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

Friday July 9 2004

As you know,

I've been supping with the devil without the benefit of a particularly long spoon. I've been using Outlook Express as my mailer for a month or so. I'd never bothered with it before, rightly condemning it as a Swiss cheese in terms of security and being snobby about its everyone-and-their-uncle image. I'm not in any way, shape or form suggesting that it's a viable alternative to the power of, say, Thunderbird or Pegasus. It's not. But it is not entirely beyond redemption, and I'm going to tell you why not. But before I do, here's what you do (for those who really don't know too much about it): you turn off all settings that would result in sending anything other than plain text email, and you make sure that you view all received email as plain text too. You also turn off read receipts (unless you really need them for a specific mail), and you make sure that attachments don't speak unless they're spoken to. And of course you keep an eagle eye out for updates, as these are - ahem - not uncommon and generally related to security.

And then you can use the same mailer as everyone else without too much fear. Because it's not like any other mailer can't bite you if you don't observe these basic principles. The whole issue of security and privacy in email is down to general settings more than software specifics. Clicking on links in unsolicited email is basically bending over, dropping your kecks and attaching a large safety yellow notice to your behind reading "spam me big boy, now and forever, because I love it". Amen.

Used with sane settings, I find the Outlook Express to have four main selling points, and here's where the not-utterly-beyond-redemption comes in:

First, it's there. Which is nice, because let's face it - anything you don't have to bolt on again every time you've reinstalled Windows is a fair-sized plus. Jolly good.

Second, you can transparently use your Hotmail account with/from it. Given upcoming huge improvements in storage space on said Hotmail, as well as what seems to be a dramatic improvement in spam control, this is becoming well worth considering as a serious tool. I know it was always a fine way to label oneself as a true comedian, but you should see the trouble I've had with some other email accounts I use. Maybe it's not that Hotmail has improved so much as all else has begun to quail under a tide of spam and inefficiency, but that's the same thing really. I have to use the best option available to me. And if that's using Hotmail via Outlook Express, then so be it.

Third, Outlook Express integrates nicely with my virus checker. AVG, since you ask. It works well and it's free, so there's a plug. All is well.

Fourth, there is a neat backup utility available for free. OE Backup is a dream tool for frequent reinstallers. It simply allows you to back up (no shit Sherlock) all your mail, address books and settings very easily and quickly. Which facility I have yet to discover in any other mail package I've used. So there's another big plus.

That's why I'm using what I'm using then.

Posted at 11:52 am by Jim Woods

Okay you lot

For the time being, I'll be using the email account I've just been testing out on some of you. If you're supposed to be sending me anything, then you'll have it already. In fact, I welcome all human-generated email. So send your bile or love to me at woods underscore jim at hotmail dot com if you like.

I don't know what's going on with the Pipex account.

Posted at 11:02 am by Jim Woods


marks the start of the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague, Holland. Sadly, they'll have to manage without me again this year. One day I'll manage to get to it in its entirety. As a member of the audience, obviously.

Posted at 10:54 am by Jim Woods

Thursday July 8 2004


is a free piece of software. I imagine you can deduce from the name what it's for, and you can't have too many weapons in the eternal struggle. Get it here.

Posted at 5:17 am by Jim Woods

Tuesday July 6 2004

I seem to remember

eulogizing the Phantom PVR in these pages in the past. I don't have one myself, since there's life in the old TiVo yet, but that may change. What I do have, and you needn't think for a minute that I'd have it any other way, is a great pile of home entertainment kit of all kinds which I would dearly love to hook up all at the same time. I'll give you an idea of the scale of the problem, sparing you a list of model numbers:

A television, perhaps not surprisingly...

A TiVo

A Sky Digibox

Three video recorders, all Nicam and one of which S-VHS to boot

A DVD player (which happily does DVD-A and SACD too)

A CD player

A tape deck

A MiniDisc unit

A turntable

A dedicated hifi amp

A home cinema amp and speaker setup the size of your car, if you have a big car.

