From January 2005

Dawn till Dusk

Not a huge deal going on today but I thought I might share a couple of snaps I took of the sky today – one at dawn and one at dusk. Although they’re nothing special I quite like the contrast between them. Photography also provides a much needed distraction from work (as does this site!).

Dawn till Dusk
Click here for a larger version

If you need even more distractions then might I suggest this site which provides instructions on how to construct your own “Micro-Claymore” from common office supplies – perfect for catching unwanted trespassers into your domain! Learn how to build more ‘Office Bricolage’ here πŸ™‚

That’s all for today but be sure to check out some of the new photography links I’ve updated on the right nav. bar – I wish I could produce stuff half as good as some of them!

78 Hours Later

Wow, this month seems to have passed in a flash – looking back on things the last couple of weeks have been particularly frenetic and feel more like a couple of months!

24

The great news this week is that 24 (Season 4) has begun and is as brilliant as ever. After last seasons blood-bath a lot of the old characters are gone but obviously the unstoppable Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) remains. This time the plot centres around the kidnapping of the US Defence Secretary but of course there are countless sub-plots interconnected with it and doubtless the producers will throw a few twists in along the way.

24

I’m surprised that the show has managed to maintain momentum all this time as with 24 real-time episodes to get through it’s no small feat to put together. I’ve seen every episode since it began (that’s around 78 episodes!) and am still hooked on it so it must be doing something right, I just hope it continues in the same fashion πŸ™‚


The Sound of iPod – As cool hardware hacks go this has got to be the best so far I’ve seen. Some guy has managed to extract the bootloader from a 4G iPod by sounding out ticks with the iPod’s squeaky piezo. The upshot of this being that hopefully soon you’ll be able to run Linux it, opening up a whole heap of cool new uses for this already excellent bit of kit.

More iPod links: Armour plate for your iPod & Maximising battery life HOWTO.

Visualised

After a fairly intensive perl-hacking session last night I’ve finally managed to collect enough data to render the first proper visualisation for my major project using a force-directed algorithm (which basically means the graph arranges itself dynamically on the screen). At the moment I have a linked list containing approximately 4000 nodes which appear to be arranged in eight distinct clusters on the visualisation:

Visualisation 1
Click here for the full-sized version

This represents around half of the Durham University network. I have purposefully left out inter-collage connections as I still need time to make the scanning technique more efficient without DOSing the connection. It may not look much right now but I’m pretty pleased with it!

If this sort of thing interests you check out Visual Thesaurus for a cool visual display of the English language within an interactive map.

Atrocious Advertising

Is it just me or is advertising getting worse these days? Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but I’m sure the lengths to which advertisers are going these days to get their product noticed have reached new depths of depravity! From product placement in television and film to brand tie-ups, you just can’t escape the constant barrage of people trying to sell you things you don’t need in a way which I would class as morally questionable. I thought this advert I saw for a mobile phone the other day was a classic example:

“…users will be able to capture more of nature’s brilliance or life’s experiences and share the visions and memories in living colour.”

Ohh dear. In other words ‘you can take pictures with it’ – far more clear and concise I think! What makes this nonsense all the more worse is that the ones most taken in by this sort of junk are impressionable kids who then go and pester their parents for whatever the latest must-have fad is. Point in question would be the school at which my brother attends where there are a high proportion of what I would describe loosly as ‘posh kids’ who get whatever they ask for from their parents and then flaunt it over everyone else who can’t. They don’t actually need these things, they’re just lulled into thinking they do by the false economy created by advertising.

Strange world huh? Another side to this is the moronic nature of the adverts themselves which often present a misleading perspective on the world which only spreads ignorance and misunderstanding. Dan Washburn pointed this out recently recently, refering to IBM’s latests adds which paint an absurd view of rural China where computers enable distance learning. The only problem here being that electricity supplies are scarce let alone there being computers or the Internet avaliable!

Ok, enough of this. Rant Over!

Architecture of Density
Architecture of Density – (c) Michael Wolf

If your interested in photography (or just pretty pictures!) then this online exhibition of photos of architectural density in Hong Kong by Michael Wolf is well worth a look. There are also loads of other galleries you can browse through by clicking on the drop down menu’s at the top of the page.

