Monday, January 28, 2008

Acute viral nasopharyngitis... aaarrrrggghhhhh!

Well, since I seem to have a nasty cold (acute viral nasopharyngitis!) I thought I'd read about what causes them and how I can avoid them in the future. Amazingly there seem to be whole websites dedicated to the common cold!

Interestingly a cold isn't necessarily a sign that you are worn down. It just seems that once the cold is in your nose you are f*cked. So it would seem that you have to plug your nostrils. So I thought that might be a way to make a quick buck but it seems like someone has thought of this already.

Alternatively it seems just washing your hands a lot could reduce the changes of getting it, especially if you use a keyboard.

I think this girl might still get a cold, and she definitely needs to wash her hands.


The symptoms of a cold are like mild influenza. The virus enters through the nasopharynx. This probably accounts for the reason I couldn't swallow this morning and sounded like Marlon Brando, without the need for cotton balls. - Interestingly Marlon Brando becomes "becomes very cross if he does not have enough vigorous physical activity". Wow, he must have been one angry butterball at the end.

In summary, to avoid a cold: Don't put your keyboard up your nose.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Where there is a willy, there is a way

The Nintendo Wii allows you to make your own characters faces. This is a fun addition to console ownership and allows you to play as yourself, or an alter ego, whilst bowling, or playing tennis, etc. Nintendo have tried to make everything family friendly, but it's funny how inventive some people can be.

It's strange but this is almost a lesson in design. The best designers work within the constraints they are given and are creative with it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Browser Review

I've been using Firefox 2 at home for sometime now, and Internet Explorer 7 at work. Internet Explorer 6 was very lacking in usability features, like tabbed browsing. IE 7 seems to add a lot of functionality and is surprisingly useful and responsive for something from the Microsoft stable. I suppose competition from Mozilla spurred them on. Hooray for choice and competition.

Firefox 2, out of the box has memory issues though when you leaving running or use it for a long time. It has great functionality, but eats RAM, and can become quite sluggish on a laptop. This can be relieved, but I thought I'd try another option, Opera.

My initial response was very enthusiastic. It's a small install and uses less memory than the other browsers. It's the browser that is used on the Wii console. However, after using it for some time, what I don't like is the plug-in support, called "widgets" in Opera. These don't seem to be dockable, like a lot of the Firefox plug-ins. Instead they can live on your desktop and you can access them when the browser in minimised. But why would you want to do this?

Plug-ins are important because they let you add extensions like del.icio.us toolbars, i.e. so you don't have to go via a web page to get to your links. There are lots of other useful integrated plug-ins as well which block adverts etc. The Opera widgets don't seem as integrated with the browser, which is disappointing.

I'm settling on Firefox 3, which is beta 2 at the moment. It seems a lot more responsive than Firefox 2 and they have supposedly fixed the memory leak issues. Not all sites work with beta 3 yet, e.g. Yahoo Mail, the new flashy version. And not all the add-ons have been ported from version 2, but it definitely looks like the most promising browser out there at the moment as IE 7 doesn't have anywhere near the community support that Firefox has.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Blogging

Blogging is quite odd. It's quite therapeutic, but at the same time you wonder who is reading. Whatever you write is open to millions, probably billions of people. Not that that many people are likely to read it, but they have the option to.

To sway an audience, you must watch them as you speak. -- C. Kent Wright

Perhaps the style of writing is influenced by how many you intend to reach. Sensationalist tabloid newspapers subscribe to hyperbole and gossip to extend their readership.

I'm not sure I want popular opinion on my side. I've noticed those with the most opinions often have the fewest facts. -- Bethania McKenstry

But isn't blogging more of a personal thing?

I write because I'm afraid to say some things out loud. -- Real Live Preacher, Real Live Preacher weblog

Like a diary? Except, things you'd to say someone you met in the street; or, more extreme because you'll never meet them? I suppose it's also nice, and sometimes we take for granted that not everyone can publish their thoughts and opinions.

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular. -- Adlai E. Stevenson Jr. (1900 - 1965), Speech in Detroit, 7 Oct. 1952

There does seem to be an awful lot of stream-of-consciousness babble in some blogs.

When ideas fail, words come in very handy. -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)

Well, it's an interesting medium. And without the help of filters and search engines it would all become overwhelmingly meaningless. Perhaps it's just a case of patience!

Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together. -- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 - 1799)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sweet Jesus, Linux is enough to give you a nosebleed

Linux seems to be getting more and more press. A lot of people have got fed up with Windows over the years and maybe don't want to pay for the Vista upgrade, or maybe just want to try something different.

A Mac, you need the hardware; it's good, and if you consider the price against the performance and all the software bundled, and the quality of it all, it's not that expensive. Is Vista worth the extra cash? It has the security flaws of the previous version and needs higher spec hardware to get the same results! So, Linux, you think... hey, that's free, I can get better performance out the Windows PC I have now!

Now a few years back it was just for geeks. There was all kinds of voodoo you had to do to get it working, so that made the choice easy: Windows. Okay, Windows 95 wasn't perfect but it was accessible. Linux was too hard to use back then without growing a hobbit beard, wearing a cardigan and socks and sandals. But now there are dozens of different versions of Linux, and lot of effort has been put into usability. But that's where the problem starts; we're spoilt for choice; nosebleed number one.

All these distributions come about because people have different ideologies, motives (or axes to grind) about Linux. Some want a raw, text based low resource version, like Slackware, where you have to know how it works. And some want easy to use versions, perhaps with commercial support, in case you stuck or want to buy services, like Red Hat and Xandros. And then there are the philanthropic versions, like Ubuntu. The idea here is to stick to the values of free software.

So, Ubuntu, I'll give that a whirl. It's getting some good press. There we go decision made. Except it isn't, ha, oh no. There are multiple versions of Ubuntu to choose from! Nosebleed two, cardigan ruined. To be fair it's easy to choose here because they are packaged with specific uses in mind. I decided to go with the "desktop" version (version 7.10 at the time of writing).

Well, at least the experience of installing is okay. After some fannying around with partitions and boot programs and graphics card drivers we get the thing working. This was certainly a more pleasant experience than with Red Hat linux a few years back. I won't into the different versions of Debian that Ubuntu is based on or I'll run out of blood before the end of this. And now we're up and running.

The desktop environment isn't that different from Windows. If you want it to be more like Windows you can always use Kubuntu. Yes, that was another option; sandals and socks stained now. This provides a more glossy user interface experience and a whole load of free applications. Strangely these work under both Ubuntu and Kubuntu, the difference is just that some people decided to do it a different way.

What a shame there have been so many ideological differences whilst Linux and it's software was developed. Just imagine how far ahead of Windows it could be right now. All those thousands, probably millions of hours of duplicate effort and refusal to compromise principles. Unfortunately end users just want things that work and don't care about principles, well not much for development ones and open source anyway. Uncle Bill doesn't really need to attack Linux because for a lot of the time it's been it's own worst enemy!

Well, here's to hoping that Ubuntu and a friendlier, more end-user centric development philosophy gives us end users more choice. And try Ubuntu (or Kubuntu if you like flash GUIs) out, you'll probably like it. You can always download it and run the Live CD (i.e. it runs off the installation CD and you don't have to install anything). If you need more info, read:

Google Reader, yay!

I've been using Google Reader as a news aggregator recently. It's great! Not only is the presentation style good, the response time is good and its very well organised, thought out and easy to use. I was previously using Great News (on Windows); it's quite low on resources and hides in the system the tray. Previous to that I was using RSS Bandit (for the amusing name as much as anything), but uses a lot of resources, probably because its written in C# or something. Still shouldn't complain too much about free software, as it is, after all free effort by someone.

One of the other reasons that it's great is by virtual of it being a web application. I'm writing this on a newly installed version of Ubuntu that I'm trying out, so I don't need to worry about cross platform problems. As virtualisation becomes more and more prevalent we'll all be looking for cross platform, portable solutions.

Google are busy providing a whole framework for your online presence on the web. You can get a blog ( like this one), e-mail, news, etc and tag items to tie it all together. Quite impressive and even more impressive that it's all free, well apart from all the adverts.

You can see my shared news items. And also subscribe to a feed of them, in your reader!

I think I've ignored the whole "Google Applications"/Web 2.0 stuff until now as a lot of it is just unusable fluff. But, all of a sudden it's here (not in beta), working and pretty good. Try it out, you'll need a Google account and then you can get access to Google Mail which is equally good for doing your email and subscribing to mailing lists. For the while though I'm sticking with my Yahoo mail account because that is also excellent, free, and I haven't quite gotten over the concept of someone wanting to archive all your personal mail.