Monday, 28 October 2013

Lunch time doodle - British Cookie Monster

While eating my typically British Heinz tomato soup, and inspired by something I read somewhere earlier, this doodle drifted into existence  in my brain (and then on my phone).. 

Would a British cookie monster be called a biscuit monster instead though? 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Nuclear Fusion

A US lab today has made a step forwards in nuclear fusion research, by actually making a laser-compression style fusion reactor that conclusively released more energy than it absorbed.

That's very significant as a few groups have claimed to have done it before, but none have had the evidence to back it up.  This time, there's actual proof.

However - although it's a massive step forward, it's not a "break even" as some news agencies have claimed - the key phrase is "released more energy than it absorbed".   Less than 50% of the laser's energy makes it to the "hydrogen pellet" target, and the laser emitter, presumably, is loosing energy via heat etc.  So it's still using a lot more power than it's creating, but it's a huge step in the right direction.

What I don't understand is why more effort isn't being put into fusion research. It's a field that would pay such huge dividends when the breakthrough has finally been made.  It's not even like we don't know that the physics works - the sun is a great big ball of nuclear fusion, after all.  And it's not like science hasn't previously made and used devices that created nuclear fusion, although as they were hydrogen bombs, they were rather more just destructive than useful for power generation.  A bit tricky to control too.

My personal suspicion, although I have nothing to back this theory up, is that a combination of pulsed, toroidal magnetic compression and laser compression would get some way towards actual self-sustained fusion generation.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Don't blink! Blink and you're dead...

Sorry, this is not really a Doctor Who post. 

Not a lot of people will even remember this, but early HTML had an element called Blink which made text, well...  blink on and off. 

It never made it into a w3c standard, and was generally regarded as ugly and pointless so when Internet Explorer stopped supporting it, it wasn't a major surprise.   Chrome never supported it, and now in the latest update, neither does Firefox.

I've got mixed feelings about it.  I used blink in my very very first web pages (called SteveNET) and they looked pretty naff, but seeing as it was before you could even do in-line graphics, let alone coloured text, it was better than just plain text. 

But in this day and age, it's really about as useful as a chocolate teapot, and just clogging up the code-base, so it makes sense to drop it.  

External references:

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

5 things I have learnt from Twitter

When I first used Twitter, said to one of my friends that I just didn't quite get it.  I didn't understand what it was, what it was for or even why it exists.  I knew I should probably be aware of it and using it, as it's kind of my job to keep abreast of such things - but I didn't understand it.

My friend pointed out that if I didn't get it, it was because I was over-thinking it.  I was looking for a specific purpose where there is none. There is nothing more to get than if it were millions of people stood in a very large pub, nattering away about anything and everything.   That is it's purpose.

After that revelation it made a bit more sense to me and I started tweeting nonsense too, and finally got in to it and understood that there is nothing to really understand about it, but that it is a very valuable, if massively complex and muddled, source of information.

Here are five things I have learnt from Twitter.

1)  Celebrities are people too..

OK,  not the most amazing revelation but it's sometimes easy to forget. Celebrities are actually just normal people, the same as anyone else, and as such they're likely to say dumb stuff if they're  in the wrong mood. If people have a go at them, they might have a go back.  They might feel chatty, they might not. Also, just because they ARE real people, it doesn't mean they'll speak to you! Don't be disappointed if you reply to a celeb's tweet and they don't respond.  Depending on who it is, they may get thousands of replies to a single tweet. Chances are they won't even see yours.

That said, I have had proper twitter conversations with two of the cast of Red Dwarf, Sarah Beeny (off of property programs) and I may have had a conversation, sort of, with Simon Pegg. Possibly. 

A few minutes later he posted 

Coincidence?  Who knows. 

2) Brands love Twitter. 

Brands like it when you re-tweet their stuff - it's basically free advertising for them.  Some, particularly smaller brands, will follow you back, boosting  your readership and increasing the chances that they will re-tweet something that you say.   Some brands have customer support accounts on Twitter, some post random funny stuff, and some just use it for tweeting updates and news.

3) Great source for specific news

If there's a current event, Twitter Search acts like a continuous feed of news and comments about that event.  Obviously there's a certain level of inaccuracy, and you have to be prepared for a large amount of nonsense and probably abusive language, but it's a good way to get a lot of people's views and opinions on something that is current.

4) Interesting to interact with TV programs.  

Some presenters, and indeed live TV shows, love to interact with their viewers via Twitter.  It's fairly common for presenters to be tweeting live during the broadcast of their pre-recorded shows, and will answer questions relating to the show (or sometimes not relating to it at all - "where did you get those shoes" or similar..)    Many shows now show a #something at the beginning of the show so that you know what to search for, or so you can hashtag your tweets if they're relevant to that show.

