.

Things Not To Do On The Tube

For your education, a list of things to do on the tube, so as not to get arrested as a suspected terrorist: Make sure to stare at the police officers wherever you see them, cracking a joke about stopping petty theft might be good to break the ice, wouldn’t want them to think you were ‘avoiding them’. Try to enter the station and go through the gates alone, when the station is empty.

Word Corner

Define: dissociation “Psychiatry. A psychological defense mechanism in which specific, anxiety-provoking thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations are separated from the rest of the psyche.” contrasted with “After having evaluated the situation, H&M has decided that a campaign with Kate Moss is inconsistent with H&M’s clear dissociation of drugs”.


The Guardian, newspaper bastion of the liberal left, has redesigned their print edition. Newspaper redesigns don’t happen very often and when they do people get very excited, not least because it’s an object that readers have an intense familar attachment to but even for these sort of things the clamour was loud, eloquent and rather informative. The pick of the commentating bunch for your erutition were this long survey from Dan Hill of which probably the best bit was the comparison of the design to the brash vernacular of the tabloids and weekly celeb magazines; and Andy’s typically detailist comments picking up on the subtle cues that designers use to move our eyes around a page and the ways that The Web has influenced the approach they’ve taken.

Duffer St. George And I Don’t Care

Quick interesting thingdump: David Seymour came to Saracens via the back door, but nobody better typifies the exhilarating new breed of opensides. Carl Shimer from work on Symbian vs Windows Mobile vs J2ME, vs Linux a programmers perspective. If you have an audio recording of somebody typing on an ordinary computer keyboard for fifteen minutes or so, you can figure out everything they typed. The idea is that different keys tend to make slightly different sounds, and although you don’t know in advance which keys make which sounds, you can use machine learning to figure that out, assuming that the person is mostly typing English text.

Mobile TV

From Collision to Convergence (Or how I learned to stop worrying and watch TV on my mobile phone). Has one of my favourite ever usibility maxims: “If you really like navigation go watch Master & Commander.” Preach it. And that’s all I should really say about that.

Speed Reading

I’m what you could call one of those thirst for knowledge people. I’ve always read pretty fast and when I was younger people would constantly be surprised (I hesitate to say impressed) about what I’d get through in double quick time. Part of this was that I read a bit quicker than the average bear because I did it so much, part becuase I spent so much time reading. And to this day the hour commute each way is still productively used to further my twenty year mission of knowing every fact in the world.

Bury That Guy

Mr Ballmer is the CEO of Microsoft, one of the bigger companies in the world and someone who you would imagine society would describe as a ‘role model’. more context. So, would you say he’ll recieve the same general condemnation as Mr Rooney?


Whilst on the train on monday someone came over the intercom to ask personal stereo users to turn the volume down, so as not to disturb other passengers. One question, how is the target audience going to hear him?

Falling Through Your Clothes

Containers for housing is simply further ammunition for my contention that containers rock and are one of the finest things in the world. Why? Standards my dear, standards. I was asked to define ‘nerdcore’ the other day: this is it. I find it worryingly appealing. We should make benevolent games for all spaces and all technologies. Advertising Ghosts is a great place to track one of my interests, really old and often weathered adverts.

Pie Time

In the celebratory spirit of Australian injury comes this great news from the Tri-Nations rugby: Ashley-Cooper had taken his seat in the grandstand and was about to start eating a pie when Jones told him he was on the reserves bench. Good taste that man to attempt to get his pie in early and churlish of the coach to prevent it, playing or not. Feeling duty bound I took a rather fine Steak and Guiness pie on board at lunch today to try and make up for Ashley-Cooper’s loss.

Cede The Bottom

Economics is great. I was chatting with a former Microsoft manager the other day and he revealed that after much analysis Microsoft had realized that some piracy is not only inevitable, but could actually be economically optimal. The reason is counterintuitive, but intriguing. The usual price-setting method is to look at the entire potential market, from the many at the economic lower end to the few at the top, and set a price somewhere in between the top and bottom that will maximize total revenues.


Tom Hume on Future Platforms’ mobile Sudoku: I’m afraid we can take no credit for this, but the commercial model of our version is really revolutionary: 25p a play, with the first game for free. I’ve never seen a mobile game that cheap, and it strikes me as a strong model for attracting casual gamers and players who might be intimidated by a £4.50 charge or unsure about whether this mobile gaming thing is for them.

his parents chose a dainty and innocent trifle

For the fourth time in as many years they were confronted with the problem of what birthday present to bring a young man who was incurably deranged in his mind. He had no desires. Man made objects were to him either hives of evil, vibrant with a malignant activity that he alone could perceive, or gross comforts for which no use could be found in his abstract world. After eliminating a number of articles that might offend him or frighten him (anything in the gadget line for instance was taboo), his parents chose a dainty and innocent trifle: a basket with ten little fruit jellies in ten little jars.


