Thursday, 28 February 2008

Wii-nix

Being a fan of the Nintendo Wii games console, I'm always keen to read news on it's development. I was therefore very pleased to see that for the first time someone has managed to run a third party operating system on it.

Game Cube Linux, as their name suggests, have developed a version of Linux for use with Nintendo's GameCube. But with the help of the twilight-hack, they have now successfully run it on the Wii as well. The hack uses some versions of the "Legend of Zelda" game to allow the loading of code from the SD-Card slot.

I'm not sure how Nintendo will react to this as they have been reluctant to give access to the inner workings of the Wii to third party developers in the past. But as it is possible run Linux on Sony's PS3 and even Microsoft allow limited add-ons for their Xbox from third party developers, hopefully they will see it as a positive move.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

A New Look

The spots on the old style for this site were beginning to grate frankly. I have therefore changed to this new template, I hope you like it.

Monday, 25 February 2008

The Phones They Are A Changing

The Finnish mobile phone company Nokia have today issued a press release launching the new concept phone - Morph. This is a joint venture between Nokia and the University of Cambridge that utilises nanotechnology to allow the material and components of the phone to be flexible (even stretchable) and transparent whilst remaining relatively strong. OK, so this might sound all well and good, but does it have any practical application despite being handy if you sit on your phone? Well yes it seems so.

Apart from being very flexible, the technology allows for self cleaning surfaces that can repel water, dirt and even fingerprints ultimately reducing corrosion and wear. Another possibility is that the surface of a device will become a natural source of energy that can harvest solar power.

So is this the shape of things to come? Well It is still a concept, and Nokia has said that it could still be several years before we see the finished product on the shelves. But with intensive research in this area together with Google's work on Android it seems that personal communications are to be transformed in the near future.

The press release can be found here and more on Morph with some nice photos can be found here.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

It Will Be Worth It

Sorry for the delay with this post, things have been a bit hectic this week.

Well sadly I still haven't got my Land Rover back. As I mentioned in a previous post, it has been off the road. On the bright side it has finally past it's MOT, after a bit of a struggle. Firstly the indicators gave up just before it was due to go in, and then after arriving at the testing station copious amounts of diesel made an escape bid from a ruptured fuel sender. I'm starting to wonder if this isn't actually a Land Rover at all but a naughty puppy.

Anyway that's all behind me now. It has passed! The front bumper is my next priority. Due to heavy rust it had to be cut down in order to get through the test. This means that although it is legal, it is a little sad looking. So I have therefore invested in a heavy duty bumper. Custom made, it features recovery points and Jate Rings, jacking points and mounting points for my two spotlights. I'll get some photos up once it is fitted. Argh! I can't wait.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Lost (Again!)

Having a keen interest in, and having worked in the area of, data security for some time; I am once again stunned to read that yet another government department has lost some sensitive data.

This time it’s the turn of the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service). Apparently the Dutch police sent the CPS files on 2000 criminal suspects. These files included DNA profiles that the Dutch authorities were hoping could be checked against CPS records and perhaps help catch some wanted criminals.

The disc was sent over a year ago but has only just surfaced. The CPS, in a statement, said that “This is not a data security issue as this information was always in a secure building and did not leave the possession of the CPS”. Well yes, I suppose that is true. However they fail to mention that when they checked their database they found 15 suspects were in the country and 11 had allegedly committed crimes; including serious assaults, sexual assaults and burglaries; in the last year.

So the CPS can be added to the 25 million records relating to child benefit claims that the government lost, several thousand applications for the Armed Forces that were misplaced, Northern Irish driving test applications that are around here somewhere, and 5000 NHS health files that will be in the last place they look.

Perhaps I am missing something, but surely the following of a few simple but necessary procedures could prevent this sort of thing? It makes me wonder if all is not as it seems and that someone is either making a lot of money out this data, or is using this as a smoke screen to hide even bigger problems. But that could be my natural paranoia.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Scantastic 2

Following on from my previous post, I thought I'd show you some of the results of my efforts.


Yours truly taken around 1974. Evel Knievel had nothing on me. Would health & safety allow this now?


My mother, taken at some point in the 50's.


Finally, a view of Ledbury taken in 1964.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Scantastic

I had decided to take a day off work today to complete a job that I had been putting off for way too long. I had promised my father and half-brother that I would scan all of the 35mm slides that my dad had taken in the 50's, 60’s and 70’s and burn them to photo CD’s. Not a job I dreaded by any means, it’s just that I knew it would be quite monotonous and time consuming as my scanner, an Epson Perfection 1670, can only scan two slides at a time and my father was a very prolific photographer.

