Monday, 28 February 2011

Religion: Oh No, You Won't

A major win for common sense and increased equality of all and sundry...

A Pentecostal Christian (WTF?) couple, Eunice and Owen Johns, have been most definitely barred from fostering children. The reason? Their views on homosexuality. Yes, you guessed it they hold it's bad. Very bad. Well, now Johns's know that holding such views in a modern society, one hell bent (I like that phrase!) on equality, is almost as equally bad. For them. So, no fostering of children, in which process they would have no doubt poisoned their little minds with their bigotry, too. Sadly, this High Court decision comes too late for some 15 children they already "fostered" or, maybe better said, indoctrinated in their particular view of who deserves salvation ro whatever goodies they consider worthy of decent people.

The only other thing to say is: good on ya High Court!

Business: Home Sweet Home

According to the Guardian just minutes ago Apple may be up for a rather big loss...

If you haven't yet heard of Jonathan Ive then you can't rightly claim to be very much versed into Apple or its successes - especially when it comes to design. To date, pretty much every single iconic Apple product design was either directly created or directly overseen by Jonathan. And looking at that stream of products one could rightly say that he's created the "Apple look" of today. So, his alleged decision to leave Apple - even if he does not, as Guardian claims, then return to the UK - is a big hit and a shock to the company. The "golden handcuffs", reportedly worth $25 million in cash, can only go so far in protecting Apple's design lead. While Jonathan will not be designing cool stuff for others for quite a long time, Apple will also be left without his vision. And while he may have left three years' worth of designs, the problem for Apple to solve would still be to find a worthy replacement. There might even be very good candidates, but I wonder if they'll wonder why Jonathan felt the need to leave the winning team at what seems like its pinnacle.

I also wonder is Apple now actually past its pinnacle - and I think I know the answer...

Friday, 25 February 2011

Beer: How Stupid Is That?

Some people apparently never learn that you do not mess with a successful product...

As the story from Lincolnshire explains at some length Bateman's are set to reduce alcohol content in one of their most popular beers, the XXXB. Having never tried it myself I thought at first that XXXB is one of those ridiculously strong ales that can go up to, or even above 8% alcohol. But no, XXXB is a fairly regular fare with 4.8% alcohol content. Admittedly, the reduction isn't Earth-shaking. XXXB will only go down to 4.5%. It also has a fairly good business reason: apparently major chains won't let guest ales in if they're stronger than magical 4.5%. But methinks, shouldn't we fight the arbitrary cut-off point rather than just meekly playing along. Don't major brewery pub chains already have too much clout (not unlike major supermarkets)? I just hope Beteman's don't find that diluting XXXB also dilutes their customer's goodwill.

So, just one more reason to support independent real ale pubs, I guess...

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Politics: Of Common Benefit

An interesting article in The Economist on drug offender rehabilitation in the US...

The gist of it is, instead of throwing drug offenders into prisons - and then more or less throwing away the key as well until it's time for them to be released - the state of Georgia is trialling so-called "drug-courts" where the offenders are kept mostly out of jail and looked after by a team comprising judges, defence, and prosecution together. Go read the article for some interesting and fun details of how it works in practice, but the main thing is the re-offending is slashed two- to three-fold, there's a $10,000 savings per case, and every $1 spent on the programme returns more than $2 in the long run (with a potential to return $3+). Probably most interestingly for US, the experiment seems to have garnered cross-party support.

Finally something the rest of the world can learn from the US punitive system...

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Apple: Would You Bite?

Apple rumour mill never really stops, so here's one about iPad...

Allegedly Apple now wants less iPad 2s produced as it, also allegedly, wants to introduce iPad 3 not long after, towards the end of the year. So far so plausible, as El Reg seems to think, too. But let's have a look at this from an angle The Register does not seem to (want to) cover. If iPad 3 is really coming towards the end of the year, why would anyone spend money on an iPad 2 which will become obsolete in just a few month's time. Remember: "less iPad 2s" rumour only really makes sense if "iPad 3 is around the corner, too" rumour is true as well. So, if we take "less iPad 2s" rumour at face value, and regardless of any other possible rumours, it seems that Apple is between a rock and the hard place. No iPad 3 in sight and less iPad 2s means Apple thinks its sales figures will not be as good as before. End of year iPad 3, on the other hand, likely means most of those iPad 2s remain unsold. Choose one...