Suspirium puellarum Celadus thraex. This sort of thing was always my favourite at uni. Pretty fab weekend so far I must say. On Friday I popped down into the city for the evening to give Robert and Nat a hand with the sound and stuff at Bright Young Things before taking advantage of Robert’s sofa once more. This trip was also notable for my realisiation that sometimes a taxi is a handy way to get across town, not in every situation, but as an option in the armoury.


In which the word ‘good’ is used more often than is strictly healthy. I’m morbidly fascinated by the possibility of doing a frequency analysis on the thousands of words of old posts I’ve written on here to unearth my most annoying and cliched ticks. And then I think two things. Who cares? And that I can do without the pain of seeing my worst side any more than I do at the moment.

Threatening the Life of the Nation

Dan reminds me of the great words of Lord Hoffman, perfectly judged for circumstances such as these: The Attorney General’s submissions and the judgment of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission treated a threat of serious physical damage and loss of life as necessarily involving a threat to the life of the nation. But in my opinion this shows a misunderstanding of what is meant by “threatening the life of the nation”.


London Underground Ad Campaign, Spring 1915: “Why bother about the Germans invading the country - invade it yourself by Underground and the motor bus.” “Wolmar quotes from a study into the Jubilee extension by the Centre for Land Studies. The author, Don Riley, worked out that the £3.5 billion spent on the line had increased the value of the land along its route by £13 billion.” A mordant sense of humour and an obsession with house prices?


I am very pleased to see that despite losing the election (pretty much a forgone conclusion sadly, in a constituancy that has never returned anything other than a Tory MP) Kerron decided to carry on blogging, and at a much more hospitable location too. From the look of the first few entries he’s really hit the ground running after his practice run of a couple of months ago so I’m looking forward to seeing how it all develops.

gPhoto and the IXUS 50

The 2.1.6 release of gphoto now recognises the name of my camera, the Canon IXUS 50, previously it just worked as a generic device. All it took was one email with the camera ID and name and it’s in the next release. Open source is great.

Plotting the story

“I believe that it’s through stories that we relate our gameplaying experiences. These stories contextual our virtual experiences; for on the one hand, we are sitting on the couch, pushing buttons in a coordinated manner, but on the other, we are the Prince of Persia, saving the day. And the gameplaying experience of the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is contextualized as a story that the Prince is telling Farah, a story of his “virtual” experience that has now never happened, but he did indeed save the day.

European Cup

Paolo Maldini, Sophia Loren, Pavarotti, Marco Polo, Velentino Rossi, Silvio Berlusconi, Guiseppe de Lampedusa, Gina Lollobrigida, Dante, Frankie Dettori, Garibaldi, Giorgio Armani, Italo Calvino, Machiavelli, Leonardo Fibonacci, Christopher Columbus, Ennio Morricone, Julius Caeser, Monica Belucci, Enzo Ferrari, Savranola, Galileo Galilei, Leonardo da Vinci, John Cabot, Federico Fellini, Alessandro Volta, Emma Bonino, Giuseppe Verdi… Your boys got beat tonight.

Nokia 770

Every so often I see something and just enthuse about it until someone takes me to one side and shows that it’s not as clever as I think. So let’s try that in real time. Today Nokia announced their new Internet tablet, the Nokia 770. Go on, click on that link and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s fully NickBuzzword compliant with Linux, WiFi, Bluetooth, 800×480 screen, GNOME, GStreamer, Debian and more wrapped up in a nice little package that they call Maemo.


I don’t normally post about work type stuff on here for obvious reasons, not the least of which is that according to my contract my employers can cut off my HANDS and then my HEAD with LIGHTSABERS if I say something that isn’t ‘public knowledge’. So on that note, Vodafone Simply is a really good idea and actually looks very simple apart from one thing, the idle screen. That is not simple.

Music Engine

A short note to companies that like to encourage their employees to blog about things. This is how you announce a software product on your blog. I am impressed, particularly with the ‘Reasons not to use the Y! Music Engine’ section, viz: “”I use Linux.” Good on ya. Keep on, young blood. Did you see that we have a COMMAND LINE SHELL plugin, though? We get some props for that at least, right?


So if you live in England you’ll know all about Red Squirrels and their shockingly sad decline at the hands of the tougher and nastier American grey squirrel. Now in what shoddy journalists would probably call ‘one of natures ironies’ Canadian black squirrels are pushing out the grey in Washington DC (reg reqd). As this handy infographic shows they’re spreading all over the Washington area. In 1902, and then again in 1906, the zoo got black squirrels from “the department of crown lands” in Ontario.

