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Archive for September, 2007

Gingerbread men!

Long story short, I won a puzzle thingy with the chaps I play badminton with and I jokingly said do I win a cookie? I didn’t get a cookie, but certainly a prize of the biscuit variety, six gingerbread men!


Can you tell which three I decorated and which three Kate did? Winner gets… a cookie! I call the top right one the angry Frenchman.

Top Gear is back on the box – October 7th

According to this Times article anyhoo. That’s two weeks this Sunday. Excellent!

I find it strange that the Beeb always seem really late in announcing when Top Gear’s back on the box. Last couple of times I’ve found out reading the interweb and news papers.

For Sure It’s Formula 1

I don’t know what it is with F1 drivers, but “for sure” seems to be ingrained into their vocabulary. Let’s have a look at a few choice quotes from last weeks Belgium Grand:

Lewis Hamilton: I don’t know whether it has caught me out but, for sure, experience is always an advantage (link)

Kimi Raikkonen: The neck is OK, it’s not perfect but it’s definitely OK and for sure it’s going to be like normal in the next races, so that’s not a worry. (link)

Fernando Alonso: I tried quite hard in the first stint to keep pace with Felipe, just hoping around the pit stop time to make up a position but slowly they were disappearing and after the first stop, for sure, we didn’t see them anymore. We lack a little bit of pace in the race. We were quite OK in qualifying but for sure in the race we were off the pace by a couple of tenths today. (that’s just two sentences! link)

Kimi Raikkonen: For sure it’s nice. For sure it’s my favourite circuit, it was even before I came into Formula One, so it’s nothing to do with if I win or lose here. (link)

Felipe Massa: Well, for sure as Kimi said there is not a long way to go but we are still fighting. I will not give up until I see that the calculation is not there anymore. (link)

Who do you think started this trend? Who do you think!

Michael Schumacher: I feel I could win the race. I feel very good inside. For sure, in qualifying, I will be 100 per cent …

But for sure, he has asked me as well if there was any chance of me changing my mind, as have many people … 

And then step by step you come back and think that this season is finished, for sure, but then you regain your normal lifestyle and my normal lifestyle is being a racing driver; (link)

Michael Schumacher: For sure he will fight a lot and hopefully we can finish in the front and make a first and second. (link)

Michael Schumacher: We have found a good solution on this. It is for sure much safer to use it. We have just to see if it is comfortable for every driver to be used. …

Yes for sure. To me this is the most critical point on the new regulations. (link)

Actually I don’t think Schumi is really to blame, I just think it’s a strange quirk of the Formula 1 world. Next time you watch a driver interview see how many you can count.

As a further example, not only did Kimi win this weeks race but he also won the “for sure” contest in the press conference with six, Fernando had five and Felipe trailed badly with just the one.

And the wife wonders why Caffe Mocha’s are cold!

Let me explain with help of this diagram:


It’s mostly milk and cream you see. Although I can’t complain either, I like me Cappuccino’s!


Actually, the only reason for this post is because I really like the Coffee Drinks Illustrated diagrams Lokesh Dhakar has done. And you can now buy cups with them on… very tempting!

When did captchas become a pain in the arse?

A recent post on Signal vs Noise made this interesting point:


And it’s very true, captchas are getting harder to work out. I was on the Steam forums the other day searching for info on S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. I’d installed it on my old machine and obviously since I’d now switched to my iMac I wanted to run it (via my Vista installation under Boot Camp) but was having no such luck. So I wanted to check the forums for any answers. Thing is, there’s a captcha there, and could I get it right? Nope. Here’s what it looks like in situ:


And here’s a few more of them, see if you can work them out!

  • SteamCaptcha1 – PXREMM?
  • SteamCaptcha2 – 6CTYJX?
  • SteamCaptcha3 – aWQTSY?
  • SteamCaptcha4 – hXAGQp?
  • SteamCaptcha5 – gGH828?

I think I’ve got the answers on these right, but they’re not easy to read and you have to really concentrate! Funny thing is that I didn’t manage to get any right on the Steam forums…

Is this just the result of the spammers getting better at writing software to decipher them now? The entry on Wikipedia certainly seems to agree and it’s a sad state of affairs because all is does is inconvenience those of us who just want to use a system.

The definition of Eccentric

From the Compact Oxford English Dictionary:



  • adjective 1 unconventional and slightly strange. 2 technical not placed centrally or not having its axis placed centrally. 3 technical (of an orbit) not circular, especially to a marked degree.

  • noun 1 an eccentric person. 2 a cam or other part mounted eccentrically on a revolving shaft in order to transform rotation into backward-and-forward motion.

(Wikipedia for more details).

Point in case for Definition 1:

The couple who stopped off at a Travelodge – and stayed 22 years

For most of us who visit a Travelodge, it is a fleeting pleasure. Park the car, go to bed and get away as early as possible in the morning. But for David and Jean Davidson, it is home. They arrived in 1985, and enjoyed it so much that they never left.

Full story here. I say good on them, saves on the cleaning!

The Xbox 360 Saga Box Set

Here are my three fun blog on entries on the subject:

I’ve given the Xbox a kicking tonight and it seems to have held up ok, so fingers crossed, all is well! Whilst on my travels I found these spookily similar posts on Xbox 360 Fanboy:

So, Gom, it’s only a matter of time ;)

What to do when your Xbox 360 fails

Okay dokay, so this post is a tad late in that I now have my Xbox back, but lets just pretend it was posted just over two weeks ago on the 28th August.


As I mentioned on Saturday my 360 decided it had had enough and wanted to join the queue at Microsoft’s European Repair Centre down near Portsmouth (ironically where Kate and I had just spent two weeks on holiday, if only it had failed earlier, I’d have thrown it at delivered it to them in person).

