Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Firstly, allow me to apologise for the fall off in the number of posts over the last couple of months. I've had so much going on that there has been very little time for surfing and blogging; and what little there has been I have focussed on my other blog The Wargame Shed. Sorry!

Secondly, may I wish you the very best for the festive season and a happy and prosperous 2010.

In case you didn't know the Hogswatch card above is by the fabulously talented Paul Kidby.

Riese - Steampunk SF Series on the Web

I am a little late spotting this (the first four episodes are out) but it certainly looks promising:

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Remake of The Prisoner

This looks like it might be interesting:

Saturday, 22 August 2009


David Mitchell's latest Soapbox is another goodie:

Unfortunately, it's also the last (shame!) at least for the present.

PS This is also a test post for Posterous to see how it copes!

Posted via email from whisperin' al's posterous

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Transport Policy?

I was watching the latest episode of David Mitchell's Soapbox at ChannelFlip and it nicely captures our utter lack of any integrated transport policy here in the UK.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Carpool - Paul Lavelle

Robert Llewellyn's Carpool has had some interesting guests so far but the most recent, Paul Lavelle, has some really interesting things to say on the subject of power generation:

[I have deleted the embedded video as, no matter how hard I tried, I could not get it to load without autoplaying - very annoying! - The video can be found at instead]

Why aren't our politicians discussing this stuff instead of fiddling their expenses?

Sunday, 31 May 2009

If you like Lovecraft...

... you might like this:

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Star Trek

I managed to get along to see the new Star Trek movie a couple of weeks ago and I've now had enough time to reflect and confirm if my first impressions were right.

Having been a long time Star Trek fan it was with no little trepidation that I went along to see the new film at my local cinema. I'm afraid I'm one of those fans who thinks that none of the spin offs have been able to match the original and so a re-imagining of that was always going to be risky (remember Planet of the Apes?). But with JJ Abrams at the helm I didn't think it would be a complete disaster - but would it be Star Trek?

I need not have worried. The effects, as you might expect given the budget, were excellent. There was a good deal of action and it's pacing and engagement was such that I didn't notice the two hours or so slipping by. The casting is also first rate. I thought Zachary Quinto had the facial structure for Spock but he also backs it up with a good performance. Chris Pine is Kirk at his womanising, shirt ripping best and Karl Urban provides a decent McCoy if a little too much of an impersonation of the original. Simon Pegg, as Scotty, plays it for maximum comedy effect (possibly a little too much for some I suspect) but Sulu and Chekov are a little more two dimensional. I thought Eric Bana was a decent enough villain but not quite as menacing as the character could have been.

The Enterprise itself kept the original lines and a more movie than TOS bridge layout. I think there have been more elegant redesigns externally in previous movies but that's just a personal opinion. And I really want too sure about the powerboat style throttle control either.

JJ Abrams manages to combine action, some character development and plenty of cross references to the previous incarnations to keep the fans happy - which is no mean feat.


He also manages to reset the timeline so that he is not constrained by the huge body of pseudo history which already existed from the TV and previous movie outings and he does it in a manner that is entirely palatable.

Overall, I thought the movie was excellent and I shall be adding the DVD to my collection when it is released. It remains to be seen if this manages to kick start a new sequence of Star Trek movies and, if so, whether it will manage to replicate the strength of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationships which I think was at the core of the success of the original. But for once I am trying to stay optimistic.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


As I reported earlier my Drobo had become somewhat noisier having added a third drive and so I decided that the simplest solution was to move it off my desk.

Enter Droboshare, it's a little sled that sits under the Drobo and allows you to turn it into network attached storage. Hey presto, I can put my Drobo in another room and access it from any of my other machines over my network.

It was the easiest thing in the world to set up. I simply unplugged my Drobo from my Mac, plugged it into the Droboshare, plugged the latter into the network and the power (there's a neat 'y' power cord which allows you to power the Drobo and Droboshare from the same power brick) and it just worked! My Drobo dashboard on the Mac gives me all the same information I used to get when it was connected directly.

Now I have all the features of the Drobo but over the network and in case I ever run out of space on the single Drobo, I can plug another one into the Droboshare.

It also runs applications too - although I haven't tried any of these yet.

Littlest Pet Shop = Extortion Racket

My daughter (age 7) bought a Littlest Pet Shop VIP toy a while ago. Let's not get into what I think of the toy, the price etc., but it came with the ability to set up an account on their website to explore a virtual world, collect stuff and interact with other owners.

This morning, without any apparent warning, when my daughter tried to log into her account she was informed that it had been suspended and that unless she bought another toy by 9th July her account would be deleted.

Nice way to treat your customers Hasbro! Of course I understand that you can't run the service free for ever but this sort of tactic is pretty low when it's targeted at small children. Shame on you!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Interested in MPs Expenses?

Here's a map showing the expenses claimed by MPs in each constituency between April 2007 and March 2008.

It makes interesting reading...

Monday, 23 March 2009


Being a fan of a comic or graphic novel always provides an interesting perspective when it's translated into a movie. I really enjoyed Alan Moore's Watchmen and was a little apprehensive when he movie was announced. I finally got a chance to see it yesterday.