Little People

The ever fascinating Andy brings news of a marvelous story about the Iraqi Dwarves Association in Kurdistan which has 3,800 members: The association helps us very much psychologically and socially. We visit and console one another. In 2000, the association played football against dwarfs from Erbil as a way of helping to relieve the tension between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the two main political parties in Kurdistan.


Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering and Cambridge University, once more tells it how it is with Chip and Spin a quite detailed look into why your new Chip and PIN cards are fairly useless, a topic all too close to my heart since my card got cloned the other day. And for something completely different, when I was quite small I had an obsessive attraction to combine harvesters, tractors and other such large machinery so you’ll be unsurprised to see my heart gladdened today by the Combine Harvester demolition derby.


I love the design of Sasha Frere-Jones’ weblog almost as much as I like the content; he writes about good music for the New Yorker you see. If you follow that link you’ll see a great article about the ‘Got That Purp’ mix-cd which is widely available for some five english pounds and is a very worthwhile investment if you like a bit of hip hop. As I do. In unconnected news the Election coverage continues with David Aaronovitch in Watford:

Mobile Marathon

The most surprising thing about running the marathon was just how many competitors were using their mobiles on the route as they were running. I didn’t see all that many runners at all actually (probably a thousand at most) as we were all pretty well segregated by time but of those that I saw I’d say about 100 or so had mobile phones on them and in active use at some point.

Linus and Cable

Further to previous dispatches on Linus’ feud with the Dyson vaccum cleaner he seems to have worked out a new strategy. Combine his current favourite game of ‘Attack The Electrical Wire’ with another attempt to cripple the aformentioned StartleNoiseMachineOfDeath and you have, ‘try to see what’s hidden behind the plug’. I think he is mightily enjoying the springtime, perkiness is ++; or he might just be reveling in my newly cleared desk, now leaving enough space for one cat to sprawl next to the keyboard, occasionally hitting escape with his chin.

Win x2

Yet again, I am a winner. Results for: NICHOLAS. RICHARDS Position (Overall): 16157 Position (Gender): 12990 Position (Age group): 2421 Splits: KM10: 0:55:57 KM20: 1:51:59 HALF: 1:58:18 KM30: 2:54:01 KM40: 4:10:07 FINISH: 4:25:58 As you can see right up until 30K I was well placed to run what I was expecting (9 minute miles, pretty much throughout) but for a host of reasons I won’t bore you with it wasn’t to be.

Night Before

We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. - Emil Zatopek


As you may have noted there’s going to be a general election here in the UK within the next few weeks. As such I’ve been having a think about who I should vote for. I live in South West Herts which looks to be intriguingly poised so it seems my vote is more likely to actually count this time. The long term MP (and fine individual for helping me out with my Geography coursework) Richard Page is retiring after some 20 years or so and as with the end of all long term MPs there’s now a bit of excitement as to whether the Tories might lose.

Just 6 and a bit more

20 miles today, the last long run before the taper. To celebrate the occasion we decided to run over the actual Marathon course as a bit of an acclimatisation measure. The pace was good, pretty quick actually. A steady 9 minutes a mile repeated 20 times. So everything looks good and on track. I’m actually too tired to type any more. Time for some sleep perhaps.


How on earth didn’t I know about the natural nuclear reaction at Oklo? It’s this sort of enlightened but sadly non-useful trivia that I tend to specialise in. Fascinating stuff, in case you’re worried that this means the world is about to explode, a properly scientific comparison with modern nuclear reactors should set your mind at rest (essentially there just isn’t a high enough percentage of fissile uranium about anywhere anymore to get natural criticality, that’s why you have to enrich the stuff if you want to build a bomb, reactor or just make your hand glow).

Standard Tea

‘Method for Preparation of a liquor of tea for use in sensory tests’, ISO 3103:1980 is the official British Standard how to make a good cuppa. Awesome. And if you don’t mind I’m off to go and follow its directions right now.

Open Data

Superb article on weather data and public access in the FT last week. A couple of excerpts: Take weather data. The United States makes complete weather data available to anyone at the cost of reproduction. If the superb government websites and data feeds aren’t enough, for the price of a box of blank DVD’s you can have the entire history of weather records across the continental US. European countries, by contrast, typically claim government copyright over weather data and often require the payment of substantial fees.

Animal Crossing

This is awesomely cute and supports my thesis that Animal Crossing is in and of itself the pure essence of love: In the game, Adam traveled to Sarah’s town to write and deliver the letter. GameCube controller in hand, he typed: “I love you Sarah Dane Buck. Will you marry me?” He then shot back to his own town to save. On Valentine’s Day, Adam told Sarah to boot up Animal Crossing so they could see the game’s special Valentine’s celebrations.

