Friday, 29 July 2005

The Day After

Day after the Tornado and the letter box so far has received flyers from roofing companies, tree surgeons, builders.......

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Repliee Q1


Repliee Q1 is the closest thing yet to an Andriod. Looks a bit too much like an Auton to me.

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Thursday, 28 July 2005



We got hit by a tornado this afternoon. When I left AWM the sky was ominously dark. By the time I got home there were deep long rolls of thunder. Then sat in the study catching up on voicemails the wind suddenly came out of nowhere. Every tree in sight was swaying and bending, even the big birch outside my window. Out the front things looked even darker and beyond the houses opposite it looked like smoke was blowing through the air - I guess it must have been soil and dirt - with rubbish blowing in amongst it. The almost as quick as it had come it went. Then the doorbell rang - two trunks of our laburnum had borken off and lay across the drive. We were lucky. Further down Oxford Rd towards the school the place resembled a war zone. Two trees across Cotton Lane to the south, one across it to the north. Houses on both sides with trees on their roofs. A tree outside the school across half the road, the school sign bent at 45 degrees. I walked around the area, almost every road had a tree across it - School Rd, Greenhill, Billesley - right outside Morgam News. The track was tight though, 200m away from it and there were twigs down, but nothing big. Sounds like Kings Heath got it bad, and apparently the police have set up a triage centre in Moseley itself.

tornado track.JPG

Just spoken to one of Jo's school friends - almost all the windows in their house were blown out, all their big trees came down.

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Wednesday, 27 July 2005


Celestia: Home

One of the first big programs I ever wrote was a 3D planetarium that let you view the night sky from any point in the galaxy. The original basic code was published for the Apple II in the LIverpool Software Gazette (yes there really was such a publication). I rewrote it for the BBC Micro, and then later for the Atari ST. Now looks like Celestia does the same thing but with knobs on!

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Tourists Trips to the Moon!

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Russia's great leap for tourism - a $100m trip to the moon

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Widgets and Konfabulator


'Tis obviously the season of neat things. Konfabulator has suddenly hit the radar, partly from a Version 2.1 release that supports XMLHTTPRequest, partly because its just become registration free, and partly because they've jut been bought by Yahoo.

Konfabulator is basically a tool for creating desktop widgets - your PC ends up looking like a Mac. It also gives a taste of what Longhorn might be like, and it XML application development environment. The Widgets can be anything from RSS news and weather feeds, to Flickr or local image, earthquake alerts - just about anything you can think of.

The great thing about them (apart from being cross-Platofrm, ie Mac and PC) is that they are written in a combination of XML and Javascript. No legacy languages, and apart from the complexity that it Javascript, a real attempt to encourage more users to customise their own applications and PCs. Another contribution to the global programming mash-up that the web is becoming.

First off the stocks from me will be something to dispay my Bayesian News Reader (although I might be able to use an off-the-shelf widget for some of that), and there' always the BBC Backtage TV information, or a news alerter. This stuff just gets better and better.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2005

BBC News RSS to GoogleEarth


Finally got a BBC RSS news feed on to Google Earth.

If you've got Google Earth installed just follow this link:

If you want to use another feed, then use the Add Network Link option in Google Earth, and paste in this URL, changing the URL parameter for your feed of choice (RSS/RDF/ATOM).

Update - Looks like this little project might have some legs so I've added a page for it at the Daden site. See

I can really see Google Earth becoming a world browser. Now if only I could have it on continuous animation on a wall-screen TV.......

Supported by BBC Backstage

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Monday, 25 July 2005

Geocoding - GeoNet Names Server

NGA: GNS; Names Files of Selected Countries

They also have an on-line system, but can't find a web service yet.

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Dive Into Greasemonkey

Client side, client written scripting to mash web pages. Interesting, must look out for an application - althought he current security flaw in it may delay things a while. Too geeky for mainstream?

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Saturday, 23 July 2005


Geobloggers - the map is the territory

Just trying to get my Flickr photo's onto Google Earth.

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Friday, 22 July 2005

Simulated society may generate virtual culture

New Scientist Breaking News - Simulated society may generate virtual culture

Be interesting to see how this develops. I remember an animal based virtual world that was around many years ago - the animals used to mail you to let you know how they were doing - and even sent holiday snaps!

