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We live in litigious times, so I should say that content reflects only my opinions!

Saturday May 17 2003

Mozilla Firebird
Mozilla Firebird 0.6 is out; this clean and moderately mean machine is the browser-only version of Mozilla, shorn of the mail, news, chat and HTML editor bits. Good for those who simply want a replacement for IE. It does all the important stuff, such as popup window blocking and tabbed browsing. My first impressions are favourable, although it STILL doesn't work properly with the Richer Sounds site, which is rapidly becoming my test site for browsers... I've no idea whose fault that is. This is the product that used to be known as Phoenix, by the way.
Posted at 6:31 pm by Jim Woods



Friday May 16 2003

Tunnels under Baghdad?

That Saddam, what a bad boy. Assiduous tunneller though, you have to give him that. Have a look at this article about the possibility that he built 100 km of tunnels under his capital city. Cracking.


Posted at 7:20 pm by Jim Woods




No gorillas in the Myst

So who remembers Myst? And indeed Riven and Myst III: Exile? Being a big fan of graphic adventure games I do. Myst, when it came along - about ten years ago - was just amazing. The graphics, the sound, the whole thing just reeked of class. And there was no pressure to solve any puzzle in a rush. It was all about deduction and exploration, a game for the intellect rather than for the reflexes. Well, in addition to the two sequels and a "remastered" edition of the original game there seems to have come along (while I wasn't paying attention) a fully 3D version called RealMYST. This gives the player the ability to actually move around fully in 3D, where the original used gorgeous but static screens. Bonus.

Anyway, RealMYST has been out for a few years now, so if you can buy it it should be cheap. There is an entire age - a level - available for free download as a demo, if you can find it out there. It took me back a bit to play around with all this again. The original Myst ran under Windows 3.1, ancient history. If you never played these games you've missed a big part of computer gaming history. Of course, that may not keep you awake at night. If you play the games, though, they certainly will. So there's an incentive.


Posted at 6:21 pm by Jim Woods



Thursday May 15 2003

http://www.unexplained.info/
Here at unexplained.info you'll find more conspiracies, aliens, time travellers and who-knows-what than anyone could possibly find time to investigate. Great stuff!
Posted at 4:30 pm by Jim Woods




Hmph
Mozilla does not work with the menus on the Richer Sounds site. Naughty Richers for assuming that we all use IE.
Posted at 4:17 pm by Jim Woods



Wednesday May 14 2003

Minitel

Minitel, the French telephone-based information service, has been around now for twenty years or so. It was, and in many ways still is, really rather ahead of its time in offering a simple information service roughly analogous to that offered by WAP on today's mobile phones. For Francophones, I'm giving you a link to the web-based version of Minitel to play with. Have a look, and you'll see that telephony-based information services and text-messaging and all sorts of other things have been around (in France) rather longer than you might have suspected!


Posted at 4:44 pm by Jim Woods




Quiet American

I think I've mentioned Quiet American here before... In any case, to recap, it's a site where once a week someone post a short field recording, giving us all the chance to experience an audio slice of somewhere else; the site describes this as "Sixty seconds of something else. Sixty seconds to be someone else".

Ideally, these recordings should be listened to with headphones. Many, if not all, are recorded binaurally. This means that the microphones are positioned over the ears of the recordist, and that the phase cancellation and so forth of the human head is thus factored in to make a recording rather more similar to what you'd really hear. Give it a go.

Anyway, what spurred me on to put in another plug for this site is that this week's recording was done in 1975 on a Sony open-reel tape recorder. I'm all for analogue recording where practical, so I urge all and sundry to check it out. I remember the days well when open-reel was really the only practical way of getting a high-quality recording. Cassette tape, although well established as a home audio format by the mid-seventies, was far from good; both the decks and the tape were fairly laughable by comparison to the fidelity we now expect from decent equipment. But if you ran quarter-inch tape at high speed, amazingly good results could be had!

Take a step back in time.