The film starts well but despite its length (160 mins or so) it still feels as though the second half was a little rushed. It sticks to the main storyline from the graphic novel pretty closely but drops some of the side elements; however, some pretty graphic violence has been added in a couple of scenes which, in my opinion, wasn't necessary.

Visually the movie is impressive, Zack Snyder has taken the graphic novel's artistic style and updated it a little but kept pretty close to the imagery. The choice of a less well known actors could have been a mistake but actually works pretty well although Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre II) doesn't quite rise to one of the key scenes.

Overall I came away with mixed feelings. If this has been the first movie of this type I would have been blown away by the visuals but following Sin City and 300 it simply can't make the same impact. In some places I thought that by deviating from the original and playing to the strengths of this new medium more could have been accomplished. As it is this doesn't really add anything to the original. A good movie but not quite great.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

LogMeIn - Remote Access

With my in-laws living 45 minutes away (even with Mrs Leadfoot driving!) providing tech support for the silver surfers can be tricky over the phone. With my Mother-in-Law getting a Mac I though things might be a little easier - firstly because Macs just work better and, secondly, I'd be able to use the built in remote access capability. Well it has turned out that the first was definitely true, since the number of calls dropped significantly but, unfortunately, I simply haven't been able to get the second to work - at least in part due to the fact we have BT Home Hubs sitting at each end.

So I looked around for an application which might allow me to provide the occasional support remotely and found LogMeIn. It's Mac and PC and the basic version is free. Of course it does depend on the broadband connections at both ends and it can be a little slow refreshing - especially when dealing with a bigger screen on the other end - but it does work pretty well and you can't quibble at the value for money.

Let me know if you've found a better alternative as I'm always interested.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Managing Your Digital Life

Storage and backup aren't generally exciting but if two guys can make it interesting it's two of the regulars from MacBreak Weekly, Andy Ihnatko and Scott Bourne. They've started with a blog at and will be producing a podcast in the near future.

One to keep an eye on if you care about your data!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Unusually Smart

I went to a black tie function last night and David Mitchell's latest Soapbox from Channel Flip is right on the money:

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Drobo Update

With the Drobo getting over 80% with the two 500GB drives I decided it was time to add another. I did contemplate a 1TB drive but at the present rate of consumption I thought another 500GB would probably do the trick for a while (and I do still have one bay left just in case!).

Misco provided the bare drive with their usual prompt service and it dropped in with absolutely no fuss at all; however, the Drobo has been quite noticeably noisier since I popped the extra drive in (not worryingly so but louder nonetheless). I'm hoping it will settle down, as that's sort of what happened with the original drives (although it's never been as quiet as my Freecom externals). Only time will tell.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Clause 152 of the draft Coroners and Justice Bill

The information sharing provisions in the draft Coroners and Justice Bill are very worrying. They include some very wide provisions which give me a great deal of concern regarding data protection in particular, Clause 152 which allows any Minister by order to take any information gathered for one purpose from anywhere, and use it for any other purpose without consent or proper oversight.

This type of provision is neither appropriate not necessary and combined with the public sector's appalling record regarding keeping our data secure I think this is very worrying.

Have a look at the Open Rights Group site if you would like to know more or how to try to block these provisions.

Thursday, 5 March 2009


I recently bought a Mountainlife jacket and after only a few weeks the zip gave up the ghost. Initially I thought it was simply bad luck but I was wearing a Mountainlife fleece today (only the second time) and, you've guessed it, the zip broke.

I'm starting to think that either I'm very unlucky or they have a quality control issue...

Cory Doctorow talks to Platform

I've listened to Cory Doctorow a couple of times and he has managed to strike a chord with me each time. Here is a very interesting interview with him by the OU's Platform:

If you are interested the sites he mentioned can be found at, Open Rights Group and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. Edmund Burke

Blogo Trial

I've been trying out Blogo: The blog editor for your Mac for the full 21 day free trial. So what did I think? Well, it does look and feel like a Mac app, it handles text and images nicely and it integrated reasonably well with blogger and also Twitter. I did have a few problems as it tried uploading one post and failed then, when I tried again, it worked but I was left with a Picasa album with a complete set of duplicate images - so there is a little work to be done. It is a Mac only app, however, and I did find this somewhat restrictive as I also like to post from my linux netbook. Overall it's a pretty nice app but it doesn't offer enough in the way of additional functionality over and above the core stuff in blogger etc. to make me want to part with my cash. But then I'm a bit of a cheapskate so if you're interested why not give it a go - after all the trial is free.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

BT (Blooming Terrible) Customer Service?

