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

Saturday October 25 2003

Solar storms

No evidence of the current solar storm preventing me from snuffling and hacking, in a medical sense, in front of my computer while drinking Earl Grey and listening to Ornette Coleman; no Aurora Borealis in my house either. These scientists don't half exaggerate.

I found a rather good article on the massive solar storm in 1859. That one buggered things up a treat, clearly having more the courage of its convictions.

Posted at 7:47 pm by Jim Woods


I had, with all the heat of the past summer, forgotten how miserable the cold is/was. I have remembered, however, why it is imperative to have a great shrine of consumer electronics in one's living room: to give one something to do until approximately next April. I find myself increasingly unwilling to leave the building at the moment, since every time I do I renew the vigour of a perma-cold. Unfortunately I have loads to do. Perhaps I need to develop a system of heated poly-tunnels between the various points I need to reach. Alternatively, perhaps I need to stay at home for a while and resist the temptation to go gallivanting around in the cold while ill. It's a tough one.

Posted at 6:45 pm by Jim Woods

Friday October 24 2003

Rendering Trees
IDV has a nice site covering their various tree-rendering efforts. What this means is that you can download an amazing demo of a forest generated in realtime in software, and wander about in it. You will need fairly muscular hardware for this, as with all cutting-edge graphics stuff. But it should be worth it!
Posted at 3:07 pm by Jim Woods

Thursday October 23 2003


Having a keen interest in the weather, or at least in complaining about it, I quite fancy one of those little weather stations that you set up on your manor and connect to your computer. I must remember to have a shufti around the shops and see whether or not I can find one. Oxford is very badly off for the sorts of shops which might have sold these in kit form, as Tandy fled the UK and the nearest Maplin is in Reading - nearly thirty miles away. Still, it'd be a worthy addition to my putative home network (currently hampered by my ownership of just one senescent PC and a few old Macs which I can scarcely operate let alone network).

What I need is a nice laptop with wireless, and another PC to act as a server. It is sheer idleness, and a tendency to drink my money, that have prevented me from realizing the whole shebang. So I think I'll make a start right now - by taking my guitar up the pub after I've feasted royally on baked beans.

Rock on.

Posted at 7:56 pm by Jim Woods

Wednesday October 22 2003

Downwind of Amsterdam

Just in case everyone thought I was raging at Vodafone to the exclusion of all else but occasional attempts to bring my PC to its knees by installing more software, here's a gem. This blog, written by an American living in Holland for a year or two, is great for two reasons. Firstly, the guy is into cycling and he's riding around all sorts of interesting parts of Holland that I too have cycled around. Which means he has taste. Secondly, he takes great pictures of it all which make me homesick - if indeed it is possible to be homesick for a place you've only "lived in" for a fortnight at a stretch.

I love that Dutch thing where in the most unlikely places you'll suddenly find a stretch of water, probably containing a few old boats and crossed by a lovely bridge.

Posted at 6:54 pm by Jim Woods

Vodafone customer service DOES exist!

It just isn't much use. Today, five days after I originally emailed them with my sorry tale of woe - see previous entries - I received two emails back from them. The first said that my email had been passed to the correct department, and the second said that my loyalty bonus had finally been applied. There was a fairly cursory apology for the time taken to sort things out. There was no goodwill refunding of the money I'd spent fruitlessly calling customer care again and again, and indeed no mention of this despite it being one of the main points in my email. I know it was only a couple of quid - and of course a good hour of frustration and wait - but I rather draw the line at paying to be told nothing could be done, and indeed paying to chase money owed me.

Both today's emails were sent at the same time, which rather gives the lie to any sense of continuing progress reports; first email - " we've sent your query to the correct department", and second - "we've applied the bonus" were sent within a minute...

I am pissed off at STILL being out of pocket, however slightly. I realise that I am not much of a customer in terms of profit for Vodafone, but I feel that they should either tell me to f*ck off to my face or they should deliver proper customer care. If they don't want my business they should say so by rather more direct and honest means than by pissing me about for weeks. If they are simply incompetent, they should address this FAST. They kept saying that their computer system was down; this is a company that spent more money than any of us will ever get within sniffing distance of on third generation licenses to provide various (in my view) silly services about which the public demonstrably don't really care, but cannot sort out simple queries about applying credit - the basic premise of their business. Guys, buy some working computers, eh?

Given the evaporation of my promised "goodwill" credit for being pissed about, all my goodwill towards Vodafone has correspondingly evaporated. I shall no doubt continue to use their network because the competition are such jokers (for my purposes) but it's a pity, because there are too many things in life that we have to put up with for lack of effective alternatives.

Posted at 3:20 pm by Jim Woods

Tuesday October 21 2003

I imagine everyone was wondering why I haven't been raving on about software to the point of tedium

So I will. A bit.

New Mozilla out recently, as well as associated Firebird. It's nearly perfect, apart from aspects of the bookmark management which I hold to suck - search my site for my previous comments on all that.