Certainly not revolutionary, but possibly in need of some magic...

Science: Of UI Genius

A couple of days ago I came across this article about UI improvements Google suggests for its Chrome browser...

I have deliberately given it a couple of days' thought. Having read it originally it sounded like a great idea. I mean, every change that gives me more screen space for what I'm actually looking at - without sacrificing functionality, of course - can only be welcome. So, having thought about it for a little while I must admit I still think the idea of getting rid of the address bar is great. I only ever use it when I type in the URL I want to visit anyway. Most of the time I select a URL from a bookmark anyway. Not to mention that in Firefox I already remove most of the clutter by placing all the buttons in the same line as the menus, as well as the search and address boxes. So, for me, Google's idea sounds just perfect. I can't wait for them to push it into a Chrome beta release.

An almost blank screen... don't you want one, too?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Food: Facebook Munch (UPDATED)

UPDATE:
Since I posted this another Facebook censorious blunder has managed to get itself, and Facebook, into press. Bad press. This time it really put its oversized foot into it. It has apparently removed a photo of an Steven Assael's work from the New York Academy of Art. If that wasn't enough they blocked the institution from further uploads for seven days. Oh dear...

One of the most recent Facebook pages to be munched by the company's inconsistent application of it's own Terms and Conditions is Collared...

It does seem that Mr Zuckerberg and his drones have well and truly decided it is within their remit to decide what exactly constitutes "hateful, threatening, or pornographic; [content that] incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence." And it does seem that their sense of morality, or rather immorality ranges from breastfeeding, through crossdressing, to BDSM. It does seem also that Facebook wants to have their cake and eat it, too (see what I've done here? it's a second gratuitous food reference). They both want to be everything to everyone and at the same time be very (inconsistently) picky about who those everyone actually are - or rather are allowed to be. Because, as everyone knows, there is still plenty of content on Facebook that is much more in breach of the T&C. Will it stop? And if yes, where?

In the meantime, Pope Benedict watch out - your job may be in danger...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Crime: War Crimes May Not Be Worst

I've just ran across this BBC news item...

It was a heart warming reading. Not only a few of criminals were punished for what they must have thought they'd get away with lightly, but it should also be a beacon to all and sundry thinking that the world (+dog) has something special against the Serbs. Of course, for "Serbs" substitute any nationality/religion of your choice. And, in this particular instance it happened to be Muslims who did something against even their own set of beliefs. Come on, people, the guy was serving a 35 year sentence for war crimes! And most of them against Muslims, too. Isn't that enough? And even if it isn't (which I doubt given the guys history), are you sure you, as in convicted criminals, are best placed to set the world right? Jeez!

But anyway, here's hoping this will enlighten some people on both sides of this particular divide...

Business: Stop In The Name Of...

Microsoft has banned all GPL licensed software from their Windows Mobile 7 marketplace...

Now normally I would be ranting and raving about this by now, but in this particular case, Microsoft's decision seems to be just sensible, albeit hard-nosed, business one. GPL mandates that not just the author, but also the distributor has to be able to provide end user with access to the source code. Microsoft had to chose between the expense of providing this and the potential loss of GPL licensed software in their marketplace. GPL licensed software usually being free (as in beer) there won't be any loss in earnings for Microsoft. And since there's not that many GPL licensed applications anyway, Microsoft, probably rightly, concluded it's better off without it. As Ars Technica also rightly concludes, Apple should do exactly the same thing. After all they are already in breach of the terms of GPL for every single GPL licensed application in their App Store. But, would it be a good thing for them to go down that route? I think it will, and not just for Apple's bottom line. Such a widespread refusal to promote open source may actually help the open source community itself in raising its profile and explaining to more people and better what it is all about. Another option, however, is for Microsoft to decide to spend a penny in an attempt to earn a pound over Apple, and allow GPL so its marketplace can tick one box more. or maybe it will just contract the open source bug from Nokia?

Either way, I am waiting with baited breath to see who blinks first: Microsoft or Apple...

Sunday, 20 February 2011

This Is The End


Got worried and all worked up? Don't. This is not really an end. This is just what I have decided to be the end of Grey Noughts Vol. 1. There will be more.

Will it be any different? I don't know! How would I know when I haven't really started writing it yet.