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Thursday, 21 July 2005

Google Earth

birmingham business park

Wonderous. Lost a whole evening last night exploring Google Earth. Our house is just on the edge on one of the lower res tiles, but the tile that covers the end of our road is so detailed you can make out individual cars and gardens and get a fine view of the church and Moseley Bog. The photo above shows my old office at Birmingham Business Park, and the car arrowed is my old Audi A3 in my parking space.

I spent the evening looking at all sorts of earth sites, from places I've been to to places I'd like to see. From Antartica to Moscow and Tokyo. Rather than post the images on this entry I'll retro-blog the ones I've been to to when I went to them.

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Our stand at sight village

Our stand at sight village

Originally uploaded by halo4256.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Bayesian Perl

Automatic Document Classification With Perl

I'm getting all interested in Bayesian filtering at the moment as I'm finally going to take some time out to write the first version of the "intelligent" RSS reader I've been thinking of for ages - primarily so I can use it with VXML to deliver the news to me as a daily briefing over the phone. The paper above looks like a good place to start.

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Wednesday, 13 July 2005

Return to There


After a good few months absence I've gone back in to There. Of all the newer virtual worlds I think it's the one I like best. It's simpler than Second Life, more dynamic than Alpha World, has probably the friendliest people, and has the way coolest physics engine and hover-boards.

I really must do a comparison table of the different systems some time.

So if you bump into Corro in There some time say hi!

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Tuesday, 12 July 2005

Happy 2nd Birthday!

This blog is 2 years old. I must admit I'm suprised it's kept going since I've never kept a diary this long. But certainly since going independent the blog is an extra weapon in my arsenal, and I've also found it useful just as a scrapbook of things I've found and liked. Often when talking to people about things I'll pull up the relevant blog post - at least I now know where I've filed it.

A quick look at the July 2003 posts shows that little has changed in my interests:

- Anime and manga - Joanna's just got all the drawing books back out again, and I still love GITS and Lain
- Web pads - Nokia's almost got there, and I'm writing this on a tablet PC
- Blogs - like they've gone away! And I did move to Movable Type
- Aibo and Asimo - I've actually got an Aibo on loan in the house at the moment, and Asimo was in Brum last week
- Kurweil AI - now I've got my own Halo and the Sitepal system

The biggest difference is that now running my own business I can try and turn all of these into parts of my day job and revenue earners!

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Saturday, 9 July 2005


For ages I've been thinking about "retro-blogging" - blogging events from my past. Bringing together all my old photos, traval diaries and the like. I was surprised when I Googled retro-bloggin just now that not only were their 50 odd entries, but also the retro-blogging was really about just catching up with thing from the past few days, or at most re-posting papers and articles written a few years ago. To me retro-blogging is a whole-life blog. I won't promise to do things in order, or even do that much that quickly, but at least I've made a start before the term becomes too common!

For my first retro-blog entry check out May 1961 in the date archives at right!

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Cameraphones and News


One of the interesting aspects of Thursday's terrible attacks on London was the way in which still and video images from cameraphones dominated the coverage. As reported in the Guardian today the BBC were using amateur coverage within 45 minutes of the explosions.

It's less than 4 years since the attacks of 9/11. Then we had phone calls from passengers and office workers, a luck TV crew on the street. Think what 9/11 would be like now, thousands of images caught from the street, images from above the fire-line on the towers, final video messages from the victims, maybe even images and video of the hijackers. The overall impact would undoubtably be more harrowing, more personal. Cameraphones bypass the journalists, bringing victims and viewers almost face to face.


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Friday, 8 July 2005

ABC Radio's The Night Air

Radio National - The Night Air - Home Page

My first real podcasting find. Wonderful soundscape programme from ABC Radio in Australia. I know that Radio 3 does something similar but I've never consistently worked out when it's on.

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Tuesday, 5 July 2005

Going Backstage with the BBC/Virtualised R&D - Birmingham Post - 050628

You may have read of the BBC's plans to release some of their immense digital library onto the web Yet another BBC initiative, BBC Backstage, received less coverage but could have a greater long term impact.

Launched in May, BBC Backstage is where the BBC will open up its computer programmes to web developers. As it says on the BBC Backstage web site “we're passionate about giving designers and developers the content and services they need to create cool new things“.

