tuesday pm 21st december 2010
Cyber-stalkers - 3 2 1 .. go!
Let me know if you've found any more.
(4 years, 3 months ago)
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monday pm 13th december 2010
Mission - instrument my life. I'm using an open-source graphing tool to record technical stats on my dedicated server every five minutes, and I've also written plugins to record personal stats:
- Bank balance
- Credit card balance
- Value of investments
- Number of Twitter followers
- Distance run
- Running speed averaged over last five runs
It's started to affect my motivation to spend/save, and to get fit. Latest addition to the graphs is strength measurements. i.e. how much weight lifted on five different exercises in the gym (3 sets, 10 reps per exercise), which is updated via an iPhone web app:
(4 years, 4 months ago)
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friday am 12th november 2010
In regards to the Twitter Stoning Post
I find it absurd and idiotic that Gareth Compton has been arrested after commenting on Twitter. Are you really so sensitive and humourless that you'd consider this "racist" and an "incitement to murder"
The result of this case will be a new fear across the web of saying anything that might offend anyone, and our cherished values of free speech will be hurt as a result.
Political correctness is killing the expressiveness of our society. Frankly, if you can't deal with free speech, you shouldn't be here.
Your actions here are abhorrent.
(4 years, 5 months ago)
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friday am 17th september 2010
Your parents being able to afford a computer back in the 1980s is class privilege, not your innate geekinessBrenda Wallace (via Twitter)
I resented this statement when I read it this morning, but it played on my mind.
Ten years ago, my parents could afford a computer. But twenty years ago, they couldn't, and we had one on loan from my Dad's employer. But that wasn't the dawn of my geek tendency. Lego, K-nex, Construx and other Mechano-esque building tools started it for me. Then, polystyrene, rubber-band powered planes and collections of tiny, cheap electronic components.
Dad sat down with me after school and taught me extra maths, explained technology, and showed me how to write my first computer program. I was curious, and he was a good teacher. That's not a bourgeois trait. It's his personality, and mine.
So, I oppose the notion that young computer scientists are a product of "class" and "privilege." My parents have money, but that's largely because they've always been sensible with it. They don't smoke, they drink very little, don't gamble, don't subscribe to Sky TV, don't buy things on credit, they save and invest, and more to the point, they've worked extraordinarily hard all their lives.
These days, most people can afford computers. Some people can't, but I wonder how, and even if, we should attempt to address that.
It takes a unique environment to inspire the use of a computer as a tool for development. Simply owning a computer is not enough. The government could give away PCs to the poor, but in doing so it would establish a state dependency and entitlement mentality that crushes entrepreneurial spirit rather than fostering it. And, at the other extreme, rich families affording expensive computer full of software and games leaves kids with nothing but a consumer relationship with technology, rather than a driver relationship that us geeks aspire to. A computer has to be a sought-after resource for it to become a tool for development. Parents have to be inspired for kids to become inspired. "Class" and "privilege" often go hand in hand with inspiration, but they themselves are not the drivers.
(4 years, 7 months ago)
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saturday pm 21st march 2009
Tonight, at my parents' house I cleared out a cupboard containing memories from my childhood in dusty cardboard boxes.
First discovery is a coin-operated smartie dispenser that Dad and I made together when I was small. Obvious from the picture is the lack of security. Consider this a prototype
A box full of Construx (a mechano-like building kit). Expensive at the time; now fetches £2-10 per boxload on eBay
Videos containing "Falbro TV" episodes that my friend Richard and I made, including the "Alone in the Dark" films, with their ad-hoc scripts, high-pitched pre-adolescent "acting" and soundtrack painstakingly overlaid from a computer game.
A plastic car powered by air pressure, which I pumped up and released down the hall. Joy! It still works, making a tremendous noise and dispersing the cat in a flurry of paws.
Hundreds of disks containing DOS-era paraphernalia... boot disks, dial-up ISP disks from Compuserve and AOL, drivers downloaded laboriously over 300, 9600 and 57600 baud modems. Disks from Dad's old work labelled for accounting software, overwritten with games like Pinball Dreams, Lemmings, Xenon 2, Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom - the best of the 90's. Dusty joysticks with 25-pin game connectors; a flight yoke.
Boxes of orphaned hardware parts, representing the costly and wasteful upgrade path of PCs: at least fifteen old ISA and PCI sound cards, network cards and graphics cards. A power supply unit with a web of coloured cables hanging off, tangled with bits of old PC cases. And then a real gem.. a music synth soundcard - the Yamaha SW60XG, which had inspired me and my best friend, Richard, to spend weeks worth of evenings composing music using my computer and MIDI controller keyboard. In a stack of CDs I find backups containing our tunes. Tracks written by Richard, Chris H., myself, my dad and my sister. With anticipation, I loaded the MIDI music files onto my modern-day Mac, and sure enough they play, albeit without the same authentic instrument samples that the tunes were written for. They still sound great, though, and I'm proud of them.