Prince on Edge

The new Edge website/blog is starting to get pretty good, rivalling the Guardian Gamesblog and Eurogamer in my feedreader. Yet the coup de grace is publishing top stories from their recent archive like this marvelous Time Extend piece on Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time. 3,000 odd (up from 500-1,000 for their typical review) considered words of review on one of the best games ever, a year after its release.


Do you have a colour printer, some stout card and a pair of scissors? If so that’s all you need to create videogame based papercraft. The motivation for actually creating such a beast should become obvious upon visiting the following links. Outrun papercraft! Katamari Damancy papercraft! So, how about those crazy Japanese hey? All this of course is neither better or worse just different to the marvelous paper arcade, rightly prasised around the world for its powerful evocation of the chip shop aesthetic in a dolls house universe.

FIFA Emails

You know what would be really cool? If these emails I keep recieving from EA about the games I play in FIFA 2005 on Xbox Live could have a date header so my mail client actually knew what to do with them. Yeah, that’d be great. In other words I played my first game of online football last night and was victorious 3-0. I am slightly suspicious that I was in fact playing against an AI bot programmed to let me win the first time to maintain interest/addiction.

Slightly Smaller Than

Robert: Australia is ” slightly smaller than the US contiguous 48 states”. This entry in loving comparison to

LCD Soundsystem Interview

Like long rambling unedited transcripts of interviews? Like the propulsive force of dance-rock that is the LCD Soundsystem? The you’ll love this interview with James Murphy. (he of the LCD Soundsystem and The DFA) Their album is out RSN in the UK and US and I would encourage you all to go and buy it, there’ll be a bonus CD with all the singles which should be worth the price alone.

Intended Articles

A list of weblog and otherwise articles or pieces presented in a list that is supposed to evoke familiarity and possibly awe at my wide ranging interests. Here presented in a dissertation style format that should hopefully tell all whilst negating the reason to write them up fully since, well, I’m not that interested in most of them any more for one reason or another. I’ve intended to write over the past six months or so but never got around to, due to being too busy working with systems and problems I didn’t like.


I’m a rocker, I rock out. Well, technically not a rocker but certainly a runner. As Ben said, more eloquently than I could form words at this current moment, it was a legendary performance by all concerned and something everyone both could and should do, no matter the speed of performance. For the record I did the thing in Four hours, Twenty-three minutes and Seven seconds but that didn’t matter so much at the end, finishing was quite emotional.


Here’s a shoutout to my sister for whom all things creepily Japanese are like milk to a cup of tea. Emily, dude, check out the concept of OS-Tan, it’s sort of like fanfic as drawing for operating systems. Done by the Japanese. There are other bemused western descriptions but that wikipedia article is worryingly comprehensive, the sort of value add that only Wikipedia can provide. Anyway the bit I like the best is that the Linux one carries a spear, fair play you might say except that the spear has three flags attached.


A really cool idea, I’m the N at the top. Not entirely sure how 560 feeds are scalable though, a couple of years experince has shown me that I can happily keep up with about 70-100 feeds at any one time, usually about 70 in an RSS agregator and another 10 or so via LiveJournal.

Outrun 2

Humans have been known to complain about my undying love for Outrun 2 and its voluble and constant expression. It’s no secret that I always seem to have at least two pound coins in my pocket at all times and a haunted look when walking past one of Londons many arcades in case they have a machine. I am not alone. Thankfully.The main problem, as ever at this time of year is trying to find the momney to buy and time to paly all these amazing games.


As football goes I’ve been noticing something recently, there’s been an epidemic of sides that play 442 in defence with a striker wide on the wing but when in possession break quickly onto the counter attack and play 433 with the winger bombing forward as an extra striker. Often this player is a striker on the wing, as in Heskey last season at Liverpool or Bellamy at Newcastle. Arsenal don’t quite play this system even though Reyes bombs forwards the requisite number of times because quite frankly they’re too good to be held back by mere systems.


And now a short interlude on matters rugby. The Observer had it right in the Summer of 2003: BLINDSIDE FLANKER: RICHARD HILL 9 Won this correspondent’s vote as the greatest Briton of them all last year, just ahead of Shakespeare. The number of piles of bodies he ends up being at the bottom of defies analysis, as does the frequency and effectiveness of the tackling. When his mates in the back row left him on his own for a little over 10 minutes, he shrugged his shoulders and upped his work rate.


UNIX Application or Outlawed Paramilitary/Guerrilla Organization? Getting them all right is probably a cause for concern.


Barbelith discusses Who Was Quimper? Extremely cogent, yet unsurprising given that this sort of discussion is the purpose of its creation. For background and in order to understand large parts of the discussion as well as have a jolly good time you might want to read The Invisibles (that’s only the first volume).

