Thursday, 27 November 2008

InterHigh

I'd like to tell you a little about InterHigh, possibly the worlds first online High School, that was started by my sister and her husband. Home schooling appears to be quite popular here in the UK but it is not often easy to ensure that the correct curriculum is taught. Therefore the ability to have all the advantages of home schooling combined with an approved curriculum taught by fully qualified teachers, makes a lot of sense.

That's where InterHigh comes in. It is modelled on an English/Welsh secondary school with on line teaching for years 7 - 11 (normally ages 11 years to 16). In the final year pupils are entered for international GCSE examinations enabling them to continue into further education or employment.

Teachers and pupils work from home by logging into a virtual classrooms on the Internet to receive real time tuition every weekday morning. Apart from lessons, teachers set and mark homework, prepare reports, end of year exams and prepare pupils for the GCSEs and A-levels of their choice.

A video explaining in more detail can be found here.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Frozen Water

No, I don't mean ice. Dean has achieved some nice results at something that I have always planned to try but have never got around to. Photographically capturing the moment that a drop of water hits the surface of a bigger body of water.

My favourite shot is below, but you can see more with a guide to how it was achieved, in his post. Hopefully if I can get my new camera sorted I can finally give this a go myself. As always, click to enlarge.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Fan Boys

If you like Star Wars and you're also a fan of juvenile silly humour, then I think we'll both love Fan Boys. Set for release in January of 2009.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Oops List

If you're having a bad day, or you're generally feeling low, it can often help to realise that others may be worse off than you. The Germans have a word for it, schadenfreude. Well, aside from taking first prize in the "most understated domain name" competition, the oops list may well be the site for you. A mixture of photographs and videos of crashes and other misfortunes with a mostly but not exclusive aviation flavour.

I have to say that some are more than just "oops" and may well be full blown tragedies but I still think it's worth a look. I have posted some examples below. As usual, click to enlarge.

Edit: Well as it seems this site doesn't like hotlinking I have removed the pics. You'll just have to visit for yourself. :-(

Friday, 21 November 2008

Overdue Account

I was hoping to offer some insight in to this story and tell you a bit about David Thorne and how this all came about etc. But I have sadly been unable to find out much. I don't know who David Thorne is and I still don't know that the email exchange between him and Jane Gilles is even real. All I know is I still laugh when I read it and I hope it is true as it is pure genius. If you know more please leave a comment so I can edit this post and give the proper credit. Thanks. As usual, click to enlarge.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

TR2N

Surely the term "long awaited" has never been used more appropriately than for a sequel to the 1982 Disney film, TRON. But it looks as though our wait may soon be over. A very early trailer was shown at a "Comic-Con" and it was announced that the film (provisionally entitled TR2N) is in production and due for release early 2011.

From the poor quality footage (below) that a fan took at the convention and that is now available on YouTube, we can see that Jeff Bridges is confirmed to be taking the role of Kevin Flynn once again and John Hurt and Karl Urban are rumoured to have major roles. I would imagine that with the advent of CGI the sequel will be a lot slicker looking but it's nice to see they are keeping the feel of the original with the lightcycle scene making a welcome return. Having said that, I hope it is a true sequel and not just a remake. Some films just shouldn't be remade IMHO.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

LIFE Photo Archive

When I think of LIFE magazine I immediately think of some of the incredible photojournalism that it must have contained over it's long existence. LIFE has always used the thinking that a good photograph can tell/sell a story rather than just illustrate it. This philosophy has produced some stunning artwork over the years.

Now LIFE have teamed up with Google to host 10,000,000 of these images (photos, etchings etc.) dating back t0 the 1750's, oneline. Only about 20% of the collection is available so far with more being added later. You can view this historic collection by either visiting here or by using a conventional Google image search but adding "source:life" to your query, computer source:life for example.

Thanks to Slashdot for the original report.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Anyone For An Argument?

Whilst it is true that I have a relatively short attention span, I'm sometimes lucky enough to come across something that can hold me until the end. A website I discovered recently is one such thing. "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About" or TMGAIHAA for short, is a site that is so well written I actually LOL'd...Literally! Starting off as relatively short list of topics that 'Mil' Millington and his girlfriend, Margret [sic], have argued about, it has grown in to an hilariously funny rant that kept me reading for several hours. I even ploughed through the section on his legal troubles with the Mail on Sunday, and am now working my way through the extensive FAQ's.

Nothing keeps a relationship on its toes so much as lively debate. Fortunate, then, that my girlfriend and I agree on absolutely nothing. At all.

