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

Saturday July 26 2003

Dashboard

An interesting piece of software. I'll quote the site on what it actually does:

"The dashboard is a piece of software which performs a continuous, automatic search of your personal information space to show you things in your life that are related to whatever you happen to be doing with your computer at the time.

While you read email, browse the web, write a document, or talk to your friends on IM, dashboard does its best to proactively find objects that are relevant to your current activity, and to display them in a friendly way."

It's Linux software, so I'm afraid you'll have a tough time running it under Windows - so that's me out of it. If you do run Linux though, I'd be inclined to check this one out.

For Windows, Haystack looks to be a similar kind of thing. Draconian memory requirements though at 512 mb minimum. I chanced my arm with my one and only box at 256 mb, and the beast wouldn't even load :(


Posted at 7:29 pm by Jim Woods



Friday July 25 2003

Sabbatical

For the good of my soul I'm going to Amsterdam next week from Monday to Friday. So unless I rig up something really special, there'll be no blog entries for the period. Rumour has it that this isn't the only site on the internet though, so no need to pine unduly.


Posted at 7:12 pm by Jim Woods




Cybiko

Given that the little Cybiko is basically a toy, I have become rather enamoured of it. I'd been observing these things in Toys'R'Us (because who doesn't like to keep an eye on the toys?) for ages, and was aware that a new model, the Extreme, was available. Obviously the chain was sat on a great pile of them, as I saw the price of the old model - now known as the "classic" :) - tumble to thirty quid. Then they were doing a buy one get one free. Then I had to have one. Or two.

Now, toy or not, what attracted me to the little Cybiko was that it has inbuilt 100m wireless networking, as well as PC connectivity. I've always been a sucker for anything like this ever since I used to sit in front of an 8088-based text-mode PC (which cost about the same as your car) with a blazing Amstrad 2400 modem and hack up bulletin board software to feed a little local network of people who became friends. Maybe I'll do a little piece here in the future about those pre-internet days... I digress. Further examination proved the Cybiko to have loads of available free software, including quite a few handy little stuck-on-the-bus-for-hours games and the usual slew of personal organizer-type apps. There's even an SDK for Windows and Linux. It's possible to write software for the thing in CyBasic. You can run a graphing calculator. When all's said and done, you can do most or all of what you can do on most pocket computers, but you can do it for fifteen quid a unit.

But that's not what got me excited. The killer is that I now have, by using one unit hooked to my PC as a base station and the other on my person, wireless WAP access to the internet and email all around my house and garden. Beast.

I've no doubt that there'll be more to report as I get into messing around with these little things...


Posted at 6:42 pm by Jim Woods



Thursday July 24 2003

Not Works

Well, good old MS Works 2000. Runs like a one-legged dog under XP Pro, I can tell you. Various nasty little tricks have disappeared from my machine along with it. I haven't got the inclination to go into great detail, since using computers is interesting and trouble-shooting them is particularly boring (yes, people, I have a life!), but the vague air that all is not as it should be has gone.

It's a pity, really. I've used - and more importantly, paid for - several versions of MS Works since the days of DOS. I'm that old. Works has been around that long. But now I must concede that it has become, or at least the 2000 edition had - I'm not coughing up for yet another version - so bloated and fragmented that I am using OpenOffice instead.

The reason I see fit to bang on about this is as follows:

I have persisted with Works because it pretty much, well, worked. It was a hell of a lot less of a truckload of condemned veal around the system than Office. I don't delude myself that I need a full-on office suite to write correspondence, keep telephone numbers and run simple financial spreadsheets. So Works, a "home" solution was cool. But by 2000 they'd taken the nice little Works I knew of old and split it up in a silly way. Instead of just having a nice simple interface - MDI-based, meaning one taskbar entry no matter how many docs you had going on within the app - we now had a great slew of stuff. New tasks for each doings, and the built-in WP inaccessible (although present and taking up disk space) by default in favour of Word. If I'd wanted Word, and I know men who have literally lost novels by being foolish enough to use it, I'd have dropped my trousers and bought it. I wanted simple, because it works best. Works was not really simple any more.