I must apologise to those of you who may have noticed the distinct absence of my own photo galleries – this is because space & bandwidth is limited on my new host so I can’t afford to put them up right now but be assured they’ll be back in the future once I work out a cost effective way of doing it πŸ™‚

Nagomi

The good news is that as you may have noticed I’ve managed to resurrect most of my posts from January which were lost in the ‘The Great Crash‘ (as it will from here on in be known!). This was thanks to someones cached copy of the page which I managed to rip apart and reconstruct the content from (comments included!). I’m still missing one or two posts from between Jan12th-17th so if you happen to have a copy of them lying around please send them my way!

Now time for a first on RW.com – a restaurant review! One of very few to come I imagine considering the frequency with which I eat out but still…

Nagomi – Stowell Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne (0191 233 2333)

I visited Nagomi last Saturday for a friends birthday. Nagomi is a Japanese restaurant in the heart of Newcastle’s small, but functional China town district (go figure that one!). What first strikes your about the place is its incredibly well executed modern exterior and interior design which is typically Japanese as you would expect. The use of light is particularly good with internal frosted glass walls which cast an interesting luminescence and some soft hanging light shades over each table.

Nagomi

The important bit – the food! Unless you’re familiar with Japanese cuisine, or are with someone who is, the menu will probably look a bit daunting at first. If this is the case then my advise would be to stick with one of their simple set menu’s which are a fairly safe bet! If you go around lunchtime (12-3pm) then everything is a bit cheaper, starting at Β£6.50 for the set menu which includes desert.

Nagomi

I neatly side-steeped the sushi options and choose chicken on a bed of rice with miso soup (which also included a few other small dishes). It has a far more interesting name but I was too busy eating it at the time to remember to write down it’s Japanese name! Sufficed to say it was beautifully presented and tasted delicious (oishii!). I feel like a bit of a pro with the old chopsticks now and it was fun to see other people struggling with them for a change!

All-in-all I would throughly recommend Nagomi to anyone (8/10). For another review see here.

Ubiquitous Data

Unfortunately it looks like January’s posts may have gone forever. The hard drive which held the backups is dead. I thought my backup system was pretty flawless but obviously not. Right now I’m pretty angry with myself as I like the continuous nature of my blog and now there’s a big gap in it – like I just vanished into a black hole for a while! If anyone happens to have a cached copy of the page from a week or so back I would be hugely grateful if you could send me a copy, even without images it would be great πŸ™‚

If your wondering how the site is back up without a server then I should take this opportunity to thank AI Hosting for providing me with some space on their servers! If you’re looking for dead cheap hosting with good quality service look no further. They have a really useful admin interface which takes a lot of the hassle out of configuring everything and of course they have a much better connection than I ever had!!

As far as news from this week is concerned, up until Friday, it’s been a constant nightmare which I’m just glad is over! I’d love to know why everything which could have gone wrong technologically this week decided to do so just when I didn’t have the time to fix it! Last night I cooked quite a nice meal of lamb chops with roasted vegetables which turned out quite well considering I’d never cooked it before. The only mistake I made was touching the baking try whist it was in the oven resulting on a nasty burn on two of my fingers though luckily on my left hand!

Classic story on BBC News:

“Three German refuse collectors are to be sent on an Art Appreciation Course after accidentally taking down and incinerating a sculpture in Frankfurt, believing it was rubbish.”

I just love this sort of story as it highlights all that is so fitting about modern art – is it really art, and if so how do you appreciate it? In my mind a lot of so called ‘modern art’ is questionable at best, but then perhaps I just need to go on an appreciation course!

Here’s another article for the optimists out there:

“The universe is destined to end. Before it does, could an advanced civilisation escape via a “wormhole” into a parallel universe? The idea seems like science fiction, but it is consistent with the laws of physics and biology. Here’s how to do it”

Otherwise entitled, “What physicists think about over lunch”. Reminds me of the time I tried to test for parallel universes in my front room, can’t quite remember now if I actually found any!

What’s going on here?

You may be wondering why this months (Jan 05) posts have vanished…

Basically the server crashed *again* and this time there is no easy solution as I’m over 250 miles away from it. All the data is backed up but I can’t access it right now – great isn’t it?

To top it all off my phone has run out of battery and I forgot to pack my charger when I came to Durham on Saturday meaning now I have no phone either. If you try to call me/send me a text, sorry but I wont be getting it any time soon! Not a good day πŸ™

I’m too busy with uni work this week to sort out anything more substantial than this but I’ll get things sorted out over the weekend hopefully. Because of the exams etc I’ve got this week I won’t be posting till then probably anyway.