25 Band Names

If I were in a band it would probably have many names, here are some of them in an order: 1.Linus and the Rockers 2.Arch Pun 3.John Donne and the Metaphysicals 4.Closed Sundays 5.Minicom 6.Annular Fission and You 7.The Gallery 8.Ornamentalism 9.Slang 10.Great American Novel 11.Penguin Hotel 12.Backup Tape 13.Read Reciept 14.Penalty Fare 15.From The Author Of 16.Chelsea Ted 17.24 Hour Protection 18.Wear More Badges 19.Bad Passport Photo 20.Moneyball 21.Monkeyball 22.

Good Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace to Gus Van Sant on Good Will Hunting: of course this is like a stroke movie for me — is you’ve got like a total nerd who is incredibly good looking, can beat people up and has Minnie Driver in love with him, so I’m, like I saw it twice voluntarily. Also good by DFW on that site The Nature of the Fun, something I think on increasingly.


I was moaning about MS Access again the other day, this time particularly about its charming manner of blocking on even the whisper of use leaving others who want to gain information from its sordid depths unhappy and mewling. During this sustained rant I was forced to deploy that startling geek catchall the ‘fine grained system of permissions’. Robert naturally disagreed commenting that ‘it is a fine grain’, ‘the problem is it’s only one grain’.


I now have a proper job. My title says ‘IT Co-ordinator’ in shiny bright letters. It’s in Moorgate right in the centre of London so the commute isn’t too bad. I start on Monday. I’ll say some more about it when I’ve been going for a while and have made a few changes (like redone the website for starters). I can’t believe that I’m going to have money, and an Oystercard.


A small and not entirely exhaustive list of processors (CPUs) I now own: 1x 800Mhz PowerPC G4 in my laptop 1x 733Mhz x86 Celeron in my Xbox 1x 270MHz UltraSPARC IIi 1x 125MHz MIPS in my Linksys router 1x 120MHz ‘network processor’ in my Squeezebox 1x 100Mhz StrongARM in my Psion Series 7 2x ARM of unknown speed in my Nokia 3650 (I’m assuming 2x as most smartphones have one processor for telephony and another for apps) I’m making this list becuase I’ve just got a Sun Ultra 5 for my birthday and because all of these are faster than my first PC, the Atari 520ST which ran at a mighty 8MHz on a Motorola 68000.


Well, next time I upgrade my blogging software I’m going to have to move off MT. It’s been a good pacakge but it seems I don’t fit their customer profile anymore. tolstoy is hosted on a dual processor box and that’s something thad (madly) they specificly prohibit. Not sure why but it’s their perogative to do whatever they so wish with their software. This is just another set of users learning all over again exactly why software libre is good for everybody.


So I’m driving up to Nottingham today in what some impartatial observers have described as ‘a boat’. It’s almost the biggest car I’ve ever seen, let alone driven, every time I get behind the wheel I’m psychologically leaving 2 seconds between action and reaction for the speed of light to transmit my orders to the back of the car. So yes, it’s an estate. A Ford Mondeo estate and if I never see one again as long as I live I’ll be happy.


“nanoscale gold molecules travel 2.5 millimeters per hour through the olfactory nerves of squirrel monkeys” Solid gold trivia indeed.

Chief, Master Chief

I am James Bond, mere milliseconds ago I finished the final level of Halo which in ordinary circumstances would be impressive but not really a cause for dancing. Further context can be provided: I’ve been trying to do it for two days now to ever increasing frustration; I hit the spaceship with 00:01 remaining. That’s right, one second remaining. The last section of the last level is a 6 minute drive and sprint through a full scale battle in a jeep to get the last ship off the soon to explode world.

Hamlet Text Adventure

A couple of weeks ago I spent a thoroughly entertaining morning on the internet collaboratively solving the Hamlet Text Adventure with Mr Losowsky. It’s really rather good, filled with plenty of good literary in-jokes and engaging retro gameplay. This has to be one of the first computing things that really demands/takes advantage of the fact that I’ve spent most of the last 15 years or so studying the Humanities and thus I’m enormously happy with it.

Gothick Limerick

A limerick tribute to my sister Emily (yes this is creative payback for a bet that I lost): I once knew a hyeractive Goth Whose work was full of sloth She went to Kamchatka And read lots of Kafka Before turning right into a moth

Circling, Circling

It’s so crisp and clear here, you can see for miles. Thousands of feet above the wind has shifted slightly and the circling area for Heathrow Airport has moved to a racetrack around our house played out at 10,000 feet. There are so many planes in the sky; ordinarily you wouldn’t see them at all but today. I can see four, five, eight jumbo jets. Thousands of people held up by an invisible hand.

Linus and the Hoover

I’ve just had to encourage my cat to go out into the cold cold outside. He seemed less than enamoured of this idea but I do it for his own good. You see I was about to use his fiercest enemy, the hoover. Now if you’ve seen a photo of Linus you’ll know that he startles easily; in fact millions of years of feline evolution have given him a panicked look or flight mechanism which he uses to good effect.