Will it be any good? Of course not! If the first instalment sucks why would one expect the sequel to be any good? If it weren't scot free to publish on these pages do you really think I'd be publishing at all? Would you actually pay to read this? Of course not! Or maybe you would? Nah. Didn't think so, either.

But anyway, it is now time to sign off even if only very briefly. As briefly in fact that you may not even notice.

OK. Enough now. I'll see you all in Grey Noughts Vol. 2!



Religion: Peddling False Dichotomies

Have a look at the photo I took earlier...


Do you see anything wrong on it (not with it - there's an awful lot wrong with it in an artistic sense and it was taken on my phone)? See that poster on the right of the billboard? The one that presents the world (and the dog) with a very stark choice indeed? Can it really be that everything in life boils down to only one of two choices: luck and trusting in god? Presented like that it seems that anyone with not "trusting in god" (should that really be "believing"?) is reduced to wandering this valley of tears with nothing but the luck to rely on. Nothing at all I can do for myself (or others)? Come on! If you want to reel people into your favourite cult, please try and show a bit more sense and better handle on logic? Because otherwise you are really relying on luck to get you only the people who cannot see through your poor advertisements!

And to think you consider yourself as "trusting in god" and thus in no need of luck...

PS
The church and its billboard being right opposite a pedestrian crossing, if I decide to cross on red, if I "trust in god" will I not need luck not to be run over by a speeding lorry I thought I could outrun?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Society: Jailing The Homeless Beggars

I am usually all for equal application of law in all circumstances, but this really got me thinking...

The judge apparently thought that suspended sentences and warnings weren't deterrent enough for poor Piotr Dabrowski to stop begging on the streets of Belfast. But I must ask: what is a good enough deterrent for a homeless, and presumably also unemployed, person to stop begging? Getting a job is an obvious answer, but spending a week in jail is not going to help, is it? And can we really blame homeless for begging? Not everyone can sell Big Issue - there just ain't enough to go round. By all means stop begging industry and organised begging. Please also feel free to put that sort in jail for much longer than a week. But I do believe that small time unfortunates should be left alone, or at least just warned and removed from their spot.

Maybe David Cameron's Big Society would deal with this differently? Not sure, though...

Technology: Apple Self Bondage (UPDATED)

UPDATE:
I have not read this article from Ars Technica before writing the post below. This post was written in its entirety before the article was posted, and is in fact a reaction to an article on The Register from early on Friday. I have just deferred publication until Saturday, the day for Technology. And, I probably should have made it into a full fledged opinion piece...
The rumour mill is very busy with iPhone "news" and views...

So, as it stands at the moment, your choices of rumours are: a cheaper full-sized or a cheaper small-sized object of desire. As demonstrated in the above articles, a lot of ink (well, virtual one at least) is being spilled analysing which approach may make more sense for Apple and/or developers. One thing that seems assumed is that whatever Apple decides to thrust upon the unsuspecting world that same world (+dog) will happily lap up (especially the +dog bit, I guess). However, I think I see a problem in this assumption, and it should be valid for either smaller or just cheaper new iPhone. Apple has established itself as pedlar of high-quality, high-price, beautiful, desirable objects. In other words, status symbols. And since they only really have one mobile phone product, the iPhone, there really can only ever be one that is "the" object of desire. Since most of Apple's mobile phone supplicantsfollowersconsumers are in it just for the "object of desire/best in pubclass" effect, would they really, of their own free will, advertise to the world they have gone for the cheaper option? I don't think so. I do think Apple has locked itself into a one-product-to-rule-them-all world, and it'll find it hard, if not impossible, to free itself from it and introduce a second (class) product (same applies to their iPad "line").

So, FWIW, my bet is on iPhone 5 which is still one-and-only, but maybe cheaper to own...

PS
Wow! This almost warranted a full-blown "opinion" post!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Help That Isn't

Over at the Huffington Post Phil Zuckerman offers his two cents ostensibly trying to help out us poor atheist who are so sadly misguided when we criticise religion and religious. Mr Zuckerman offers nine points, nine mistakes, that atheists make. In his opinion. I must say that most if not all of items on his list are very far from anything a serious critic of religion would deem reasonable or even polite. Professor of sociology Mr Zuckerman may well be, but he seems to be moving in very strange social circles indeed. But, let me address his points one by one.

Beer: Public Service Announcement

BBC have just revealed that there's a huge recall of beer bottles...

