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I love my Microsoft Trackball Optical, which I've had for about seven years now, and thought idly about getting another one for spare. They've not been made for a while, so I expected them to be fairly pricy. Even so, I was quite amazed to see the best price I can get for a new one is nearly 300 USD. Even second-hand ones on eBay start around 50 quid. Yikes! Perhaps I don't need a spare quite that much.

I see Logitech do a similar sort of thing, does anyone know if it's any good?

Hard drive

May. 27th, 2009 09:07 am
undyingking: (Default)
I need to get a new hard drive for my PC. I've not bought one for around 3 years, and that mfr (Maxtor) doesn't even exist any more... any of you bought one recently, or otherwise kept up with devpts? Who's good these days?

Internal drives mostly seem to be SATA now, which am I right in thinking isn't back-compatible with my ATA motherboard? But maybe I should be considering an external one instead -- how practical is it to use such as an actual working drive, rather than just for backup etc?

Any thoughts / recs / etc welcome!
undyingking: (Default)
Having talked about the mysterious Voynich Manuscript recently, today along comes the Antikythera Device, also beloved of peculiar conspiracy theorists.

Not quite as mysterious, as we pretty much know what it was for -- astronomical calculations. But there is the puzzle of how it was possible, 2000 years ago, to manufacture such an intricate and precise mechanism. Time travel? Aliens? Very good craftsmanship? Make your own choice.

The new story is that some guy has built a functioning replica, and here's a New Scientist video of him explaining it. You do have to wonder how much "educated guesswork" he had to use to fill in the sizable gaps in what is firmly known about its workings and detailed purpose. But it's still pretty impressive.
undyingking: (Default)
  • Went the other night to see Burn after Reading, the new Coen brothers film. We thought it was pretty good fun: just a fairly shallow piece of fluff really, but there's nothing wrong with that. The galaxy of stars (Malkovich, Swinton, McDormand, Pitt, Clooney) all put in entertaining turns. It kind of cops out and runs out of steam at the end, but it wold be harsh to resent it for that.
  • The Plantbot moves autonomically around in search of light for its precious cargo. Excellent idea! I think ideally you'd want it to also rotate so the heaviest part of the plant was facing away form the light, so it grows evenly, but maybe its drunkard's walk will achieve evenness anyway. (Via [livejournal.com profile] curiosity_ips.)
  • Last night we were at a get-together of children's book illustrators organized as part of the National Year of Reading, with which T's involved. Michael Foreman, Anthony Browne and Nick Butterworth were the headline names, but plenty of lesser luminaries too, plus some publishers, writers, etc. They mostly talked about the industry, which was interesting for me but may have been deathly for the kids who were present. Also, a bit strange that the three main speakers were all middle-aged blokes, when there are plenty of young people and women in the field. They were all engaging enough guys, but there was definitely a tone of "these young art-school types today, never been taught to draw properly, we had to come up the hard way" etc.
    It was in Suffolk's Council Chamber, which is pretty new and had a rather snazzy mike system, like a sort of automated "speaking object" for those of you who were ever at OUSFG discussions or similar. If you want to speak, you press the button on your mike, but that doesn't interrupt the current speaker until they press their own button to signal they've finished: so only one mike is live at any given time. The good bit though is that there are three big projection screens on the walls of the room, fed by a handful of ceiling of cameras that are slaved to the mikes -- so as the "live mike" changes, the live camera switches to the one with the best view of that mike, which pans and zooms as required, and the projections all automatically go with that so as to display the current speaker most effectively. Maybe this arrangement is commonplace these days, but I hadn't seen it before and thought it was pretty neat.
  • I expect everyone's seen this reinterpretation of A-Ha's Take on Me video by now, but just in case you haven't -- you should, it's very very funny.
undyingking: (Default)
St Peter's Brewery sends out an irregular email newsletter, with offers and so on, but it doesn't actually include a link to, or even the url of, their website so you can go and buy stuff. Charming amateurishness in this over-commercialized age, or bewildering incompetence?

Anyway, they currently have Organic Ale and Organic Best on special, to mark National Organic Week or some such bibble -- that's £16 for 12 * 500ml bottles, down from £22. Add a fiver for shipping, that's still pretty good value I reckon, for two very nice beers.

Every now and then they clear short-dated beer out at just £10 or £12 a case, which is clearly even better value. So it's worth signing up to the newsletter, even if you then have to oh-so-laboriously use your bookmark to go to the site.

In other annoyance news, my wireless network connection has decided to go on the blink today: it keeps going in and out every few minutes, causing web sessions to drop and so on. I am at fairly long range for the aerials, but it normally works OK. Obvious suspicion was that one of the cats was sitting on the router, but no. Maybe next door has installed a big electromagnet: I heard a load of banging earlier. Have any of you experimented with Pringles-tube-waveguides etc to improve wireless transmission?
undyingking: (Default)
What would you call this?

