Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Website Is Down

I'm guessing that not all of you will find this funny. Unless you are a sysadmin for large organisation and are constantly being harassed by your users with strange, stupid or incorrect requests this will probably mean nothing to you. But if you are one of the "taken for granted few", then this should make you laugh out loud.

Created by Josh Weinberg and friends, The Website Is Down is an hilarious combination of funny tech support stories such as those found here. With great comic timing and an obvious inside knowledge of such things, it is well worth a watch.

Other highlights include a Unix simulator you can play with and a blog you can subscribe to so you can be the first to hear about their new projects.

As the authors say..."If you've ever called tech support and wondered what the hell they are doing down there... well, this should answer some questions for you."

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Auditory Illusion

I read about an interesting auditory illusion this morning on Mind Hacks. According to Wikipedia this is an example of a Shepard Scale.

A Shepard tone, named after Roger Shepard, is a sound consisting of a superposition of sine waves separated by octaves. When played with the base pitch of the tone moving upwards or downwards, it is referred to as the Shepard scale. This creates the auditory illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in pitch, yet which ultimately seems to get no higher or lower.

Here is an example from YouTube, which you just need to listen to and then replay. Here is a link to the original article.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Land Rover Sculpture

I know that Land Rover models are built to go anywhere but this is different.

This sculpture featuring five Land Rover models sited in front of Goodwood House was unveiled by owner Lord March. The 40ft-high sculpture is by Gerry Judah and was commissioned as part of Solihull-based Land Rover’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

Land Rover UK managing director John Edwards said: “The Goodwood Festival of Speed is a prestigious, international motoring event which is beautifully executed – a perfect environment to showcase the premium brand values of Land Rover.”

Sunday, 27 July 2008

LRM Billing 2008

Well as I promised some time ago, I thought I'd better get round to posting about the LRM Show at Billing. This year, as I do most years, I decided to spend the week at Billing. Even though the show itself is only open over the weekend, a quiet week camping prior to the show at Grange Farm makes a great mini holiday. Although spending time with the guys from the DTC is anything but quiet but it's always tremendously enjoyable.

The week started with cracking weather but just a handful of us in attendance. Gradually, as the week wore on more and more started to arrive. I have said many times that each Land Rover show of the season is pretty much the same as the last. But you cannot beat the Land Rover community for great company and the DTC are the best.

Here are a few pictures of the gang assembled in the club's marquee that we erected on the camp site. Great food, great company and a tiny amount of alcohol. It doesn't get any better.

The show itself was OK. I do think that LRM have a lot to learn from LRE as they still don't have the layout sorted. It seems to me that greed plays a major role in this. I think all LR show organisers can learn an awful lot from Manby. They seem to have forgotten that it's the enthusiasts that make the show and they are not just there to have their last pennies squeezed out of them. The Manby organisers seem to recognise this and I can see that show growing in popularity because of it.

Just one more picture that may be of interest is of the two Land Rovers that belong to Richard Hammond. Sadly he was not there but his vehicles somehow made it without him.

Friday, 25 July 2008

System Administrator Appreciation Day 2008

Just a quick post today to wish all my fellow sysadmins a happy System Administrator Appreciation Day. This year see the 9th such day. As the website says..."If you can read this, thank your sysadmin".

My staff kindly made me a cup of tea, but sadly as I'm based in a different country, it may go cold. Still, it's the thought that counts.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

God Bless You Sweet Keavy

As has become a tradition on my blog I would today like to take the time out to celebrate what would have been Keavy's birthday. Keavy, at eight, was the eldest of the Greshlets to lose their lives that terrible day last September and the one I remember most fondly; but only because she always chatted so freely whilst I was with her. Quite delightfully she would plonk herself down next to me or sometimes on my lap and, with no shyness or pretensions, chat happily about a myriad of subjects.

Her most endearing characteristic was the genuine interest she took in other people. Not only happy to tell you all about herself and her interests but equally she was keen to know about you and what you were up to. A rarity in one so young.

The memory I cling to desperately was the last day I saw the children, just weeks before the accident. Sat in their garden enjoying the sunshine. Watching Keavy perform ever more daring manoeuvres on the trampoline. So happy when you saw one she was particularly pleased with, but not demanding your attention. A lost potential that breaks my heart.

Sleep tight little one. Is túisce a éagann an óige mar aon leis an mhaith!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


As an early teenager with more than a passing interest in computers, there is one film that I was so influenced by that it has shaped me to the present day. WarGames, released in 1983, starred a young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.