Apparently, Youngs's are warning that loose glass particles may be found in some of the 750,000 bottles they shipped since 4 January 2011. The recall comprises a total of 12 brands, namely:

  • Wells Bombardier Burning Gold 500ml
  • Wells Bombardier 500ml
  • Young's Ram Rod 275ml
  • Courage Best Bitter 500ml
  • Young's Light Ale 275ml
  • Courage Directors 500ml
  • Mongoose Premium Lager 330ml
  • Mongoose Premium Lager 670ml
  • Wells Banana Bread Beer 500ml
  • Young's Bitter 500ml
  • Young's Double Chocolate Stout

Luckily for me, neither have I bought any of these recently, nor there are many of my favourites on the list. The only one I consume with any regularity is Bombardier. The only other one I can recommend is Banana Bread Beer - which tastes way better than you'd think. From the rest I think I'd like to give the first and the last a go, but others I've either tried and decided I don't quite like or they don't even sound like they're worth a try (e.g. the Mongoose Lagers).

Anyway, look through your beer fridge and lose any and all of the above until declared safe!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Politics: Misguided

It is not very often I agree with the musings of Andrew Orlowsky, but in this particular case I could have co-signed the article...

A certain professor Uma Suthersanen apparently wrote up a piece of "academic" writing praising pre-industrial protections of creators' and innovators' rights and consequent livelihood. Only, as it happens, she is actually advocating stripping of all such rights apart from some vague notion of corporate and/or state patronage. Worse, she even deems clever to muse about the pre-industrial people being more "in touch with nature" (presumably also in a better way than us poor industrialised sods). Probably most disturbingly (on top of the veiled racism of "pre-industrial people are in touch with nature" bit) is that Ms Suthersanen proposals are actually calling for a return of the system that was tried - and didn't work - in every single socialist/communist country to date. As Andrew nicely put it when wrapping up his piece: curiouser and curiouser.

Oh, and I didn't even tell you the last bit: Ms Suthersanen's work has been endorsed by UK Department of Business...

PS
I tried to get my hands of the Questionnaire in question, but couldn't find it - not even on Ms Suthersanen's own web page at Queen Mary, University of London.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Science: By Accident

Just when everyone started losing faith a cure for boldness will ever be found - this...

A few UCLA scientists stumbled upon a compound (astressin-B) that seems to very efficiently cure baldness. True, it has been shown to work in mice genetically modified to produce sh*t-loads of the stress protein CRF, but a) mice are quite similar to humans in many ways (yes, they are), and b) the cure seems to be long term, too. So, it does seem that it is one of those lucky instances where we look for one thing and find quite another, almost as useful. Almost, because the original research was aimed at reducing the effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome. It does seem that a beer is called for... but we'll have to wait for that until tomorrow.

Oh, I just hope that the human version of the cure does not make hair grow all over - as in mice...

PS
A quick note: I can happily write about this knowing all along that I will not need such a cure. 8-D

Cloudy With A Hint Of Rain

Believe it or not, this post has sat in my drafts for a very long time indeed (if Blogger is to be trusted almost two months to a day).

So, what happened for me to drag it out into the fresh air, give it a good kneading, and let it loose on an unsuspecting readership (of two)?

Well, as it happens it was this particular piece, ruminating over yet more rumours about Apple iPhone Nano.

Am I then going to go on about yet another potential iDevice? No, not really. What I want to talk about is the notion of cloud storage replacing every other kind a person may want. In short - ain't gonna happen. Still, you may want to read on and see why...

Let's begin with the premise of the rumour mentioned above: to make possible an iPhone Nano, one that can be sold for less than $200, Apple allegedly needs to build it with no flash storage whatsoever. To have a device like that do anything useful, or at least anything iJunkies are used to doing, which mostly seem to be listening to music and watching porn really nice and clean photos and videos, sa(i)d content needs to come from somewhere. Currently, it mostly comes from the device itself - especially the music, but also quite probably the porn music videos, too. If there's no storage to speak of on the device itself, the content needs to come via some sort of wireless network, 3G or WiFi - it doesn't really matter. But then, it still needs to be stored somewhere, and that somewhere is a "cloud" - or in Apple's case its leaves-a-lot-to-be-desired MobileMe service. Which, I guess, is all well and good.