So what do you do when your Xbox 360 gives you the old three red lights. First of all, pop over to Xbox.com and check out the Xbox 360 Support section. The second link down in the hardware section is to the Three red lights flash on the Ring of Light, which links to a Microsoft Knowledge Base article. In my case it was off no use since my power supply had a green light, so my only course of action was to ring Xbox support.


Before ringing I suggest trying your Xbox with all peripherals removed, e.g. wireless wotsit, hard drive and any USB connected devices. It will save you some time on the phone since they will ask you to do this. For me the symptoms were the same regardless of connected gadgets, which was either the red ring of death or it just locking up fairly quickly with a distorted picture.

My first attempt at ringing up was not so lucky. I was amused to hear that whilst waiting they’d gone to the trouble of putting in an announcement to say how long the average repair time was (20 days). When I got through I explained my problem and was immediately told that their “system” was having trouble and to ring back in two hours.

So four hours later I rang back. And success! The chap tried to get me to go through the aforementioned knowledge base article and the remove all hardware steps, but I’d already done this, so he resigned himself to having another Xbox shipped off for repair. I did confuse matters slightly by asking for it to be picked up from work instead of home address. My boss is very good when it comes to letting me work at home, but asking if I could do that so I could get my Xbox repaired is going a bit far.

Within a few hours I received an email from UPS detailing what to do. Pack your Xbox up in a normal shipping box (don’t use your original Xbox packaging, you’ll not get it back… not that it matters for me, I threw mine out the day I got my Xbox) without anything connected. You can even remove the face plate if you like. Pack it well, bubble rap, screwed up newspapers for padding, etc. Then attach the UPS shipping label (which is valid for 10 days) so it’s clearly visible.


Next ring up UPS when you’re ready to arrange collection. Given it was a bank holiday on Monday, I didn’t do this until I was back at work on Tuesday. I had to repeat my address details again, but this was a good thing since as I thought, they weren’t correct. A couple of hours later said UPS man was at the door ready to toss my Xbox into oblivion. The UPS chap just took one look at my aura of geekyness and asked before even looking at the label, “Is it an Xbox?”. A knowing nod was the reply. And off he and it went.


In the four hours since I first rang support on the Saturday, a few thousand more machines must have gone through since I was told the average wait would now be 25 days. Assuming that’s working days, it’ll be all sorted by the 1st October… a week after Halo 3 is released! Gaaaaaaaah…

Chewbacca lives again!

Looky here!

First Impressions – iMac

IMac-24inSo I decided to go over to the dark side… or should that be light side? Anyhoo, for a variety of reasons, which I’ll blog about later, I decided to replace my aging Athlon XP 3200+ with a shiny new iMac:

  • 24–inch screen
  • Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.4Ghz
  • 1GB ram (2GB more on order from Crucial)
  • 320GB hard drive
  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB

Ok, so from a PC perspective the video card isn’t brilliant and the hard drive space isn’t massive but they’re more than good enough. It’s certainly a heavy beast since I had to lug it from the Apple shop back through the Trafford Centre and out through the car park.

The out of the box experience is great. The keyboard, mouse, drivers, manuals and other gubbins are all packed together in a really neatly laid out long, thin white cardboard box. The iMac itself is very well protected and packaged as well.

Connecting it up is dead easy. You have all of three cables to fiddle with. The power cable into the back through a hole in it’s stand. The USB keyboard again into the back of the iMac and then the mouse into the keyboard (which has two USB ports, one either side). Actually, one of the many things that really sold me on the iMac, was this image:


That just says it all to me about the comparison of Mac’s versus PC’s!

Anyhoo, It took less than 10 minutes to have it booted up and on the interweb. I hit a slight snag with the wireless connection initially since it didn’t seem to want to connect and it gave no options to tweak. So to start with I hard wired it into my router via it’s ethernet port. I fixed it later and it turned out to be a simple matter of picking the correct encryption method.

First impressions of Mac OS X? Pretty cool, I like how stable it is and how it does a damn sight better with 1GB memory than Vista does. The screen is fantastic, the picture is really bright and rich in colour. You’d think that at that size it’d be too big to work with, but it’s not the case.

The new thin aluminium keyboard is excellent. The keys have a good, responsive feel to them and I like the inclusion of the media controls along the top (play, pause, volume, etc). In that respect, it’s just like my trusty old Microsoft keyboard.

The Mighty Mouse is pretty good too. It’s weird not having any mouse buttons on it and one of the first things I did in Mac OS was enable right click. It’s equivalent of the mouse wheel is strange too, in terms of size and feel (it’s dinky), but it works well.

I have given some Mac alternative apps a try, like for example:

But unfortunately neither of the Mac alternatives in this case quite live up to standards of their Windows counterparts (I’ll explain why in another post), which is where VMWare Fusion comes in!


There’s nothing new with VMWare and virtual machines but the really cool thing with this Mac OS version is a mode called Unity, whereby you start up your VM and then you can open Windows apps and they just appear as if they’re running on Mac OS. So, amusingly, this post is being written in Mac OS X, but with good old BlogJet!

Of course there is one other important thing I have to mention, otherwise Vondur will hunt me down, which is how well World of Warcraft runs… which is not bad ;). It runs natively (I was surprised that the discs I had for it had both Windows and Mac versions) at 1920×1200 at 50+ fps with pretty much everything on high.

There seems to be some issues with the shader affects and apparently this is a known issue with the ATI graphics drivers. But anyway, a picture says a thousand words (ok, so it’s not the most interesting of places, but there are Orcs!!!):


First impressions of me iMac, it’s not a bad piece of kit at all :) Why the hell didn’t I buy one earlier!

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