Combine utter, polar disagreement on everything, ever, with the fact that I am a text-book Only Child, and she is a violent psychopath, and we're warming up. Then factor in my being English while she is German, which not only makes each one of us personally and absolutely responsible for the history, and the social and cultural mores of our respective countries, but also opens up a whole field of sub-arguments grounded in grammatical and semantic disputes and, well, just try saying anything and walking away.

Mil is an author too and had released several books which will definitely be on my Christmas list. I know it's long, but please persevere with this site. It is well worth it, more so if you are in a long term relationship.

New Feed

By popular demand, I have added a second RSS feed to the blog. Now not only can you get the latest e-clecticism posts by pointing your favourite RSS reader here, but you can now also keep up with the comments by pointing your reader here.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Catch Up

Well it's been a busy few days. Trying to get everything sorted out before I finish work plus my 40th birthday celebrations. With the stress of the last few months it was nice to relax and have a bit of fun for a change and I'm lucky enough to have some very good friends that make that both easy and enjoyable. A huge thank you to all that attended our mini pub-crawl and the calmer follow-up the next night. I'd post photo, but I don't want to scare you.

Anyway, back to normal now, I'll catch up with the backlog of posts I want to make this week but in the meantime, enjoy this video to cheer up your Monday via the main man, Graham Linehan.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Have You Backed Up?

There maybe a law for it, but it is common knowledge in IT circles that the more tech savvy you are, the more you know how important it is to take backups, and therefore the less likely you are to actually take one. Luckily, every rule has an exception. Well it's lucky for NASA anyway.

Apparently NASA took a lot of readings and collected a lot of data about moon dust during the Apollo missions. A "dust detector" invented by Australian physicist Brian O'Brien was used and the data was stored on 173 data tapes at NASA and Sydney University, but O'Brien's preliminary findings didn't receive much interest, so the tapes were sent to storage. OK so far. But as NASA is now interested in moon dust again (for whatever reason) they decided to retrieve the tapes but found an oversight had seen the tapes disposed of some years ago.

Luckily the copies in Australia didn't share the same fate and are still in a good condition. The only drawback is the format. They were written on a 1960s-era IBM 729 Mark V tape drive. O'Brien contacted the data recovery company SpectrumData, who stumbled upon an old IBM 729 Mark V tape drive at the Australian Computer Museum Society, which agreed to loan the historic piece of hardware.

It certainly won't be an easy task to restore this data but SpectrumData are confident they can build an interface for the drive and get 40+ year old data back early in the new year.

Lest We Forget

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Science V Faith

I am an atheist. I have been for a long time. I find the whole idea of religion preposterous. However it does interest me, which makes me a little more clued in on many religions than those that follow a single one. This can lead to to some fascinating discussions. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not a one of those atheists that tries to point out to those with a faith that they are wrong. If someone wants to believe in the supernatural and magic, that's fine. It's just not for me. However I often get asked, why I don't believe. This can be a very long and complicated answer. But not now, I'm just going to point the asker to the following picture, as it really sums it up for me. As always, click for full size.

Minor Changes

I have made a couple of minor changes to the blog this morning. Firstly I have moved the comments posting form to the same page as the corresponding post rather than on a separate page. The embedded comment form is hopefully more convenient for you because you can use it to post a comment immediately, without clicking over to a different page.

The other change is to add "reactions". Rather than make a full blown comment I have made it easier for you to give me feedback by adding some tick boxes under each post for you to rate them. Simply tick the one that you think applies.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Not Bad At All Actually

Regular readers of the blog will know that I am rather a big fan of U2. I have been a fan ever since the October album was released way back in 1981 and although I have liked some of their material more than others over the years, I remain a huge fan to this day. I have seen them live, I have met several of them and I have an extensive collection of their music, much of it never released. I am of course looking forward to the new album as well. But my all time favourite song has not changed since I first heard it in 1984. So I thought perhaps a post dedicated to it was in order.

Bad was never released as a single as it was considered a little long for radio play, but has nonetheless became a firm fan favourite because of Bono's passionate live performances of the song, especially at Live Aid. The vague lyrics are about heroin—specifically, about a friend of Bono's "who was given, on his 21st birthday, enough heroin into his bloodstream to kill him". I cannot explain exactly why I love the song so much, but I can tell you that when I hear it, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I think part of it is the fact that it has what musos call an extendable bridge that Bono often uses to slip in parts of other songs. I think I have managed to hear around thirty different versions so far.