What is not well and good, however, is the persistent myth that such services can totally replace all the storage a person may want or need. The notion that all our devices should become "thin" and get all their content from the "cloud". And it's not just Apple (or iJunkies, at least) that are lusting such future. Oh no. There's Google with its Chrome OS, and I'm sure Microsoft has something similar in mind, if not already on offer.

I'm sorry guys, I'm going to have to rain on your already cloudy parade...

And it's not just because the Cloud is not yet mature enough and ready for prime time (it isn't). It also isn't because we are just too far away still from truly ubiquitous network coverage (any network coverage). No, it's not the inadequate speeds either, and nor is it the costs which are currently ridiculous if I am to be frank. On all these, and all those I have failed to mention, I am sure we will get there in the end. Eventually. Sometime. At least two generations hence none of these will be a problem.

So, you must ask, what is the problem then?

It's obvious, if you really think about it. Remember, many will want you to commit all your data to the cloud. That means ALL your data. Not just the songs and films you bought. Oh no, they want also the photos and videos YOU made (and are thus irreplaceable), and also all the documents (stories, whatever) you typed in yourself - also irreplaceable. Would you really allow anyone to have sole responsibility for your own original content - the truly irreplaceable things (your baby will never again make her first steps, after all)? Surely you would want to hedge your bets and have a copy that you keep somewhere you can actually put your hands on it whenever you feel like it, instead of having to make sure you have a network connection and that your cloud provider is still in business.

Yes, the cloud is great for backup and synchronisation. Some of these are even very cheap and very convenient and capable already (e.g. Flickr for your photos, and Dropbox for your other files). Use them by all means. I do. They work great. But do I trust them with my originals as one poor bugger did (almost) to his detriment? Of course not! I've all my (digital) valuables in multiple backup copies on multiple computers and portable hard drives. They are also in the cloud, make no mistake there. But they're there so I can conveniently access and synchronise them. The poor bugger mentioned earlier may have (almost) lost 4,000 photos. I have more than ten times as much. Heck, I even make a local backup copy of this blog!

So, to all those with their heads in the clouds, digital and otherwise: think again, and think carefully. The cloud does have its uses, but is not be all and end all. Not by a long stretch. Finally, I know I have written elatedly about the cloud before, but believe me it was never with losing the sight of the arguments above.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Food: Buy British!

UK farmers are clamouring for a national plan to save and increase domestic food production...

And this is all well and good. For one, a country should be as self reliant when it comes to food as is reasonably possible. Sadly, this is still necessary since the world is yet to truly become a global village. And then, if we are to save the environment, we should try and minimise the so-called food miles. Therefore, having our grub transported from Yorkshire rather than Yemen makes all the sense in the world. Finally, farming provides jobs, and at the moment these seem to be in short supply in the UK. Unfortunately, modern farming is not that large an employer, but still. However, I must rain on this particular parade: the main reason food is imported is not just because UK does not produce enough, but rather it is often because UK does not produce cheaply enough.

So, farmers of Britain, a bit more efficiency, if you please...

Monday, 14 February 2011

Business: Nah, It's Technology

In keeping with today's misdirected posts, here's one on the latest Acer smartphone...

Which is - the post - not actually about Acer Iconia, as cool as it promises to be. It is - the post - about the recent claims (link needed here) that - shock! horror! - Android reduces phone manufacturers to mere hardware innovators, as it is difficult to differentiate with such a strong OS offering. And you know what? I actually think it's true! Only I don't think it's a bad thing. Looking back at the olden days of iPhone, S40, Symbian, and Windows Mobile (whichever version), the phones themselves were not that different from each other, at least not in the same price bracket. And that, surely, is not "a good thing"™. When I walk into a (virtual - I've no time for brick and mortar variety) mobile phone shop with an amount of money I want to spend I actually want to be able to choose between significantly different hardware all running my OS of choice. So, here's hoping Android (or similar worthy opponent) pushes phone manufacturers even harder in the hardware department. I for one will be grateful.

Bring it on, boys and girls!

You Muppet!

David Cameron must be either a total and utter muppet or he has finally let the mask slip off his bigoted baby face. Personally, I don't particularly mind if either (or both) were true, but it would be nice to know for sure. I mean, any reasonable politician should feel cold shivers down his spine if he saw his biggest international speech to date being hailed by every single far right (and worse) organisation in Europe and beyond. Either that, or he really means what he said - and that should worry every single decent person in Britain, and beyond.