"The Punisher" - a rudimentary taser constructed by me and Chris H, with instructions that read:
"3 Steps to Retribution:
- Hold charge button for 1-4 secs depending on punishment
- Ram into preferably moist flesh of victim
- Release button to discharge punishment"
Rocks laced with crystals that I found after hours scouring beaches near my grandparents house in Somerset. A small drill kit with broken bits from attempts to cut and polish the rocks.
Clay models I'd made at school - a cat who'd since lost its ears and tail, and a tiny model of a BBC micro computer.
An unused Marks and Spencer "Love in the Tub" set with two mini-bottles of Cava, a heart-shaped sponge, "bath bomb," a rubber duck and "do not disturb" sign. Intended for Valentines day with my girlfriend at the time, Suzy. No love in the tub was had, though, as she dumped me the following day.
An electronic gadget in the shape of a car bonnet, designed to mount on bicycle handlebars, with flashing LEDs and buttons to activate the sounds of machine guns, police sirens etc. Galvatron: a pint-sized man / gun / cannon-tank Transformer toy - these are prized possessions of my primary school days. Also, a disk containing a database of earnings that I made loaning a "Super Mario game watch" to kids at primary school. They paid me to borrow my game watch for a week, and I tracked the profits in a DataEase database. I was a child entrepreneur.
A tattered hardback: "The Spy's Guidebook," which taught a 9-year-old me how to make invisible ink from apple juice, wear disguises and shadow and trail people.
Printouts from "The Terrorist's Handbook," which taught a 14-year-old me how to make household explosives. I loved explosives!
A small jar of potassium permangenate - a substance which, when placed in a jam jar with a drop of petrol, capped and thrown against a hard surface, has the explosive power of a stick of dynamite. Memories of my accomplice and me siphoning petrol from a Mini, one dangerous night in South Woodham Ferrers. The bomb didn't explode.
That's just a few things from the cupboard. The nostalgia is overwhelming me, and I'm getting emotional. Particularly because I'll be having kids of my own in a few years and relics such as these, from a (mostly) innocent and unsophisticated world, are now obsolete. I'm an adult now. The world I grew up in is obsolete.
Allowing myself to get sad tonight. Sad because my children won't have the attention span required to construct things or compose things or blow things up. They will live in an consumption-rich, industry-poor world of cheap, accessible culture. They will have a false sense of maturity. They will be surrounded by spoilt children no matter where we choose to live. They will want "things," rather than tools. They won't want to build smartie dispensors from wood and plastic tubes. They will be too busy holographically gaming against their buddies around the world and trying entice me into some daft new social network. They will consume information 10x faster than our aging pre-millenial brains can cope with. Yet despite the massive resources available to them they will be intellectually stunted by attending a dumbed-down school where noone fails an exam, and where sports days are banned to avoid any child being a "loser".
I wish I was joking. My primary school banned competitive sports from sports day the year after I left.
I look forward to having children, and my girlfriend will make a truly awesome mum. I'll strive to build a loving, stable environment for my kids, but tonight has reminded me that their childhood will be totally different from mine. I'm worried I won't be able to entertain them, inspire them or relate to them as my parents did to me. That's why I feel sad tonight.
(6 years ago)
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thursday pm 4th september 2008
Tonight was a cracking evening of drinks and dinner with five people I met through the iPhone.
I've been using a social networking app called Twinkle. You post messages and pictures and people nearby can see them. You can specify a radius in miles and the app shows messages from people within the radius. It's a great concept and, more importantly, full of interesting people.
Tonight I met Leila, Marc, Rob, Adam and Luke. Drinks in West India Quay and a very decent meal at Browns, followed by Beluga Cafe. Quality evening. Won't be the last!
(6 years, 7 months ago)
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wednesday pm 23rd january 2008
results1st: Mark Brooks (£20)
2nd: Tom Fitzsimmons (£15)
3rd: Alex Hilton (£5)
4th: Nik Dammerman
5th: Cat Burton
6th: Carole Cunningham*
7th: Chris Beach
(7 years, 2 months ago)
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saturday am 5th january 2008
Cat and I spent our two-year anniversary in a romantic lodge on the banks of Loch Lomond in Scotland. We hired a car and explored lakeside villages, islands and mountains, getting into knee-deep snow at times. The Scots we encountered were wonderfully friendly and welcoming.
(7 years, 3 months ago)
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tuesday am 25th december 2007
I had a wonderful, relaxing Christmas back home with my family in Essex. Here's a selection of photos:
(7 years, 3 months ago)
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monday pm 10th december 2007
Our cottage break in Devon coincided with some of the worst winds and floods of the year. On a windy cliff in Bude, Jon snapped this photo of Alex:
Clearly a faked pose but the BBC graphics are real! Jon submitted the photo to email@example.com and it was on TV, on BBC News 24 yesterday morning.
(7 years, 4 months ago)