I’ve just got back from Heathrow after going down there to see the England rugby team arrive home with the William Webb Ellis Trophy, the World Cup. It was very special. Those words seem somehow not enough and yet too much, too cliched. The one thing I’ll remember most, a forrest of arms reaching up, half with digital cameras, the other half with cameraphones. Flashes going off everywhere as the coach drove slowly past and in the front flashing golden the cup itself.

Dialogue and TV

Writing dialogue is hard. People today don’t speak like they used to, if they ever did. For an author with any pretension to realism to set their book in the present is a bold move. Because people, especially at home and from what I know also socially don’t talk like they do in books. I’m at home currently and much of my conversation is witty (possibly ironic) asides to the person sitting next to me watching TV not long and involved desconstructions of verb usage.

Infinite Draft

One of my favourite books is called Infinite Jest, it’s written by the very talented David Foster Wallace. Other people like it too it gets critical theory readers written about it, essays and more. So this comparison of the Infinite Jest first draft to the final book version (in fact the paperback which is actually pretty revised from the hardcover) is just amazing. I love looking behind the scenes at how art is constructed mostly it helps me learn things.

7 Year-Olds

You may’ve spotted that I’ve not been around very much this week. This is because I’ve been helping out at a childrens youth week thingy for primary school age people. To clarify I’ve been a team (10 or so) leader for 6 and 7 year olds. Now 6 and 7 year olds rock so hard, there’s just something deep in my brain that means I get on with them pretty much straight off the bat so it’s been lots of running about and terribly, terribly exhausting.

Pressure In Sport

Robert has a very astute observation about Rugby. He said that he likes it because of the pressure that can build up over a period of minutes. Since it’s a game of territory and possession as much as anything else sides can build up an irresistible muscular rhythm. Cricket too can be a game of pressure. I’ll always remember the last hour or so of play in an England vs. South Africa test a couple of years ago.

Broadband Back

And as if by magic the internet returned. Our cable has been down for a few days now and I was off selling the good fight at LUDE where we won the award for Best Linux Software. Which was fun. I really enjoyed myself in the .org village, just me a laptop and a sign saying ‘’, people came up and we just chatted, it was great. That’s the sort of thing that makes following 15 mailing lists worthwhile when harassed sysadmins come up to you and say things like: “We’ve got 100 computers in our school using OOo but one of our teachers wants to buy MS Office because Pivot Tables are a national curicculum requirement” and you can just say: “We have pivot tables but not under that name, we call them DataPilot, here, let’s take a look at calc…” and you know, just know that when he walks away you’ve made a difference.

X2 Cereal

X2: The Cereal is all that is promised by the claims of a ‘mutant taste explosion’ on the back and more. So much more. Pick some up if you can find it and perk up your breakfast. There’s just something deeply satisfying about a movie tie in cereal.

Welcome German Macistes

Guten Tag. Sorry, that’s used up my feeble German language skills. It’s always fun to be linked to in other languages it makes you feel all interwebnetty and loosely joined so a hearty welcome to those coming from MacGuardians (a rather impressive number of you in fact). I do indeed talk about OS X a fair ammount although it’s a mere facet of what I’m interested in. Fun OS X things that have caught my eye today:

i got a desmond.

i got a desmond. Yay me. Update: For those unfamiliar with KCL slang a Desmond is a Desmond Tutu (he went to king;s dontchaknow) or 2:2. I’m just glad it’s all over.

Reorganisation, Bookstyle

Moving back in has been hard. Not for all the usual hate your family reasons that everyone else seems to use but simply because I’ve run out of space for my books. Great stacks of them roam the floor of my room causing consternation for the kittens and forcing me to step delicately unless the vibrations cause them to topple in a scale model of downtown earthquake disaster. You see I’m now trapped in the bibliophile version of High Fidelity, organising my library by genre and then alphebatised within that genre.

CM4, Addictiveness in a box

CM4 is totally, totally addictive and the makers know it. In the saved game properties there’s a little addictiveness rating for how long you’ve spent on the game, so far they advise me to look at changing my underwear on this one. There was a study showing that computer games playing boosts concentration and I have to agree, days fly past… I get lots of work done too, in the time that CM4 is doing its number crunching to simulate pretty much the entire footballing world in my computer I’ve been reading, writing and learning.

Busy, Busy Man

As people are becoming increasingly fond of mentioning I’ve not got long left as a student. In May I’ll be taking my exams, a very, very scary prospect. Posts may be a bit thin on the ground for a while whilst I get my revision head on. Alternatively you may see a few History posts. Who knows. Oh and I refreshed my about page slightly, my new picture is an absolutely rocking screencap from Cristian Driga’s OOoCon filming.