I had files, just unrelated-to-Word ones like pictures and videos, that I couldn't anyhow delete. I was told by a helpful dialogue that Satan was using them, thanks all the same. Well, something like that. Might not actually have been the Dark One, but whatever it was it wouldn't expose itself to the light of good honest scrutiny. Gollum only knows how this came about. I tried it all. I ran disk error checks. I tried from the DOS prompt. I was at my wits end. I terminated every process that might be using them. In desperation, I nobbled Works calendar reminders, which runs at startup by default. The problem went away. Why was Works Calendar locking pictures somewhere else on the drive? Quite...

So I'm sorry, Bill. OpenOffice costs nada, works well for my needs, and although big it really does offer enough to put up with its size. And until further notice it's doing my housekeeping.


Posted at 4:00 am by Jim Woods




Radio Netherlands

I have discovered, to my great joy, that Radio Netherlands has a website in English, and better still a load of programming online also in English. "Sketches of the Low Lands" is a particularly nice series. I've enjoyed the programme on the Albert Cuyp Markt, and can scarcely wait for the one on "The Cruquius", an enormous old steam engine. I've done some research on "the steam engine with the name least likely to tempt one to f*ck with it", and I am impressed. Visit the site and listen away.


Posted at 1:42 am by Jim Woods




Windows haiku

I know this, and variants of it, has been around since pretty much the dawn of time, but it still makes me laugh. Here's what would happen if computer error messages took an Eastern philosophical view of their calamities.

For example:

"A file that big?

It might be very useful. But now it is gone."

It gets me every time...


Posted at 1:36 am by Jim Woods



Wednesday July 23 2003

Paris webcam
A nice webcam, with fast update, of what's going on up and under the Eiffel Tower. Lots of tourists milling about is what. This cam, like many others, looks better at night. I like the top-to-bottom panning especially.
Posted at 4:14 pm by Jim Woods




Pink Floyd joy

Ha! Guitar tab to most if not all of the Floyd's morose, but strangely heartening, back catalogue. Time for us all to learn the national anthem; yes, that one.

And look - the lunatic is on the grass. Time for a lie down.


Posted at 3:20 am by Jim Woods



Tuesday July 22 2003

New Telly toy

At last, a freely expandable, non-proprietary PVR. You can pretty much do what you like to this beast using easily available hardware and Linux. For the dedicated nerd, this makes it a better bet by far than closed systems like TiVo - although of course your grandmother, and I, can master TiVo.

If you didn't understand a word of that, you're probably not alone.


Posted at 7:11 pm by Jim Woods




CD changer extreme

Ah, the CD. The only problem with it is that one has to keep changing them, whether we're talking about music equipment or computers. In a music system you can easily enough get a multiplayer; I have a 200-shot Sony for example, and whatever anyone says about these it works fine as long as it's set up dead level. On a pc, however, multiple drives are mucho money. Yer man here though doesn't care about that. He's built his own, chiefly from wood. And if you explore his site a bit, there are other amazing hardware hacks.

I love this sort of homemade engineering. Plenty of pictures of it all too.


Posted at 3:25 pm by Jim Woods



Monday July 21 2003

Freenet

I'm not going to explain this at length here, as it's all made clear on the Freenet site. But, in a nutshell, if you need to exchange, store or publish any data without risk of censorship or prosecution this is probably the tool you need.


Posted at 6:59 pm by Jim Woods



Sunday July 20 2003

Flat in the 'Dam, sir?
A nice site full of Amsterdam property for sale here - thanks to Peter "Lovely Peter" Madams for this. Finding this sort of stuff seems to be surprisingly difficult on the net, certainly relative to the plethora of sites with Spanish and French properties. I suppose it's all down to the higher costs and the lesser size of the Dutch market, and the lack of holiday home hysteria. The site is in Dutch, which rules me out as far as the text is concerned (you too I imagine). But the pics are in picture and the prices are in Euros, so it's easy enough to get an idea.
Posted at 5:41 pm by Jim Woods





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