Anyway, with the help of YouTube, lets play some of the best examples. If you know of better ones, please feel free to point me to them in the comments. If you're not familiar with the track, enjoy the rolling drums, driving bass line, the haunting repeating guitar riff and the soaring vocals.

The first one is the definitive live version in my opinion despite the mullet haircut. Performed at Wembley Arena in 1985 and featured on the "Wide Awake In America" EP. This is what I want played at my funeral.


Later that same year came the Live Aid performance. The mullet is still there but now we get some examples of Bono's talent for mixing in snippets of other songs. Lou Reid's Satellite of Love and Walk on the Wildside and The Rolling Stone's Sympathy for the Devil and Ruby Tuesday. This performance really launched U2 on the world stage. Sorry this version is so poor but it's the only one I could find.


We jump ahead now to 1987 and Dublin's Croke Park. The sound quality isn't the best but at least the mullet has gone.


Forward again now to 1992 and the Zoo TV tour. This time Elton John's Candle in the Wind makes an appearance.


Finally, forward again to 2001 and the Elevation Tour. This time another U2 song, 40, is featured.


Edit: A big welcome to all of you visiting from StumbleUpon. You're really boosting my stats, thank you.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A Change Of Life

Well, I got made redundant last Friday. Sounds quick and painless when I write it like that, and I guess it was. I was called in to a room by my boss literally five minutes before I was due to leave for home, and just like that, I was out of work. Now it's fair to say that my boss has actually no idea what I do. He has even said it himself, and so to make my role redundant is a brave move on his part. Of course when he finds out that I actually play quite a large part in bringing in customers and keeping them with us, he may well come back and offer me some contract work. I for my part wish him good luck with that.

For you see I was getting to a point that I was having great difficulty in staying interested anyway and was considering a move. The company was not the same one I joined over twelve years ago as many of the talented people had long since left and it was slowly disintegrating before my eyes.

Nevertheless it still hurts when you're told. Especially two weeks before your 40th birthday, a month after burying your father and this close to Christmas. Timing is everything don't you think? My stress levels after recent weeks were already off the scale and this certainly had the potential to have a whole new scale drawn up. My self esteem had already taken a battering and although it was my role that was made redundant and not me, it is very hard not to take it personally.

But...it's not all bad. Luckily I'm in a financial position that means I can take my time and choose the next stage in my career carefully. Who knows, I may even make a complete change and get out of IT altogether. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Computer Quotes

Below are some profound and funny1 quotations from the great and the good of the computer industry. These were collected from various corners of the Internet.

The two main design principles of the NeXT machine appear to be revenge and spite. (Don Lancaster)

I've noticed lately that the paranoid fear of computers becoming intelligent and taking over the world has almost entirely disappeared from the common culture. Near as I can tell, this coincides with the release of MS-DOS. (Larry DeLuca)

If you have any trouble sounding condescending, find a Unix user to show you how it's done. (Scott Adams)

Unix has been feverishly evolving for over 20 years, sort of like bacteria in a cesspool, only less attractive. (John Levine)

The purpose of the icons, the purpose of the entire OS X look and feel, is to keep the customer happy during that critical period between the time of sale and the time the check clears. (Bruce Tognazini)

UNIX is an operating system, OS/2 is half an operating system, Windows is a shell, and DOS is a boot partition virus. (Peter Coffin)

When you say: "I wrote a program that crashed Windows", people just stare at you blankly and say: "Hey, I got those with the system -- for free." (Linus Torvalds)

Java is the most distressing thing to happen to computing since MS-DOS. (Alan Kay)

Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen an angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100mph. (Linus Torvalds)

I'm not one of those who think Bill Gates is the devil. I simply suspect that if Microsoft ever met up with the devil, it wouldn't need an interpreter. (Nicholas Petreley)

The sad and sobering fact is, our current personal computers -- the Macintosh included -- are amazingly fragile nightmare kludges of delicate interactions that only barely work right most of the time. (Steve Gibson)

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning. (Rich Cook)

The best way to prepare [to be a programmer] is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and fished out listings of their operating system. (Bill Gates)

Being a social outcast helps you stay concentrated on the really important things, like thinking and hacking. (Eric Raymond)

People that think logically are a nice contrast to the real world. (Matt Biershbach)

Programming is like sex, one mistake and you have to support it for the rest of your life. (Michael Sinz)

You needed a cool name to put on a T-shirt, and you needed a T-shirt to give to people. It was part of getting people excited enough to work 70 hours a week. (Erich Ringewald of Apple)

1. Possibly only funny to fellow geeks.
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