High school student David Lightman (Broderick) is a computer geek who likes to play computer games and impress a girl (Sheedy). So using the technology of the day he starts wardialling (a phrase that was actually coined as a result of this film) to find the company producing an as yet unreleased game. Little does he know, the "computer company" he's infiltrated is actually a military installation running a missile-command supercomputer called the WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), and the game — Global Thermonuclear War — is real.

Watching this film today it is easy to scoff at the technology, but at the height of the cold war this was bang on the money and the producers actually consulted with genuine hackers (not a term used in those days) to ensure the reality.

If you have not seen this film, I urge you get hold of a copy. If only for a bit of nostalgia for a time when computers were gateways for the technically curious. But if previous Hollywood remakes are anything to go by avoid WarGames: The Dead Code at the end of this month as it has all the hallmarks of a disaster. Why do they do it?

Also check out this great interview with some of those responsible that recently appeared on Wired.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

I Don't Understand

Before I start this post proper, can I just say that I haven't forgotten about Billing, I just need to put it to one side for now.

It must be me. I must be stupid. It certainly makes no sense to my tiny little brain. My good friend Nigel 'Gresh' Gresham lost four of his beautiful children in an accident last September. Note the word accident. Since then he has been through hell. Yet the CPS yesterday saw fit to advise the police to prosecute him for four counts of death by dangerous driving.

It is not a decision which has been taken lightly given the tragic deaths of Mr Gresham's children and the loss he has suffered as their father.

Effectively they are saying that it is in the public interest to spend tax-payers money to punish a man that can not possibly be punished any further. A man that has already hit a low that none of us can possibly imagine, will be kicked down lower by having his remaining children (is it in their interests to possibly lose their father as well as their siblings?) taken from him. But I must be wrong of course, according to the CPS they "Champion justice, and defend our rights". Perhaps a re-think might be in order. Let us just hope that a jury will see the sense that "The System" appears to be missing.

The BBC report can be found here.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Going Mobile

Well, by the time you're reading this I will have hopefully arrived at the LRM Show at Billing safely. More on that later, but as I will be in the middle of a field for the next week, my Internet access may well be limited. So rather than e-clecticism going through a post drought, I am going to test drive the mobile option of posting directly from my phone.

I've not tried this properly before, but some initial tests have worked OK. Fingers crossed I'll be able to bring you updates directly from the show.

Monday, 14 July 2008

GE Update

The Google Earth Blog has announced that a large update has been made to the Google Earth imagery database. So far updates have been confirmed for
There has also been a large update to the images of Spain. I personally have noticed that Worcester has had an update that was taken in July 2007, so much more up to date than the previous images of 2004. Sadly the resolution is no better, but it might be worth checking out your favourite sights just in case they have been update also.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Call On Me

This makes me cry every time I watch it, part sadness, part joy. I'm so glad it was originally posted. It gives the rest of the world a chance to see what wonderful children they were. This is The Greshlets dancing to Call On Me by Eryc Pridz. Stay strong my friend.

Is túisce a éagann an óige mar aon leis an mhaith!

Friday, 11 July 2008

It's Alive!!!!

This is a strange piece of video but is fascinating at the same time in my opinion. I'm sure you are all familiar with the non-Newtonian properties of corn starch mixed with water. If not perhaps you'd better read this before continuing....Finished? Good.

So somebody had the inspired idea to pour some on to a metal tray and hold it over a sub-woofer that was thumping out a meaty base line. The liquid behaves almost like it is alive. It's actually quite strange. Enjoy!

Thursday, 10 July 2008


So I find myself in Dublin again. A different hotel offers much more of an opportunity to take some pictures than the last time I was here, and so after dinner this evening I went for a stroll. The light wasn’t great but I managed to get a couple of shots worth posting.

I’m staying in an area of the city called Smithfield. This is an old area on the north side that used to house a massive set of farmer’s markets, but has now been rejuvenated into an area of trendy apartments and bars. The area is dominated by a public square now called Smithfield plaza. Some may recognise the location as it was used extensively in the Richard Burton film The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

This is the old Jameson Whiskey Distillery with the observation deck at the top of the chimney. I can recommend the tour for the lovers of the uisce beatha.

The west side of the plaza is dominated by twelve 26m gas lighting masts, each with a 2m flame that were sadly not lit this evening. You may be able make out some of the 400,000 one hundred and twenty-year-old cobblestones, that were lifted, cleaned by hand and re-laid as part of the rejuvenation plan.