[Poll #1247845]
undyingking: (Default)
A few things that have caught my eye recently:
  • BgPatterns is a terrific resource for generating background graphics. Choose your motif, colurs, canvas texture, rotation, scaling, opacity and basically every tweak you might reasonably need. Preview it live on the site, then save it locally as a jpg for your own use. Really nice implementation.
  • The Nietzche Family Circus is a small and silly idea, but an effective one. Pair a random Family Circus cartoon with a random Nietzche quotation, step back and admire. This is my favourite so far.
  • Essex have introduced what they grandly term Essex Cricket Television. The only clips up so far depict various Essex players humiliating hapless Yorkshiremen last Wed with bat and ball on a screen too small and low-res to identify players, devoid of context such as the current score, and in my case at least the sound wouldn't work. Well, it's a start I guess.
  • Rather better are Tim Hunkin's short films about the workings of slot machines in general, and his Under the Pier Show in particular.
undyingking: (Default)
A few things that have caught my eye just lately:
  • PMOG, The Passively Multiplayer Online Game -- mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] killalla, basically a way of making ar$ing around on the Web more fun. Needs Firefox. See also [livejournal.com profile] pmog.
  • What does atheism mean to you? Interesting finding from the Pew Foundation that an impressive 15% of US atheists are either absolutely or fairly certain that there is a God. (As are a mighty 40% of agnostics.)
  • Nice little film of a mechanical escalator device. I just think this is a really ingenious design.
  • Labrador have released their free 2008 Summer Sampler, to which I can't find a link on their site, but here's a direct link to the zip itself. "A summerish mix of recent favourites from The Sound of Arrows, The Radio Dept. and Club 8, lost classics from Acid House Kings, Caroline Soul and Chasing Dorotea and sun packed songs by [ingenting] and lots more." Many of the 30 songs will already be familiar if you know Labrador stuff, but if not then you really should.
  • Typetester is a neat little online utility that allows you easily to compare your chosen sample text in a variety of fonts, spacings, colours, weights etc. I anticipate using this a lot.
  • Relatedly, see your chosen text as smoke, droplets, lovehearts, fireworks etc, here. Pretty!
  • This looks like a good recipe for elderflower cordial, which now is the time to make. Anyone tried doing so?
  • Does reading Stephen R Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books make you feel as gelidly preterite as a carious scoria? It does me, but this useful page helps make sense of it all.
  • Conservapedia has posted this email exchange with evolutionary microbiologist Professor Robert Lenski (longish, but worth reading). Good example of how a scientist can comprehensively demolish an idiotic opponent. I can only guess that one of the other Conservapedia editors hates Schlafly.
That'll probably do for now!
undyingking: (Default)
Following a link from [livejournal.com profile] languagelog, I learned some things about predictive text.

Did you know that the commonest predictive text system is called T9? I didn't. But I do now.

I'm pretty far from being plugged into the hep youthful argot of the streets, but even I've heard people referring to something as "book" to mean "cool". And of course everyone knows that "Smirnoff" is really "Poisoned". But I hadn't come across "chubi" to mean "bitch" -- I guess my friends are too well-spoken to need that.

And I had never noticed that "Ask the cool barmaid for nine pints of beer" could mean "Ask the book carnage for mind shots of adds". Had you?

Apparently in Swedish, if you try to type gästlista (guest list), T9 will instead recommend hästkista (horse-coffin). You may wonder why horse-coffin is even in the phone's vocabulary.

What I want to know though is: on my old phone, the first suggestion for 99 was "xx", quite useful when signing off a text. On my current phone though it comes up with "wy" first. Wy on earth would anyone choose that ahead of kiss-kiss? I can only think of "wyvern".

Edited to add: and here's a blog for people who want to get words added to the dictionary. "Corned beef (it has beef, but not corned)".

BT Vision

Jan. 7th, 2008 11:55 am
undyingking: (Default)
Does anyone have BT Vision? How does it differ (if at all) from ordinary Freeview?


Oct. 3rd, 2007 12:00 pm
undyingking: (Default)
Apols if you've already seen this courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] ar_gemlad, but I thought it was too good not to circulate.

Everyone knows and loves CAPTCHAs, those distorted pieces of text that you have to decipher and type in to prove you're not a spambot, right? You may even use them on your own sites -- we do in a few places, because some of our forms were getting exceedingly spammed.