Posted at 4:29 pm by Jim Woods



Tuesday May 13 2003

Coffee - I never knew there was so much to it

I am, in general, an instant coffee philistine. Which is not to say that I don't like proper coffee, just to say that I don't prefer the sort of real coffee that cheapish (and I'm afraid that means sub-300) domestic kit can create. I am, however, enough of a geek that I have a certain amount of modest plant around the house. I have a cafetiere, a hand grinder, and a Morphy Richards miracle do-it-all machine which I bought for 60 in a fit of acquisitiveness a few years ago. It's one of those things that does reasonable drip-filtering but has a rather hopeless steam-powered espresso/cappuccino section. No better than a Krups or the like :( No pump, so no real action.

Anyway, my sister came back from New York recently with an assortment of nice ground (I know, but I haven't the hardware yet to roast my own beans) coffee from Dean and DeLuca. So I thought I'd better take an interest. My results with the cafetiere, a plunger type, have been good. I've held off mucking around with the cheapie appliance because it seems a waste of good coffee. I get decent but cheap Italian coffee in France which I run through that. For some reason, by the way, no-one seems to bother with the accents on words such as cafetiere on the web, even on the French sites. Must be a Windows character set thing. So you'll just have to wince-alonga-me. Speaking of France, I bought a drip-coffee machine there for ten quid once which hopefully I'll find in the loft ere long. It's lemon yellow and electrical and it works well. I bought it when hotel-hopping there when I got sick of the kind of stuff I was getting from vending machines. Bargain.

In the search to become geeky about the whole issue, I've discovered there are many sites on the web concering the art of coffee. I'm going to list some here for you now, so you too can become an obsessive. They are:

The gorgeous Royal Coffee Maker machines, which none of us can afford and would break immediately :)

CoffeeGeek - just full of stuff on high-end machines and the rest.

CoffeeKid - also packed with useful info.

Espresso! My espresso! is a fascinating tale of one man's journey into the whole business of coffeemaking. Highly entertaining.

Sweet Maria's, a home roasting supply company whose site contains a wealth of interesting geekery.

And finally, LucidCafe - "Serving Coffee, Art, History and Literature Lovers on the World-Wide-Web Since 1995". Well, that sounds like me. Get some culture on!

Obviously this is just scratching the surface of what's out there. But if you dig around the links from the links pages of these sites you'll soon find that you're away with the caffeine fairies.

It's nice to have a new hobby...


Posted at 1:52 pm by Jim Woods



Monday May 12 2003

Mozilla

There's a new Mozilla beta out - 1.4. I'm still mucking about with 1.3 here, but for those of you who fancy a decent browser that isn't from MS and doesn't have to be paid for, it's the one to try. My experience is that Mozilla works well, save for a few things about it that really irritate me (and drive me into the arms of the Beast of Redmond as a result).

The irritants are as follows:

I hate the way Mozilla still launches entirely separate instances of itself as "new windows" on occasion. What the hell is the point of having a tabbed browser to reduce clutter in the taskbar and then allowing it to, yes, clutter up the taskbar with multiple instances of itself? Inelegant. Please can we just have tabs instead of windows, full stop.

Also, can we have an alphabetic sort of bookmarks which actually works properly all the time? I've waited for literal years for Mozilla/Netscape to have decent bookmark handling. Apparently this is not a priority. Spank.

And why must every additional window, such as the preferences section or bookmark manager, have an "exit" item on its menu when the function of it is to shut down the whole browser? Is it likely that anyone is going to be altering their preferences and then will want to close the whole app from the prefs section? No. Clearly not. Second up from the bottom the file menu is "close"; this does what you'd probably expect "exit" to do. I know it makes (some) sense when you think about it, but after twenty years or more of software you have to think about it'd be nice if coders realized that the ideal thing is software that doesn't have to be thought about quite so much by the user.

Let's have a bit more elegance, eh?


Posted at 6:20 pm by Jim Woods



Sunday May 11 2003

CoffeeGeek
A cool site for those with advanced coffee-worship tendencies. Loads and loads of dribblesome hardware and nerdy detail...
Posted at 11:52 pm by Jim Woods





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