However the volume of slides turned out to be the least of my problems. Despite there being no obvious signs of a malfunction, my scanner could only produce blank images. It was making all the right noises and the right lights were illuminating but the end result was always the same. Nothing!

OK, time for a new scanner I thought. I confess I was in a hurry and so I didn’t study the market at all. The last scanner was an Epson so I simply stuck with that and chose the current version that had the ability to scan film and slides, an Epson Perfection V200 Photo. However despite my haste I have to say I am really chuffed. It's only the entry level product of the range but my old one must have been more out of date than I remember because this one is faster can handle four slides at a time and the clarity is just incomparable.

No matter how deteriorated the film, the software does a superb job in compensating and correcting. At just £70 I cannot recommend it enough.

I have now posted some of my results here.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Need For Speed

I was talking to a colleague who works in our Paris office the other day. The subject of our conversation turned to bandwidth. I was astonished to learn that the average broadband speed in France was 44Mbps. Not only that but that ADSL2+ is already available and fibre services are coming soon. For a country that is so geographically close to ours, why is there such a huge difference?

With the planned roll out of ADSL2+ coming here sometime this year (giving us theoretical speeds of up to 24Mbps) I thought I would do some research and see just how far behind the UK actually is.

Germany’s average speed is 9Mbs, however they have a VDSL network which provides fibre to the street cabinet. This means they are actually ahead of us and indeed most major cities get speeds of up to 25Mbps.

Further away, the average in the US is 8Mbps. The US is unusual because it is one of the few countries in which cable is the largest connection network. On the East coast a number of fibre providers, most notably Verizon offer fibre to the home, with speeds up to 20Mb.

Japan, perhaps unsurprisingly, is way ahead with average speeds of 93Mbps. Fibre to the home is the predominant network and DSL is actually in decline.

So why are we so far behind? Frankly I have no idea but it’s not all bad. Virgin Media is currently trialling a 50Mbps cable service and BT is also experimenting with fibre to the home, which could offers speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

It's been announced that a new animated TV series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" will be launched on August 15th in the US kicking off with a 100 minute movie in cinemas. It will be set in between episodes II an III and will feature many familiar characters such as Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padmé Amidala and some new ones too.

George Lucas said: "I felt there were a lot more Star Wars stories left to tell. I was eager to start telling some of them through animation and, at the same time, push the art of animation forward."

Each episode will be 30 minutes in length and promises to reveal new revelations regarding the whole saga.

There is sadly no news on international release dates yet, but you can view the whole announcement here or watch the first in a planned series of special web-only documentaries that chronicle the development of Star Wars: The Clone Wars here.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Improv Everywhere

I stumbled across Improv Everywhere today. A group based in New York that performs pranks for no other reason than to make people smile. There seems to be a current trend today that says that in order for a prank to be funny, someone has to be humiliated. IE don't work like that and I think that is why I find them a breath of fresh air. They also seem to be on my wavelength with regard to what is funny.

Their pranks are sometimes large scale like the annual No Pants On The Subway or the fake U2 concert. Some are a little more subtle like swimming pool poker. The group was started in 2001 by a comedian called Charlie Todd and has now grown to include "agents" from all over the world.

The prank below is rather nice. Getting over 200 people to freeze in place on cue in Grand Central Station. It made me smile and I wasn't even there.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Star Trek XI

The website for the new Star Trek XI movie has announced the launch of it’s forum. Already full of fans speculating and discussing the upcoming film, the forum is a great place to keep up with the production as more information is released. The film isn’t due until Christmas of this year and so the site is a little sparse right now but the early trailer is worth a look.

One thing is puzzling me though. Is there any point to the separate site that can be accessed by clicking the red spot next to the words “Under Construction”? It appears to show mocked up CCTV screens of the building of the Enterprise. Each camera has some kind of tuning control associated with it. A lot of effort IMO for very little, or am I missing the point?

Thursday, 7 February 2008

BBL Trophy Semi-Final


It’s been a disappointing season for the Worcester Wolves so far. A number of unlucky results have left us (at the time of writing) in tenth place in the BBL. But last Saturday saw a very cruel turn of events that saw us crash out of the BBL Cup semi-final against Guilford Heat 71-85.

The Heat are undoubtedly a force to reckon with having finished the champions of last season’s BBL and who are also representing Great Britain in the up and coming ULEB Cup. However the Wolves and their fans that travelled to the Ponds Forge Arena in Sheffield had high hopes. It indeed looked as though fortune had finally decided to smile on us after a storming first half. Anthony Paez and James Life gave superb performances but alas it was not enough and we eventually lost an eleven point lead.

