Posts from January 2009

Teh Lulz

Monday 19th January 2009

This made me laugh, hard.

Funny cos it’s true…

Posted In: GeekTechnology Tagged: | 4 Comments

Smooth Operator

Saturday 17th January 2009

I am currently temporarily unemployed (technically), so I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. Lately, I’ve spent some of that time fiddling with both my computers.

Firstly, the Windows 7 beta was released last week, so I decided to install it on my Desktop machine. To be honest, it’s very similar to Vista, so theres very little to write home about. Except to say that it’s the first version of Windows I’ve ever installed that has configured both monitors right from installation. It still doesn’t let you choose different wallpapers for each screen or give each screen its own taskbar, but it’s a start. Speaking of taskbars, I like the new one. It’s fairly minimalistic, but it works really well. It bunches each application’s windows together, and you hover over the icon to see the different windows. And if you use IE, you can hover over the icon to see all the different tabs you have open. It’s kinda hard to explain without screenshots (which I can’t take, cos I’m on the other pc). Also, networking seems to be much improved over Vista, which is good (although I’m having a fairly weird problem at the moment where it sometimes refuses to see my network connection). However, it’s still fairly tempramental; I ran quite a few beta versions of XP (or “Whistler”, as it was called then) and it was always rock solid. That said, I also ran one of the Vista betas for a while (“Longhorn”), and I seem to remember that it was fairly dire (although that may have been before they restarted the development programme, so…).

Talking of Vista, it’s had a hell of a lot of bad press since launch. I’ve been running it for a while now, and I think it’s rather good. It’s always been completely stable and ran really well on my system. The only reason for everyone disliking it was the poor driver support at launch, but Microsoft can hardly force hardware vendors to write new drivers. I was reading a thread on a tech forum about the new Windows beta, and there were loads of people saying that they hated Vista but love Windows 7. Really, there’s very little difference between the two…

Anyhow, that’s the less interesting fiddling that I’ve been doing (and lets completely sidestep the possible innuendo there…). I mentioned a while ago about buying an Acer Aspire One netbook, and said that the only weak point was the software. Well, ages ago I read about a new flavour of Ubuntu which was being tailored especially for netbooks, and thought it looked kinda cool. A version was released not long ago, so I decided to install it.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix - Desktop

That’s the UNR desktop, and it’s really a joy to use. The top-left shows all the currently-running programs (so in this case, just Firefox), the top-right is the system tray (or whatever it’s called in Linux), the middle bit (which says “Home” in the screenshot) shows the titlebar of the software that’s in focus. It’s as good an interface as that supplied with the Eee, but much better looking in my opinion. It all sits on a kernel that’s been specifically optimised for netbooks like my Acer that run on one of Intel’s Atom processors, so everything runs really smoothly (well, it does now I’ve tweaked it for the Acer’s solid-state storage). Out of the box, pretty much everything works; I’ve done a few tweaks to get it working how I want it to work, but other than that it was fine. Certainly it needed less work than the Linpus distribution that the computer came with. The only snag at the moment is that I can’t mount network shares by NetBIOS name, I have to do it by IP address. Which is actually only a snag because I want to run Amarok for my music and it needs my shares mounted to the filesystem; the filemanager goes to smb://mydesktop/myshare with no problems, but Amarok can’t for some reason… I had the same problem with Linpus and I can’t remember how I solved it, which is irritating.

All in all, I’m fairly convinced that this is the best OS out there at the moment for devices like this. It’s astoundingly good. I really appreciate it when developers set out to make a UI which works really well; one which is immediately intuitive but also pretty powerful. The technology we have today is amazingly clever and can be amazingly complicated, but I don’t think that using it necessarily has to be the same.

Posted In: GeekSleepTechnology Tagged: | 8 Comments


Tuesday 6th January 2009

Lewis Hamilton. Damon Hill. Nigel Mansell. The last three British winners of the F1 World Drivers Championship. Hill and Mansell got OBEs, Hamilton got an MBE. They also both won Sports Personality of the Year for their title-winning seasons (and their not-quite title-winning seasons in 1994 and 1986), and both of their titles (1996 and 1992, respectively) came in Olympic years.

Rebecca Adlington – the girl who won 2 golds in swimming at the Olympics – got an OBE. I’m not sure how winning two golds is a bigger achievement than winning the WDC, but there we are. Chris Hoy got a knighthood, and I really don’t understand that; Steve Redgrave got knighted after 5 golds in 5 olympics, something which really does deserve a knighthood.

Sir Chris Hoy. Ron Dennis CBE. One won a few medals, the other runs a team which – amongst other things – has been at the forefront of the sport for the last 25 years, won 162 races and 17 World Championships, and become the second most successful team in the history of the sport (behind Ferrari, who have been there since 1950). I’m not saying the Olympians aren’t deserving of honours, just that it all seems a bit unfair.

Britain is the best country in the world for motorsport. We have the best teams and some of the best drivers. Our national championships are regarded as the best and most competetive in the world; if you want to make it in motorsport, you come to Britain. As such, there’s a massive industry based around the sport, employing thousands of people and worth a hell of a lot to the economy. Also, motorsport benefits the country in terms of the engineering skill it breeds and that spills over into other industries, especially the Automotive and Aeronautical industries.

The Olympics in 2012 is costing a huge amount of money, and will probably not have a massive benefit to the country. After this year, Britain is at risk of losing its F1 race, partly because the Government refuses to put any money into it. They’re more than happy to spend untold billions for the Olympics, but not a few million for a race which highlights something we’re actually good at. We’re the most successful country in the world in the sport and the industry undoubtedly benefits us, yet the Government won’t support it? Stupid.

Posted In: MotorsportRant Tagged: | 5 Comments

The Night, Almost the Morning(?)

Monday 5th January 2009

I’ve had loads of ideas of things I want to write here recently. But unfortunately I’ve not bothered, and now when I sit down to write something out I can’t remember what the hell I was going to say. Really, it’s a lesson to not put things off too long. Or to write things down, I’m not sure which.

Anyway, it’s 2009. This is the first January for a while where I’ve not got any exams, which is pretty great. It means that since I finished work a couple of weeks ago, I’ve spent most of my time alternating between playing different games (various things on the Wii but particularly WiiSports and Tennis, Left4Dead on the PC, and lately Darwinia and Bioshock – thank you Steam January sale). Not that I probably would’ve spent my time all that differently if I did have exams, but this year it’s all guilt free…

Speaking of the games, I thought Darwinia was absolutely brilliant. It’s hard to explain what it is, so I won’t try. All I’ll say is that it’s bloody addictive, and it’s caused a fair few “oh shit, is that the time?” moments over the past few nights/mornings. Left4Dead is also rather good, but then you’d expect that from a Valve game. Bioshock has disappointed me a little, if I’m honest. I love the style of the game, the look and feel of the whole thing. But for some reason I don’t think the actual gameplay is that good; it’s not quite as compelling as other games are. It doesn’t keep me up till the early hours of the morning or make me say to myself “I’ll just finish this one thing, then I’ll go”. I’m not sure why exactly.

Anyway, 2008 was pretty good, all told. Probably could’ve been better, but it was certainly better than 2007. That said, like (I guess) most students years really start and end for me at the end of Sept/start of Oct, so the “proper” new year isn’t quite such a new start.

Uhm, I cant think of anything else to write. Thats a bit poor really. Le Sigh.

Posted In: GeekRandomSleepStuff Tagged: | 2 Comments