Newly discovered feature of the day returns! At OOoCon I had the opportunity to talk with the guys who really know the code inside out and backwards, the release engineers. I learnt a fair amount about the huge number of Easter eggs that were in the code before the release of the code to the open source community and some of the l33t formatting options that are available. For example wrapping words in stars like *so* indicates that you want them turned bold, _underline_ also works.

DBA Privs Workaround

“When working with drivers which not fully support the access to the privileges of the database or returning just incorect information, only allows the operations which the driver returns. E.g. when the driver doesn’t return the right to insert values into a table even when the database allows it, also shows the table in read only mode.” it’s all in the HOWTO. You might notice that we’re going big on database access recently.


Another fine NTK spinoff, snackspot was launched this week. It’s now my new favourite website. Check out this entry for my American drink of choice Vanilla Coke for an idea of the flavour of the site. Very yay.

Announcing 1.1 Beta

We are glad to announce that the next version ( 1.1) has reached an important milestone and is now available for download as 1.1 Beta. It represents a significant advance in the application and incorporates the features and changes introduced in the developer builds over the past year. The release includes a massive amount of new and exciting functionality, features and bugfixes, the highlights are: Many new import/export formats like PDF, Macromedia Flash, DocBook, several PDA Office file formats, flat XML and XHTML Support for Complex Text Layout (CTL) and vertical writing languages, such as Thai, Hindi, Arabic, Hebrew Enhanced integration with Java, with up to 10 times better performance Support for Accessibility throughout the entire suite Support for add-on components Initial support for recovering damaged OOo files Support for a new data source type - MySQL Improved online help (F1) A more complete list of features is available.

Dictated Length

My blog posts are trending towards the size of my NetNewsWire entry box. Either this shows the extent to which context dictates production or its one of the finest pieces of usability engineering I’ve ever seen. Either way it demonstrates the heavy burden placed on UI engineers to get it right. This is something we’re working quite hard on at OOo, our 1.1 release will demonstrate a refinement of the current interface before we go back to basics and rethink the whole thing for 2.

Chicks Dig Scars

It is indisputably true that chicks dig scars. Well, they do if you got them in a sexycool way, otherwise they’ll just laugh. These are ways not to get a scar. One of them has happened to me. Running to class and tripping over. Walking into a glass door. Papercut. Lighting a match too close to your fingers Dropped shoe on foot. These are not fight club scars, these are not heroic wounds.

Uncommon Public

It is indisputably true that I am an advocate of public transport. I see little or no point in owning the means of transportation, certainly for city dwellers. Yet public transport is often unsatisfactory even for a hardcore advocate such as myself. So it’s always nice to be able to recommend something entirely without reservation. That special something is the Heathrow Express. I had always considered it a monstrous imposition upon the British transport landscape and at £13 for a single journey it’s not exactly cheap but the secret of success is very simple.

Happiest Day Of The Month

It’s the happiest day of the month at Starbucks! Another new month begins today which means a new coffee of the day (fairtrade, rock!) new instore promotions and new muffins (remind me never to have the Raspberry and peach ever again, please). But best of all they’ve changed the 45 minute music loop! Anyone who talks to me online a lot will know that the starbucks 45 minute loop is the bane of my life, I now feel a deep feeling of anger whenever I hear the words “On The Boardwalk”.

DRM Hell

I was hurt by DRM. I purchased an ebook copy of David Foster Wallace’s fine Up, Simba! using the Adobe eBook reader a few months ago. After getting my new TiBook I was interested to see if I could move my book over to my new PC. This is proving more complex than it should. Adobe doesn’t make a version of their eBook reader available for OS X, indeed they specifically state that their software will not work under the classic environment.

Things to be Glad #7

Slingshoting past the IMAX cinema as the bus leans into the turn with Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks on the mp3 player. Patter of rain on the window.

What's in 1.0.2

Well 1.0.2 is on general release feel free to have a download. The release fixes the bugs mentioned in the release notes, if you’re running up against these its a recommended download. There are a few more bugs that were fixed in this version that didn’t make it into the release notes, I’ll post again when they’re updated. If you’re not running into these problems then you don’t have to bother although I hear anecdotaly that it’s a bit faster.

Terrible Clothes

Why do people with such terrible/trendy fashion sense seem to congregate around art? Is it because they think they’re fashionable? I hope not. Exploting parental Tate membership I visited the Eva Hesse exhibition at Tate Modern today. It was actually rather good although I’m still thinking. The sort of thing that makes you think deeply actually. Go see it if you’re in London before March when it leaves for warmer climes.