Not to be down hearted, I urge all fans old and new to WU this coming Saturday as we take on the fifth place Plymouth Raiders. As always it should be an excellent evening.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Slackware Slacker

I have been very remiss. Possibly my most used and favourite software package has had a new release in beta since early December and I have not yet got around to giving it a try. BackTrack by remote-exploit is a superb Linux live distribution focused on penetration testing. Built on a Slackware distribution, it has evolved from a merging of Whax and the Auditor Security Collection.

BackTrack 2 is the current stable release and contains more than 300 different tools which are nicely laid out to form a logical workflow and is widely claimed as the favourite tool of the security professional.

With no installation whatsoever, the analysis platform is started directly from the CD-Rom and is fully accessible within minutes from any PC. Because of this I normally leap on any new release to give it a try, but I somehow missed the release of a beta for BackTrack 3. But never fear, it’s downloading as I type, so look out for a review here soon.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Dumbing Down

My concerns that the human race will eventually die out, not because of a world war or a global disaster, but because we are becoming so stupid that one day we will forget to breath; have further been reinforced today. Apparently UKTV conducted a survey of its viewers, naming historical figures both fictional and real, asking them to decide in to which category they belonged. Needless to say they did not do well.

“Over two thirds of Brits reckoned King Arthur was an actual real person, as opposed to a confection of half-remembered Celtic mythology embroidered by medieval writers”.

It’s one thing to harp on about the fall in educational standards in this country and how the national curriculum has large gaps, but this poll was aimed at adults who had a similar education to me. Maybe I’m being harsh, after all the stories of King Arthur are told in such a way as to make them sound authentic. Oh no wait...

“Winston Churchill was doubted by 23 per cent, with a similar number thinking Florence Nightingale is nothing but a figment of a scriptwriter's fevered imagination”.

My Gast remains flabbered! See The Register article here.

The HoneyNet Project

The subject of Internet security and cryptography has always fascinated me and I often devour information on the subject. The HoneyNet Project is an organisation that not only shares that fascination but strives to improve awareness by research and then publication of their findings.

Spread around the globe, this non-profit group publish some superb whitepapers under the banner “Know Your Enemy”. I would recommend these documents to anyone with an interest in this area. One paper particularly caught my eye. It details how, by the use of Honeynets, they discovered a wealth of information on how Botnets work. It’s a little lengthy and quite techy in places but it makes for a fascinating read. You can find it here.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Netscape RIP

I'm sure many of you will remember Netscape Navigator. It was the first commercial browser revolutionising the use of the Web. What you may not know is that as of the first of this month, it is no more.

Released back in 1994, when the Internet was not the household word it is now, Netscape more than helped to get "Joe Public" interested in what us geeks already knew about. Unfortunately Microsoft soon launched Internet Explorer and with some infamous bundling of it along with their OS and Netscape losing it's way a little, a downward slide in it's popularity was inevitable.


Even its purchase by AOL was not enough to save it and it is they who have announced that it is no longer supported and no more updates will be released. Netscape released its browser’s source code and created the Mozilla project in 1998 which has since evolved in to Firefox, so perhaps Netscape will live on in a way. If you really want to hark back to the "good old days" there is a Netscape theme for Firefox available.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Not Long Now

I don't think I have suffered so much anticipation anxiety since I was ten years old and waiting for Christmas. If it passes it's MOT on Monday, which it should, I will finally be reunited with my Land Rover Discovery after nearly seven months. The vehicle has been off the road to get some much needed welding done. Why it has been so long is a complicated story that I won't go in to now but sufficed to say, I can't wait.

This of course is the reason there is snow about as you can bet your bottom dollar it will all be gone by the time I go and get her. I really enjoy going out and about when there is snow on the ground. Despite the fact that you spend a lot of your time helping other motorists in distress. That's part of the fun. Any Land Rover owner will tell you it goes with ownership.

Only six days or 167 hours or 10036 minutes to go! Give or take.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Little by little

I've just returned from my third visit to the gym since I took a break. Unfortunately the break was over five years and so these first few visits have been very painful. I have to say though that tonight was a little bit easier. I'm not trying to lose weight as some would say I'm underweight anyway, but I certainly need to get fitter.

My first visit saw me near death after only two minutes on the treadmill. Tonight I managed ten before the pain was too great.

Damn those New Year Resolutions!

U23D

U23D was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this month. This film looks like it will revolutionise concert films from now on. Marrying innovative digital 3D imagery and 5.1 surround sound, it creates an immersive theatrical experience unlike any concert movie before.

"'Eyepopping' is the verdict of the International Herald Tribune. 'Gives the audience the palpable experience of being present, as the camera swivels around Bono's face, then soars over and down among the 60,000 concert goers.'"

Shot during U2’s visit to South America on the Vertigo Tour, the film is directed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington and is due to premier in the UK at the end of this month.

Take a look at the official UK website for more information.
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