I continued my walk down the Liffey and took these pictures. The first faces west and features the law courts in the foreground. If you look carefully you can just about make out the Wellington Memorial, which resides in the Phoenix Park, on the skyline to the left of several construction cranes. The second faces east toward the Irish Sea.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

B3ta Releases

There are many websites that are designed purely for wasting time on. Sadly only a handful are worth going back to on a regular basis. The video variety such as YouTube or MetaCafe are always fun, but my preference is for the picture based sites. Ones that invite contributions from their users, usually on a particular theme.

Once such site that I have mentioned before is Worth1000. They run regular Photoshop competitions whereby a task is set, and users vote for the best entries. But another site that I fell in love with some time ago is b3ta. The concept is similar to Worth1000 but both the challenges and the submissions are little more off the wall and many have a more adult twist. With no holds barred and many submissions featuring animations, it's a much more entertaining site all round in my opinion. Some of the contributers are pure genius. Here is a brief selection.

This one is from the "Literal Road Signs" challenge.

This one from a Star Trek challenge.

Finally here is a couple of classics from a challenge to re-invent some famous logos.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

It's Called Terrorism For A Reason

I really must stop watching or reading the news, it just raises my blood pressure. I really think that we have reached the "lunatics have taken over the asylum" point that Fun Boy Three sang about in the 80's. I could of course be referring to many different aspects of modern society but let us focus for a moment on terrorism, or rather our pathetic reaction to it. Of course terrorism in any form is an appalling thing and we should resist those that attempt to manipulate by way of violence. However, the knee-jerk reaction from some of those in power is no better than the terrorists themselves.

Bruce Schneier, the security expert and author, recently blogged about this subject, citing several recent instances where authoritarian figures armed with half truths and little common sense have prevented law abiding citizens from going about their business all in the name of terrorism prevention. I can easily add to his list with the story of Brooke Oberwetter, who, last April, was arrested for dancing silently at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington to celebrate Jefferson's birthday. Ironically Jefferson was a passionate anti-authoritarian. An irony that even Americans can understand . Or there is the fact incidents involving amateur photographers being harassed and prevented from taking pictures in public places (not yet a crime thankfully) appears to be on the increase, probably fueled by a recent campaign by the Metropolitan Police Force.

These incidents plus too many more, are in a way understandable. We are afraid, and fear causes irrationality. This irrationality though then causes further fear. It's not called "Terrorism" for nothing though. Even if Al-Qaeda (or however you spell it this week) or any other organisation never sets off another bomb, they are still terrifying us.

Friday, 4 July 2008

George Washington's House

Just in time for July 4th, the New York Times says that American archaeologists claim to have discovered the boyhood home of George Washington. Apparently the house stood on a terrace overlooking the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Finding the house, historians say, may yield insights into the circumstances in which Washington grew up. There is currently very little documentary evidence of his formative years.

What we see at this site is the best available window into the setting that nurtured the father of our country.

said Philip Levy (pictured below right at the site with fellow archaeologist David Muraca), an archaeologist and associate professor of history at the University of South Florida.

See the full NY Times article with more pictures here.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


Today I stumbled across what looks like a an absolute must for the child in me. An interactive ride called Buzzball. Imagine a giant hamster ball big enough to contain an adult and you get the idea. Developed by Evento (who have some other cool rides) it is enables the pilot to control the motion and direction of travel via left and right control triggers, which provides power to the driving wheels.

It appears to only be in development at the moment, but I would imagine that it will feature on corporate fun days, much like Zorbing, before too long.

Buzzball from Evento on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Manby Land Rover Show (Update)

As I stated in a previous post, I was at the Manby Land Rover Show this weekend. It's a new show that only started last year, but I'd heard good reports and so agreed to the long haul to Lincolnshire. It was worth it. The Discovery Owners Club (of which I am Vice Chairman) were once again responsible for the off-road course and so I had some commitments to fulfil on marshalling duties. All credit to everyone involved as it was a great course, especially after the rain on Sunday.

The mud run was another highlight. Starting with the "90° Challenge" vehicles and then later a free for all, great entertainment for the crowd was provided. Not least by the folks that stood too close and got plastered. A big thank you to my friends at the DTC, who provided food, alcohol and great company.

Also a special mention to Paul who hurt himself at the end. We're all thinking of you mate.

I didn't actually manage to take any pictures as I forgot my camera, but hopefully my friend won't mind me stealing a couple of his.

A video of the mud run is a must see also.


Nineteen years ago this very day, I was lucky enough to marry a very beautiful (in every sense of the word) woman. Happy Anniversary baby. I love you.
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