In the meantime if you need to contact me please send mail to david AT randomwire.com.

Update (19/01): It just keeps getting better now the network port in my room in college has died for some unknown reason, so no net/email/im etc. I’ve contacted the ITS but who knows when it’ll be fixed.

eXtreme Programming

XP is just one of the buzzwords going around the agile method programming community at the moment which I’ve been revising today. Unfortunately it bears no relation to the much more interesting art of ‘Extreme Ironing‘ which is one of very few sports I can empathise with!

The view out my window in my loft room (not the one in Durham) isn’t particularly interesting but during the odd moment of boredom these last couple of days I’ve looked out to see a couple of nice back-lit trees which it seemed worth taking a snap (or two) of. I wish I had the time to go out somewhere with some more interesting subjects but there we go!

Here are a couple of OK shots, both taken on a tripod using manual exposure settings: (click on the text below each for a larger version).

Tree 1
Back-lit tree 1

Tree 2
Back-lit tree & chimney 2

You may notice the similary of them to an earlier shot I posted. Hope you like them – I’m using the first one as my desktop background πŸ™‚ BTW – If the photos look a bit colourless on your screen then you probably need to adjust the contract settings.

– Find out how to turn one of these into one of these – very cool (but not necessarily cost effective!) –

Incidentally I got invited to my first job interview today (although it’s not till February) which I’m quite pleased about but also extremely nervous. If only I had a crystal ball…

Skyped-out

Thought I might share with you one of the coolest pieces of software I recently discovered called Skype which makes VoIP (Voice over IP) easy (i.e. allowing you to voice chat with friends over the Internet). Best of all it’s totally free, works through most firewalls and the audio quality is comparable to what you’d expect from a good mobile. Although this technology isn’t really new with the advent of domestic high-speed Internet access it’s only now really become feasible for the average user.

Skype

All you have to do is download a client for your computer which amazingly are available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux & Pocket PC (if only all software was like this!) and then create yourself a user account. I’ve been using it since Christmas on my wireless PowerBook and have so far been pretty pleased with it. The only slight downside is the occasional time lag between each end which can be very frustrating but most the time this isn’t an issue. Try it now!

10 Second Film Reviews: (because that’s all I’ve got time for!)

The Village
The Village is over-hyped and over-rated with a plot twist which, although fairly original, is pretty pathetic. 5/10

Saw
Saw is terrifyingly excellent considering its low budget. Brilliant ending which begs many questions – a cult classic in the making. 8/10

Ò€¦I still haven’t got round to watching Ring 0 but will soon I hope! The US remake of The Ring Two is on the way but looks pretty poor.

Around & About

Spent a very busy day in London yesterday with a few friends from Durham which was good. Luckily after some pretty horrible storms the night before the weather held up although it was a bit windyÒ€¦

Met up at Nelsons Column and had a short wander around there, briefly taking a look in the famous church of St. Martin-in-the-fields which is right next to it.

Nelsons Column
Nelsons Column

We then tubed up to the swish new Regent Street Apple Store which I just had to take a look in and which is indeed pretty special. I wasn’t actually buying anything, just looking at all the cool expensive gear I can’t afford!

After this we headed up Oxford Street and dropped into a couple of shops on the way to the British Museum to see an exhibition of historic Japanese Swords. It’s amazing to see the beautiful but deadly blades up close and even more incredible to think that they were made long before modern manufacturing methods.

London Montage
TL: Apple Store, TR: Oriental Supermarket, BL: Lunch! BR: British Museum

For lunch we went up to Oriental City which is on Edgeware Road and had a very tasty Japanese meal – I choose something called ‘Gyo-Don’ is is basically beef & vegetables fried together on a base of rice. There were also a lost of interesting little shops and a huge supermarket to have a look round. I found the prospect of melon flavored ‘Steamed Cheese Cake’ which you could buy there particularly funny for some reason! We also went in a particularly quaint second-hand Japanese book shop nearby which was very interesting from the viewpoint of someone who couldn’t understand a word of what they were selling – I think our presence amused the owners!

Japan & China
Left: Somwhere, Right: China Town

It was then time to head back to the center of the city and there was just enough time to have a wander around Leicester Square and China Town which was teeming with people before heading home. All-in-all a good (an strangely orientally themed) day – I’ll post some better pics in the gallery soon.