Well, now you can turn them to good use -- instead of generating text and distorting it for the purpose, why not use pieces of extant text from old printed works which are sufficiently unclear that they've baffled OCR attempts to digitize them? You can get plugins for various common blog etc applications, and libraries for various common programming languages, to allow your own CAPTCHAs to contribute to Carnegie-Mellon's effort to digitize the many scans of books held at archive.org.

(There's all sorts of clever stuff about how they make sure what the user types in is right, but I won't go into that here.)
undyingking: (Default)
Do any of you tech-savvy types know of a good free app that generates a graph from a table of connectivity data?

I am a lay person in this area, so it'll have to not require me to gain significant understanding of graph theory just in order to use it[1]. What I want in the simplest version is to be able to feed in a CSV or similar table of A -> B, C -> B, C-> D, etc, and get out a nice network diagram in some straightforward graphical file format. If it's also able to represent direction, strength etc of relationship, that'd be a bonus!

1 I found the CPAN Graph module fairly heavy going in places in this respect, so that gives you an idea of my lowly level of understanding. But I will end up using that to write something myself if there's nothing handier out there.
undyingking: (Default)
OK, they are somewhat more complex inside than incandescent bulbs, and contain a little mercury. But this set of instructions seems a bit over-cautious. (Via Snopes.)

The very first such bulb I had, this was ten years or so ago when I was first living at what later became The House with No Name, fell out of its socket and smashed to pieces on my bed, during the night when I was in it, within a couple of weeks of installation. It had cost something like 12 quid, so I was not pleased, and would have been less so had I had to buy a disposable dustpan, mercury spill kit, etc to get rid of it. As it was, ignorant of the dreadful health hazard, I just scooped it up and slung it in the bin.

Since then I've never had one break, or go phut, although I suppose it's only a matter of time. I think we're not allowed to put them out with the other recycling, have to take them to the tip for special handling. Have you any experience of such things?
undyingking: (Default)
Oh savvy people of my flist, can any of you recommend a cordless Skype phone?

By which I mean: like an odinary cordless phone, except the base station plugs into the PC's USB port and makes and receives calls via the Skype software thereon, rather than plugging into a landline.

I know there are many such things out there, but I haven't found one yet thqt isn't accompanied by people complaining about software being flaky, integration with Skype being clunky, etc, so it'd be good to get some personal experiences / recommendations from people I know.

Bow Geste

Aug. 1st, 2006 10:47 am
undyingking: (Default)
This looks like fun -- guy plans to shoot himself 20 miles into the air using a giant crossbow and a jet engine. (If the FAA'll let him.) I had a look on his own site for more details, but it seems out of date. Surely must be a fairly hideous amount of gs, though?


Jul. 24th, 2006 03:08 pm
undyingking: (Default)
This is quite cool I think -- an online collaborative flowcharts (etc) app. And it all runs in the browser. Even exports SVG. Free while in beta, afterwards they plan to have a paid-for version and an ad-supported version.
undyingking: (Default)
Bah, my lovely new shredder has jammed at just the second time of using, on a particualrly chewy piece of shrub. Anyone got any tips on unclogging? I've tried running it backwards, but it's jammed that way too. And I can't take it apart, it's fastened with special pecularily-shaped bolts.
undyingking: (Default)
Does anyone know how to tell whether a Windows 98 installation includes USB support or not?*

I have a vague memory that USB support was included in W98 SE and also in SP2, does that sound right? But should there be an easily-spottable item relating to it in the control panel, or the system properties tab, or something like that?

(This is for a relative's PC at some distance from here, as you probably guessed.)

* There are no prizes for saying "Plug in a USB device and see if it detects it," because the PC in question has no USB ports.
undyingking: (Default)
Just in case this is of interest to anyone, I've been looking into the practicalities of using a Gmail account as a backup device. I was thinking it could be quite useful to be able to store copies of key stuff on Google's servers, 2GB is plenty of space to hold all I need to keep, and it ought to be straightforward and painless to keep the backup up-to-date via ADSL line.

RoamDrive vs Gmail Drive )
undyingking: (Default)
I just now got a cheapie mobile phone off eBay to be an emergency business number. On arrival though it was apparent that it was much nicer than my trusty old personal mobile, which is the only one I've ever had and which has never quite recovered from being dropped on the floor at last GenCon. So I thought, why not swap them over, as I'm not going to be needing the work one very often. All good except my own phone was on a different network, so they both had to be unlocked. Now there are plenty of people on market stalls, online services and so on offering to do this for a few quid, but being me I wondered how hard it was to do it yourself for free. The answer turned out to be "not at all hard" -- particularly with them both being Nokias, which seem rather more accessible than some. So now I have a nice phone for myself and a battered old one for work, instead of the other way round: if you should ever want to do such a thing, I strongly recommend UnlockMe for a good explanation of how to.


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