New 602PC Suite too, which I also mentioned a while back. Now I'm running it, just out of curiosity, I'm quite impressed. It's fast, and the free version does pretty much all that you'd want in a word processor and spreadsheet. There's an image-manipulation side to it as well, but I'm not sure that this is any better than any other general program of this type. IrfanView is pretty much the (free) daddy in this area for me. But if you're after a lightish general w/p and spreadsheet that will read Office file formats and you don't want the whole complex bulk of the heavyweight OpenOffice, you might want to give it a spin.

Always use the search on this site when you're reading about software here by the way; I tend not to repeat myself any more than I have to. Any bit of software I keep track of may well have been explained or reviewed in much greater detail here in the past.


Off to pond.

Posted at 3:02 pm by Jim Woods

Voda where art thou? Plus assorted ramblings.

Well, I emailed Vodafone Customer Services (like military intelligence a probable oxymoron) on Friday lunchtime, and three hours later received an automatic acknowledgement. Nothing else yet though. Clearly I must cuddle the acknowledgement a bit, and tuck it up warm and feed it well. Because it seems that it may be the only tangible thing I have to remember my service provider by.

I'm not calling them again. I haven't the energy for it. I'd sooner walk away and defect to another provider at this rate. Comes a point dealing with anyone where you have to realise that you're wasting your time.

Well, okay, I may call them again - but not just yet. At the moment I dream of a nice simple email in my inbox saying "we're very sorry, we've sorted it". And that may come, although far too late.

It's suddenly turned really cold here, which is an additional annoyance. And despite MTV showing The Osbournes for what seems like half of their schedule, there are two episodes of series three that I'm still lacking. Life, eh? It's all pain...

One good thing though; my father, a television-head to rival the best of them, became enraged by his two-year-old Sanyo nicam video making a filthy racket and refusing to eject tapes. It is of course entirely possible that he tried to effect this manoeuver by imprecation or witchcraft, rather than by the required steps - my mother found him gaily conducting his archaeology in it with a large knife after all. Perhaps he hoped to slay the tape-withholding demon within. At any rate he went and bought another post haste rather than be without the facility, and I got the old one. Actually it's newer and prettier than my old Toshiba, and for me it works well although noisily. So I've added it to my shrine in the living room. Which reminds me that I need to update my gloat page a fair bit. Things are a-changing with my home entertainment stuff.

Enough for now. Time to go out and freeze clearing leaves from the pond and searching for good cheap guitars...

Posted at 2:35 pm by Jim Woods

Monday October 20 2003


If you have loads of TV channels to keep track of, from Sky or cable or whatever, and you find that reading a dead-tree TV guide or labouring with 20th century technology like Teletext in order to see what's on is taking up too much of your time then you might want to try DigiGuide. It costs 6.99 per year after the initial evaluation period of thirty days has elapsed, but this doesn't seem too ruinous to me.

What you get is a nice piece of software that downloads listings for all the channels you specify (it's a UK service I'm afraid, overseas readers) for two weeks ahead; then the fun starts. You can search for particular programs or keywords. You can also set reminders, which is dead handy. If this sounds a little underwhelming, then remember that to do the same thorough scoping out of the printed guide(s) would take you a very long time, and to try to do the same via teletext would take longer than you might expect to live. What you get is a nice searchable database of the next fortnight's telly, and that's a good thing to have.

As the proud owner of a TiVo I have no need of this myself, but if I were to be deprived of TiVo I'd subscribe to DigiGuide in an instant. It's just the thing to run on an old net-enabled pc in your living room, particularly if you're a plan-ahead type viewer. Nice.

Posted at 7:43 pm by Jim Woods

Guess who's still waiting for Vodafone to get back to them?

I am. Hmph.

Posted at 1:30 pm by Jim Woods

Sunday October 19 2003

Fringe photography

There are some really nice exercises in what I can only describe as extreme Polaroid photography on this site. What a neat idea. Iterative photography.

Posted at 12:35 pm by Jim Woods

Ataris from the past (aren't they all?)

From the Atari Museum comes this fine specimen. The things that could be done with 8 bits...

I remember struggling with a 400XL for some time in the early eighties. There were two things which made the use of the thing a struggle: firstly, any code you wanted to run had to be typed in on a flat "keyboard" which was in fact simply a sheet of plastic with nasty little unyielding pressure switches under it. It would have been a literally sore trial on a pocket calculator. On a computer it was unforgivable. Secondly, the only storage it had was cassette tape. This was slow and unreliable, if I'm to be charitable.

Of course those of us who endured all of this and still dutifully typed in hundreds of lines of stuff we found in magazines, and generally hacked about with these early computers, were rewarded with the earth and all its riches. Hallelujahgobble!

I had a couple of STs later. They were great, a poor man's Mac. In fact if I could get my hands on one now I'd run it, as many still do.

Posted at 12:23 pm by Jim Woods

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