Tuesday, August 31, 2004

XP SP2 update

I spoke slightly too soon.

So far "Medieval: Total War" refused to work unless you are logged in as administrator. Their tech support staff said "you must be logged in as an admin user to play this game". It's currently in a strong first place for my Brain Dead software award for September because of this. Bizarrely, after I ran it once in admin mode, it started behaving properly and is now back to normal.

Norton Antivirus is also broken. At least, Live Update stalls while querying the Symantec database. I think a reinstall may fix it.

Most bizarrely, I added my user id back into the Administrators group and... it didn't work. I mean my user id was clearly there in the group, but it couldn't do any of the admin tasks. Unfortunately, when Windows noticed another user in the Administrators group, it removed "Administrator" from the login screen. The only way to restore things to normal was to log in remotely as Admin (you get a dialog box into which you can type the Administrator account name) and remove my normal user from the Administrators group.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Service Pack 2

Yes, I've upgraded now that M$ finally brought it out for XP Pro. I took the plunge in spite of dire warnings from Keith that it would break all my applications. So far nothing is broken that wasn't already broken although I haven't played any of my games since the upgrade. (I'm kind of hoping that Doom 3 is irretrievably nadgered because I've only played about one level (in recruit mode) and it is the scariest game ever. Apart from the usual medkits, you get "instant medical stations" which zap your health up. They also display your heart rate and I noticed on one that mine was 84 - in real actual life outside the game it was probably 120.)

The only irritating thing I've noticed is that I get a little icon in systray telling me that a) my firewall is broken (actually it is switched off because I have another real one) and b) automatic updates are misconfigured (actually they are set to not install automatically because I prefer to know what is on my machine).

Brain Dead Software

I've decided to institute an prize which I will be awarding occasionally called "Brain Dead Software of the Month". This month it goes to Nikon Capture 4 which refuses to run unless it has write access to the root of one of your hard disk drives. This is bad news for anybody who (like me) uses a main log in id which isn't in the Administrator group and prefers not to give ordinary users access to things they're not allowed. Well done Nikon. Your prize is a free link from my blog.

Thursday, August 26, 2004


What a superb number is forty-three. It's prime. In fact it's the first two digit prime where the second number is one less than the first number.

It's also the number of consecutive unbeaten league games that Arsenal have played and a new record!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Television History

My television is history, actually. It broke just before the end of the last football season and I haven't got around to buying a new one yet. As a result I do a lot more surfing and I found this snippet.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Fog in the Channel; Continent cut off

In the course of my work, I often have to travel to Aldershot from my home in Reading. The powers that be seem to think this is a a bad idea though.

This map is probably essential to understand what follows.

The problem with the South side of Reading is the M4. Realistically there are only two ways for me to get across it to Aldershot. I can either take the A327 through Shinfield or the A33. The only other routes out to the South are the A329 (to far East) and the A4 (too far West).

Reading is a big town and lots of people keep trying to get into it every day. The traffic jams on the A33 are glacial and those on the A327 of Nile like proportions (long). Fortunately, I am always going the other way.

A few months ago, in their infinite wisdom, Wokingham district council decided to remodel the junction on the A327 at Arborfield Cross. This selfish council decided to reduce the pain of people trying to get into and out of Wokingham by putting an enormous roundabout there. This has completely disrupted all the traffic going along the A327 including me as that is my favourite route to work.

Not to worry, I changed my route to go down the A33, turn left onto the B3349, head for Hook and approach Aldershot from the West along the A287. Although much further, it avoids Fleet so it doesn't take much longer.

Now, whichever council is in charge of the B3349 has decided it needs resurfacing, so they closed it at the beginning of August. The only alternative road work free route to Aldershot is a piddling country lane, the B3011 which a) is a long way and b) fails to avoid Fleet. Was it beyond the whit of these two councils to check up on each other and coordinate such that the Farnborough-Fleet-Aldershot metropolis was not almost completely cut off from Reading? Obviously. Huge quantities of traffic now rumble daily along this cart track. All we need is for somebody to pedestrianise it. In fact I can't believe they haven't already thought of it.

And another thing

The A327 is officially miserable due to the roadworks, but usually you can get through. Today it was flooded and hence closed altogether. Still, it could be worse. One of my colleagues rushed down to Boscastle on Monday to make sure his family, dog and cottage aren't in the sea. My thoughts are with you Keith.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Mike flex

Rich has blogged about the experience of the production of Joseph that we were both involved in and I thought I'd share some of my experiences during the same production.