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Sunday, 3 July 2005

Millennium Development Goals

delivering bread in livingtsone, zambia

The United Nations Millennium Declaration of 2000 marked a strong commitment to the right to development, to peace and security, to gender equality, to the eradication of the many dimensions of poverty and to sustainable human development. Embedded in that Declaration, which was adopted by 147 heads of State and 189 states, were what have become known as the eight Millennium Development Goals, including 18 timebound targets.

They provide the best statement so far of what needs to be done. They are:

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Make Poverty History drives towards these through:

- Cancelling debt
- Increasing responsible aid
- Building fair trade

The UN Millennium Project identifies 10 key actions to acheive the MDGs:

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Pink Floyd at Live 8


Got back from Deborah's concert in time to see Pink Floyd. Not a bad set at all, the body language was interesting though. Mason and Gilmour exchanging glances, neither looking at Waters, even when Gilmour and Waters were singing together, even when they sang:

We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.

At the end it was Waters who appeared to be gathering the others in for the group hug.

As to the pieces, I suppose Breathe was the "dark side" cloud pleaser - prototypical Floyd, Money was always the favourite before The Wall, Wish You Were Here was as always "for Syd", and Comfortably Numb is again in the Top 3.

What I think was missed though was a chance to really to visuals that did the songs and the even justice. One thing that struck was how the lyrics did echo the cause, especially if they'd added something like Dogs. Money was just crying our for Debt images, Comfortably Numb (as at Aseriti) just summed up the worlds attitude, or at least of its leaders.

The track they really should have sung though was The Tide Is Turning (After Live Aid). OK it's a Water's track so unlikely to be picked, but I'm sure its why Waters agreed to do the event. You can't write a song like that, and then turn down Live 8. And more than anything its sums up what an event signifies. Yes the lyrics then were very Cold War orientated, but the message is still there.

Now the satellite's confused
'Cos on Saturday night
The airwaves were full of compassion and light
And his silicon heart warmed
To the sight of a billion candles burning
Oo, oo, oo, the tide is turning
Oo, oo, oo, the tide is turning
The tide is turning Billy

I'm not saying that the battle is won
But on Saturday night all those kids in the sun
Wrested technology's sword from the hand of the
War Lords
Oh, oh, oh, the tide is turning

Certainly enough to make me click through to Make Poverty History and sign up.

I'm also working my way through "The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs, certainly the closest thing yet for a poverty elimination plan.

Get the Pink Floyd at Live8 video.

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Friday, 1 July 2005

Streaming Music

Having got all the vinyl burned it's time to seek out some new music. With HMV about to close their current download service (and launch a new one), I've got to spend my 95p of credit before the end of the month. Since a track costs 99p I can't buy anything. But whole albums are typically only 11p to stream. So I can sit here and work my way through 8 albums.

Really does make me wonder why I burned all that vinyl. Say I spend 25 hours a week listening to music, that's about 25 albums, or £2.50. Over a year that's £100 for a whole HMV sized music library. No wonder bits are taking over from atoms...

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AJAX - Asynchronous Javascript and XML

adaptive path » ajax: a new approach to web applications

This i sprobably it, where so much recent software developemnt has been heading. Just as we're getting used to server driven web services along come client driven web services.

Our current approach to most development is to write everything server side, let the server call on other web services (speech systems, maps, google and amazon databases etc), and then let the server serve the finished page out to the relevant device in the relevant mark-up, HTML, Sitepal HTML for web speech, VXML for phone speech, WAP etc.

AJAX makes us of the new XMLHttpRequest Javascript command. This lets a web page go behingd the scenes to get data from another system - a web service typically - then use XSLT and Javascript to manipulate it, and then push in onto the screen using CSS and the DOM. All of a sudden the user has direct access to the data and you've skipped a link in the chain, reduced latency, buit a richer client environment and so on.

What differentiates this from old style client-server is that the client page is usually served from the server. So for instance the server core might handle initial sign on and a top level menu. Then each main application area gets its own AJAX page which can be served out to the user and take-over until they need another key bit of the application. Once we've got our GoogleMaps demo out the way we'll see about doing an AJAX demo.

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