AppleScript Fun

I’ve been playing with AppleScript. It’s startlingly easy to get a handle on and even easier to get very cool results which is perhaps why I like it. AppleScript is a computing glue that connects different applications together and allows you to use their functionality for your own evil ends. My first Applescript was a quick knocked up icon to sit in my dock and start when clicked. This is what it looks like:

End Of 2002

This is what the end of another year tastes like. It tastes like friendship and that’s never a bad thing. After the disaster that was 2001 this year has been pretty decent for me personally and professionally. I got my life sorted much better, kept up with friends much better and even made a few new ones. This was a good plan. I became increasingly involved in the community, culminating in being elected co-Lead of the Marketing Project which was a huge surprise and a real honour.

Two Towers Reactions

A little longer this time, my reactions to The Two Towers. Simply put I think that it’s one of the best films ever made and that as a continuous trilogy it will stand in the annals of film making as one of the finest achievements of our time. The scope, the imagination, the craftsmanship, the love laboured into every detail. These things awe you. When combined with an amazing story and an amazing storyteller they leave you glued to your seat for three hours, eyes hungrily sucking in every glimpse they can take.

Fire! Fire!

There was a fire in the Sainsbury’s carpark this afternoon. Just as I was exiting the starbucks with my Eggnog Latte and a bag of shopping a Green Godess with associated police acompaniment cam screaming round the corner and very nearly clipped a nice blue Vauxhall Vectra. A car was on fire but when they tried to put it out they found that there wasn’t any water, so they have to sort out a chain of pipes to the nearest outlet 200 yards away.

PowerShower, Of Power

OK then, let me introduce you to a mighty potentate within King’s College Hall, something that we all truly respect. The PowerShower, Of Power. This is no ordinary shower. I would attempt to provide you with documentary proof but it’s innocent exterior belies a malign beast within. After the usual fussing around with the UI of the shower and being either scorched or frozen I managed to find a happy medium of temperature.


So, Saturday then. If you’ve been a regular visitor you’ll probably have seen my note: “sex pistols, trail of dead, sun @ crystal palace. excellent”. Wapblogger is a curiously cool thing, my companion didn’t seem over impressed by it though. I explained it twice in coming up to excruciating detail, didn’t seem to make much impression. In fact he started to look at me oddly after that. But back to first principles.


Whilst wandering up to the end of the garden to hang out the washing I saw a curious sight. Well, not immediatly, as I was labouring under the heavy burden of the washing basket which made my slow look up, leap ten feet in the air move look even more comic to the invisible observer 10 feet above my left shoulder that role playing games have tought me exists everywhere.

Target Market Nostalgia

“Transformers, robots in disguise!” Rarely have those words been spoken without an alomst suicidaly Japanese sense of enthusiam. For those unfortunates (myself included) who were unhappy enough to grow up in the early 80’s watching, playing, dreaming about and generally interacting in a full on childish obsession was not uncommon. I myself possesed optimus prime. That is all. Little more needs to be said. So it’s insuprising that as we Transformers fans grow up and start to become prosperous twentysomethings DVD releases and other marketing tie-ins are scheduled.


Just got this email from mtv today: “I am pleased to let you know that the hour you created via the MTV2 website ( has been selected for forthcoming transmission. It will be shown on 11 March 2002, at 03:00 (UK local time). Thanks very much for sending it in and we hope you enjoy watching it. Cheers MTV2″ Which is nice. At least some TV will be NedBlog. Approved.

Fell In Love With A Girl

The White Stripes Rock. So you would expect their Video for ‘Fell In Love with a Girl’ to rock too. And it does, in Lego animation stylee. If you have broadband you must check this out. If not then it’s still worth the wait. Good music too.

Sarries v Quins

Today was one of the most satifying rugby watching experiences of my life. Nice. After criticism, frailty and appaling injuries Sarries, my team, fought backagainst a team who’d taken us to the cleaners with a 50 point demolition only a month or so ago. We won convincingly, and predictably the large (13,500) crowd were just as delighted as the players.

Is STOMITH absolutely required?

The Register speaks: “Last week Sistina released version 5.0 of the open source GFS clustered file system. It richly deserves its obscurity rating - any FAQ that begins with the question “Is STOMITH absolutely required?” can be judged to have a small but intense following.” Priceless.

IKEA: The return. We returned.

IKEA: The return. We returned. We returned from our return once more heavily laden, but this time heavily laden in the correct shade. Much better. I think I have an addiction to small tables and chairs. This feels like something that can only be cured with years of therapy. Oh well. In other news: few things happened. I started work at said Clarkenwell TV production company thing. It is cool. It uses Mac.

Finally, Finally NedWap is up

Finally, Finally NedWap is up and moving swiftly towards a decent version. The joy of WML is that it’s XML, so if it doesn’t work you see nothing. For a very long while I saw nothing. I even got onto my hosting company asking if they were sure that supported WAP. They were. Eventually I threw out my WYSIWIG editor, borrowed a book on WML and learnt the error of my ways.