5) The power of Twitter. 

Twitter has power.  Because of the sheer amount of people reading it, it only takes 140 characters with the right message, if something goes viral suddenly a reasonable percentage of the population of the entire planet know about it.

On Twitter, I've seen missing people found, lives saved, revolutions started and plane crashes reported in real-time.  An idle tweet by an A-list celebrity about buying a specific brand of t-shirt can take an entire website offline by the traffic it generates.  I've even seen smart bird-cages that tweet when their water levels are low.

So there we go - If you're still not sure what Twitter is for - it's for everything..  as long as you can fit it in 140 characters.

Random Scribble - ROBOT

Presented without comment.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Network Solutions suffer huge DDoS

This afternoon has been um...  challenging..  for many thousands of IT professionals.
A DNS server under attack.
No, that's really what it looks like. Honest. 

Network Solutions, who are a major hosting provider, appear to have suffered complete downtime from a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Retrospective Sunshine

Phew, what a scorcher!

... is no doubt what the news papers are saying, probably next to some photo of scantily clad people on an overcrowded beach. I don't know that for a fact, but it's a fair bet.

An ice lolly.  It's gone now. 
It certainly is warm here in good old South of England.  It's currently about 29°C - So warm compared to the normal 13°C rainy season that we usually get at this time of year.

Many, many years ago, I guess back when I was in my 20s, I used to basically hibernate during summer, or apparently Aestivate to use the proper word (I had to Google it)

I hid away because I found it far too hot, I'd get REALLY grumpy, and I'd seem to get sun-burn if someone even said the word "Sunshine"

Looking back, I kind of wonder if I should've made more of those times, I could've been doing outside stuff like bike rides and making things out of bits of wood.

But still, it was during these times that I honed my geekcraft, I guess. Hours spent coding in C++ on a green-screen PC, or building early web pages.  Or just gaming.

These days I look back on all the thousands of hours (Ooh. Crikey. Yes, it is thousands) that I spent playing video games and I do wonder if I could've spent that time more productively. But then I think - if I hadn't spent hours hacking the health-point counter in Final Fantasy VII so that I'd gain health every time I got hit - would I have the skills to be able to manually repair database tables now? Or any of the other geekazoid things that I do on a daily basis.


So anyway, I find it easier to cope with these days, although I'm really not sure why.
Also there's plenty of time to make things out of bits of wood.

Inbox of the beast?

If I were a superstitious man, I'd take this number of unread emails as a bad sign.. 

If I were superstitious.. 

(edit: I should probably point out that I actually have 0 unread emails in my inbox - these are all automated logs and test stuff)

Friday, 12 July 2013

Are cloud servers where websites go when they die?

This is a rubbish picture to demonstrate this topic.
I apologise. 

Firstly, I must apologise for the really, really bad geek joke in the title. It's not big and it's not clever. So naturally, I made a rubbish picture in Windows Paintbrush to enhance the joke.

And by enhance, I mean the other thing.

Anyway - onto the point - recently a bunch of the big tech companies have been tidying up their service portfolios, which is
fancy-talk to say they've been dumping a bunch of stuff that no longer is as popular or doesn't make them any money.

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Blue skies over a river
Summer.  Yesterday. 

It would appear that summer is actually here.  It was 20°C when I got in my car the other morning..  28°C on my way home that day.

I was beginning to think that we wouldn't get another warm summer, with 3 years in a row of dull, wet and cold weather from June to, well, basically March the next year.  I thought that perhaps we'd just broken summer, that somehow we'd messed the world up just enough for us to not be worthy of one.

That may still be true, but it seems that, for now at least, hopefully we can look forward to games of Kubb, trips to the seaside where we can actually go on the beach and to barbecues, summer salads and tall glasses of cider with lots of ice.

There's something about a blue sky that just makes everything seem better.  It says "Don't worry, everything is all ok".  They're like a visual hug from the universe.   It's probably some deep hard-coded caveman instinct thing, telling us that hunter-gathering will be easier today.

I did a Google search for "Why are blue skies comforting?"

Google didn't quite understand and showed me lots of links for "Blue Sky Comfort" fabric softener.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013 Is Here!


So, I'm going to be truthful - I got bored of paying hosting costs for when all that was on there was a holding page that basically just pointed here anyway..

So, the new home for Various-Stuff is here.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Goodbye Google Reader.

Google Reader LogoGoogle have finally pulled the plug on it's RSS reader called, (um...) Google Reader.

They had their reasons, all written up nicely in their blog entry on the subject, but I can't help but wonder if they could've have found some way to update it and integrate it into Google+ or something.


I downloaded by "feed data" (Which sounds like a bizarre gastronomical schedule or something) and am trying out RSSDemon on my phone which seems to work nicely so far.