I was employed as the sound engineer which basically means I had a little box bought from Tandy with some knobs on which I twiddled to try and get the microphones loud enough for the people at the back of the hall to hear and not so loud that the equipment and everybody's ears melted in the feedback. We had about three microphones of which two were normal ones on stands.

We also had a radio mike.

The thing about the radio mike was that it didn't have a wire connecting it to the amplifier. This meant that it was in strong demand for people to sing their songs and also move about the stage unimpeded by long cables. The other thing about it was that it had a radio transmitter in it that meant it needed batteries. The other other thing about it was that it induced microphone snobbery - everybody wanted to use it, not those crappy things with wires, aren't we in the 20th century now?

It was the job of the stage manager to make the announcement at the end of the interval in order to get everybody back into their seats. Every evening would be the same. I used to turn the radio mike off at the amplifier to stop it feeding back. He'd try to use it to make his announcements. I'd gesticulate to one of the normal mikes. He'd gesticulate fiercely to the radio mike. I'd give up and let him use it. Inevitably this took its toll on the batteries.

In act two, we got to the Benjamin Callypso. One of the brothers had to sing the main part and his voice was not the strongest - a microphone of some sort was essential. A little choreographed ballet had been concocted whereby the narrator unobtusively handed the radio mike to him. On the last night, the narrator thought he'd have a laugh and handed the brother a banana instead. The brother didn't realise (nerves etc) for several seconds and it was all hilariously funny.

Or would have been. The radio mike had been flat lining since the beginning of the act. The banana was of equal utility in amplifying the human voice as the brother found out when the correct implement was finally handed over. Basically, it was murdered by the radio snobbery of the stage manager.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Uptime girl

When I first bought a Powerbook and installed OS X on it, I felt smug. Even though OS X 10.0 was really only a beta, it looked great and was reliable. I knew this because there was a command line program called "uptime" which tells you how long it is since the last reboot. I was regularly gettting uptimes of several days. This is more impressive than you might think because a) Apple were issueing software updates fairly regularly often requiring reboots and b) at that time my work laptop ran Win98 and dual booted Red Hat Linux. It was rarely up for more than an hour.

Times move on and now every respectable Windows box runs XP or later. My home PC only really gets rebooted for Windows updates, but still I think my current Mac laptop has it beat:

jeremyp@titania:gsg$ uptime
22:36 up 28 days, 14:07, 1 user, load averages: 0.07 0.25 0.25

In other news...

For work, I'm writing an ActiveX control. As any fule kno, the best language to write ActiveX controls is Visual Basic (unless .NET has a better way). Unfortunately, this ActiveX control has to integrate with a C API with callbacks and everything and so a decision has been taken to write it in C++. This filled me with dread but I rolled up my sleeves and dug out the ATL documentation and fired up MS VC++. Well I was pleasantly surprised, after only two hours I had a functional skeleton control with a method and an event. In VB I would have got to this stage in about 5 minutes, but I would be facing the trauma of writing a VB to C interface (with callback handling). Overall, I don't think I've lost much time.

Monday, August 02, 2004

In the beginning was the word

No I'm not talking about the programme on which the lead singer of L7 got her kit off. Ooo, I just remembered I liked the song they were singing. I'll just see if it's on iTunes....

Result! Found it and bought!

I've just been seized with an irrational desire to learn New Testament Greek. Why? It's irrational; how am I supposed to know why?

I recently found Rejection of Pascal's Wager which is a critical analysis of early Christianity and the texts surrounding it. Now, obviously you can't trust a site like this, which has an agenda, so you have to go to the scholarly sources which invariably involve lots of quoting from original Greek texts. Hence I need to learn NT Greek, plus knowing the Greek alphabet might make the Bernoulli equation easier to read. The NT Gateway seems to have lots of resources on it to help me.

It's "Pretend we're dead" in case you missed the episode. Frankly they did a better job on "The Word" than in the studio (I still seem to have the video tape for some reason). Oooo I wonder if there's a "The Word" album on iTunes....



Maybe I was wrong about Bernoulli's equation. I thought it went "pi eta a rho v" but my internet research is drawing a blank. The point is: there is an equation in physics that was just a string of Greek and latin letters that probably spells a rude word. Can anybody enlighten me?


The other thing I remember about L7 apart from the singer taking her trousers and pants off and the song being really good was that the drummer looked a bit like my brother's girlfriend at the time. They're married to each other now; my brother and his girlfriend (let's call her Claire) not Claire and the drummer from L7, or my brother and the drummer from L7 who I think is called Dee, but the web site is a bit vague.

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