BT provided an on-line storage service called Briefcase as part of my broadband package. Spookily I took advantage of it and uploaded a load of files. Today I got an email from them saying that they're discontinuing the service and that I need to move the files or they will be deleted. It's all fine they said as I could put them on their other storage service, BT Digital Vault. That won't be a problem then I thought. This is the 21st Century so of course they'll simply copy the stuff across for me. Nope. They're suggested "solution" is to download all the files from one service and upload onto the other myself. Now that's a bit crap but bear in mind that this also applies to people who have capped services so they'll be using up their data limits to move this stuff around 'cos BT don't want to support a service any more and can't be bothered to help their existing customers. Mmm...more effort on the customer service me thinks!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Canon Pixma MP620

My old HP PSC2110 all-in-one has been playing up lately and given that HP, in their infinite wisdom, have not yet released the drivers for Leopard (so no native scanning), I decided it was time for a change.

My first constraint is, perhaps, somewhat unusual. I have the machine on a shelf in a corner unit and, whilst the PSC2110 fitted fine, it isn't terribly roomy. I really didn't want to give up more precious desk space so a new printer needed to fit into the footprint of the old one and I didn't want to split the requirements into two devices (i.e. a separate printer and scanner). Given that advances in technology always used to mean things getting smaller, I was a little surprised at how few all-in-one devices were available which met this requirement.

I also have several machines in the house and, whilst I can do printer sharing from the office machine, I have always had problems with getting this to work on the rather eclectic mix of machines and OS I have. So network capability was on the list.

Of course print quality was pretty important. We don't do an enormous amount of printing but when we do we like it to look good. This is particularly important for photographs. Scanning capability needed to be better than the old machine if possible too.

Finally, of course, there is price. I really didn't want to spend the earth!

I eventually plumped for the Canon Pixma MP620 and spent last night unboxing it, removing all the protective packaging (including a gazillion separate little bits of protective tape) and setting it up.
All the basics seem to work pretty well but I haven't yet had a chance to test out all the features including the networking (I need to find my other network point as I, rather inconveniently, seem to have hidden it behind a rather large bookcase - doh!) but when I have little post a little feedback.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Has your Driving Licence expired?

I thought my UK Driving Licence lasted me until I was 70 (and lets ignore how crazy that is for a moment); however, as was pointed out to me today it doesn't! The license seems to say it does but the (new) plastic card, the one with the picture, actually has an expiry date on it. It, like the plans for the bypass running through Arthur Dent's house, could hardly be considered to be obvious:

You have to check out the (very) small print on the back, which tells you that 4b is the expiry date of the licence. The penalty for driving without renewing it is rather nasty!

And, as you might have expected from our stealth tax experts in the Government, there is a charge when you renew it (and you'll have to keep on doing it every 10 years)...

Sunday, 1 February 2009

No wonder high street retail is dying...

After many complaints from my other half, about our compact camera not having the capability to shoot school events properly, we decided to dip a toe into the DSLR market.

I did the usual research on the net and had a look at the bank balance (we're entering different territory here!). The favourite seemed to be the Nikon D40 which was relatively easy to use, not too heavy and not too expensive. Whilst Amazon has them for just under £245, I wanted 'erindoors to actually see and hold one. I have never been comfortable with wandering into shops to see the kit and then buying it on line. It just seems a little cheeky to me. So a bit more research showed that Jessops had them for £249 and they have a local store.

So we duly wandered down to the local Jessops and, after a little wait, managed to catch the attention of one of the staff. Frankly he was about as enthusiastic about selling us the camera as he might have been if I'd asked to audit his last tax return. He offered absolutely no advice whatsoever and simply stood there, while we examined the camera, as if it was all too much like hard work. Despite his lack of interest, my wife decided she liked the camera and so I asked if they had any in stock. "We won't be getting any more into stock and this is the only one we have" he said indicating the display model. "But that's a display model" I said implying I'd like something off. "It's only been out a few days" he replied "and we don't do discounts on display models anyway". He wasn't even the slightest bit phased when I, perhaps unsurprisingly, said that we'd get it somewhere else.

Have I missed something or are we in the middle of a recession with stores closing and people being made redundant? I would have thought that high street retailers would have woken up to fact that people can buy stuff cheaper on the net and the only edge they have is customer service and convenience. Clearly Jessops haven't.

Would you pay full price for a display model? I'm afraid I wouldn't and I don't feel the slightest bit guilty that I popped an order on Amazon as soon as I got home.

Saturday, 31 January 2009


I've just downloaded the trial of Blogo: The blog editor for your Mac to give it a go.
This is my first trial post.
I'll let you know whether I think it works well enough to splash the cash...

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Troy: Fall of Kings

I have just finished reading Fall of Kings by David & Stella Gemmell, the last of the Troy series and, sadly, David Gemmell's final novel.

I discovered David Gemmell's writing many years ago and immediately became hooked. His writing style was a perfect match for me with just the right level of description and fluid storytelling style. His stories, be they fantasy or historical fiction, evoked a more heroic age but populated with real people. These stories may not have been the most complex, although they do have their twist and turns, or the most critically acclaimed but they really struck a chord with me and game full reign to my imagination.

The Fall of Kings nicely completes the Troy story arc and the final scene in the Epilogue had additional poignancy knowing it was David Gemmell's final story. A hero lost to the world and the end of an era.

Fortunately the scope of his work will give me plenty of re-reading for years to come.

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2009!