And in the future, who knows what. Probably at least a freeview hard disk recorder, a steerable satellite rig and another cassette deck; maybe at some point a computer, and an eight track player if I can find one...

Now most of this - or at least a subset of it which enables me to get things done - is hooked up and racked. But the two things which really irk me are

(1) that I don't have room in my living room for any real seating or for that matter people, which I shall have to address by buying a bigger house - don't anyone hold their breath.

(2) SCARTs. Why the hell are there only two, or maybe three, on televisions? I mean, it's unlikely that anyone these days buys a new telly and doesn't have at least a VCR and a DVD isn't it? Less than a hundred quid down your local supermarket can deal with that. And we're all going to need either freeview or satellite or cable too before too long. So we need SCARTs. Shitloads of 'em.

Of course if manufacturers included enough connectors for everything anyone might have we wouldn't need to upgrade gear as much. But surely it's reasonable to assume that anyone who watches much at all will want three, as outlined above.

Anyway, the makers of the Phantom PVR have come up with the Smart-SCART. Take a look. I want one, or maybe two. It's a kit-hoarder's dream. And before you say "hang on, Argos do multiple SCART connectors for a few quid" and run off carousing and gloating in the gloaming, bear this in mind: yes, you can hook it all up with a cheap multi-adaptor. But you are taking pot luck with routing for recording purposes. And more importantly, devices signal their readiness for duty by raising a pin on the SCART bus to a voltage; turn on more than one rude and assertive device at once and you've just multiplied that voltage on that pin, assuming all is connected to a given SCART on the TV in parallel. Bang. You just didn't save thirty quid on connectors.

Only thing is, it's a pity there are only five SCART socket on the Smart-SCART. I'll need two.

Posted at 6:33 pm by Jim Woods

Continuing in

my sporadic habit of posting links for urban adventure sites that you could find easily enough but probably won't get to, given the 178 sites currently listed on the The Urban Exploration Ring, I give you Nygus. Lots and lots of great photos of industrial and other decay in and around Warsaw. These are not your arty black and white shots, although that's all good as well, but good clear colour photos which really give an accurate picture of how things are there. Recommended highly.

Posted at 6:13 pm by Jim Woods


I am at a complete loss to figure out why I get some of the email I am sent while the rest disappears off to never land. I have tried everything I can, and still there's no pinning the problem down. So I'm going to try something which I had previously never even considered. I'm going to try using my Hotmail account for something useful. I have always regarded said Hotmail as a spam magnet and general load of clunky crap, but there have been new developments. They seem to have introduced spam filtering that actually works, for one thing. And for another, they just sent me an email that the storage limit is to be dramatically increased and that virus-checking is to beefed up. Also, very large attachments will be doable. No doubt you'll have had the same notification if you're a user of the service.

No doubt this is a reaction to the recent spate of huge free email accounts recently started by Google and followed by various others. The idea behind the Google product at least is that relevant advertisements are appended to the email, the search side of things having established the content of one's scribblings. Whether or not Hotmail will use the same business model is a matter for conjecture. I really don't know a hell of a lot about it.

What I do know is that anything has to be better than email service where one has no idea what's going on and there is a constant deluge of spam. The clincher is that Outlook Express (look ma, Jim's being nice about a Microsoft product) allows me to access my Hotmail account as though it were not web-based, and as a real bonus makes it painless to save local copies of Hotmail messages. This is the clincher for me. Call me old-fashioned, but I like a local copy of anything that matters.

So I'm Hotmail boy for the duration. Who'd have thought it?

Posted at 5:39 pm by Jim Woods

Nice relaxing

evening out in the sticks, walking and sitting around with friends in a garden. Note to self: more in future.

Posted at 2:13 am by Jim Woods

Monday July 5 2004

First Monday off

for ages. But what to do with it? Probably not spend it on the internet is what.

Posted at 4:32 pm by Jim Woods

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