But first, let us see what our venerable Prime Minister really said...

Technology: Nah! It's Politics Again

So, David Cameron is staging The Big Society fightback...

And not only that, but he is allegedly reassuring us that his big idea (that'd be The Big Society, not he other one) has nothing whatsoever to do with the spending cuts. Presumably he'll also say that the spending cuts won't affect The Big Society, either. Well, I can actually buy the latter. I mean, to all who have half a brain cell The Big Society, i.e. making ordinary people do more, i.e. volunteer more, is in fact a spending cut. More done by me, in my own free time, the less the government has to spend in paying someone else to do it. It makes sense. And it makes sense in more ways than one. And it's that other way it makes sense that I can understand and commend. This sense being, let's all pull a little bit more and we can then have a better and richer society. I've nothing against volunteering. Heck, I'd do it, too. And I also don't have anything much against government being thrifty in cases where thrift is justified - and does not harm the society, e.g. when a lot of people are volunteering. What does not make sense to me, however, is trying to sell The Big Society as something it really isn't, and that is whatever muddled rationale Mr Cameron spouts every so often.

Sorry mate. You only make sense when you call spade a spade...

PS
For another example of issues Mr Cameron's ideas please bear with me for an hour.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Religion: Snappin' From Nappin'

I've just been woken from a slumber...

No, I do not mean this in any metaphorical way. I was literally napping after lunch. It is a Sunday, after all. A day of rest. Some would even go as far as saying a day of/for god. What woke me? Sings of Praise. It's a programme on the BBC, to do with religion, promoting of. And songs. You know, the ones that praise  god. And it does show a lot of worth endeavours. Helping the young, old, and generally needy. All very worthy and worthwhile. But I can't help wondering, does it really need belief to do good unto others? Surely not? So why is it allowed for BBC, to which we all pay a license fee to use its brunt and promote such a view? And pretty much Christian only at that, not that I think any other religion is good/better/worthy.

Let's admit it: it's time for humankind to grow up and give up on children's tales...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

OMG!

Some days ago I ran across this article on PhysOrg.com, usually a source of interesting and useful science related news. I guess I should have been more suspicious when I saw the title: "Model predicts 'religiosity gene' will dominate society". Still I read on. And then I reread. And then I actually went to the Proceedings of the Royal Society B web site to read the abstract for myself. Luckily for me (or not, depending on how you look at it), at the time the full text of the study was available, too. Not that I should have bothered. The abstract really tells it all...

So, what do we have here?

Technology: No Need For

History has been made again today at Twickenham...

No, I do not mean the humiliating defeat Italy suffered. Although 59-13 is very, very humiliating - even when playing away. It is the achievement of England winger Chris Ashton who managed three tries in Five/Six Nations competition for the first time since 1914. Yes, that's almost 100 years. Oh, and yes, it is only for England. Other nations have managed it, too, and more recently. Still, being British, and strongly leaning towards declaring myself English, I must say I feel duly proud. And what's technology to do with any of this? Well, as the title implies, nothing!

Here's to a few human endeavours that still do not need any...

Friday, 11 February 2011

Beer: Let's Hope It's For The Best

Another day, another proper beer maker gets bought...

So, an American brewer (are they allowed to call themselves that?) Molson Coors buys one of the smaller Cornish ones, Sharp's. I know Sharp's very well. In fact, I had a very good pint of Doom Bar just the other day (try it, it's really goo) - one of my favourites. Unfortunately, a few years ago, and in Cornwall of all places, I also had a pint of Coors (the "posh" pub didn't serve any ales), and my goodness what a horrible pint it was. At least when one drinks Budweisser there's barely any taste so at least it quenches thirst. Yuck! So, here's hoping that the Americans just quietly syphon any profits they wanted from Sharp's in the first place and don't meddle with the beers.

And here's hoping that acquisitions like these do not become a habit...

Technology: Crash Of The Titans

I know it's old news already, and I know it comes as no surprise, but...

But, I can't shake the feeling that Nokia and Microsoft marriage will not be one made in heaven. Nokia gets to replace it's middling Ovi search with not-so-middling Bing (what a name for a search engine, eh?). Microsoft does seem to get a better deal by getting Nokia Maps to replace its poor offering. And Windows Phone 7? Who knows? It does seem to have promise, but it's nowhere near either Android nor Apple's iOS. Early sales figures are worrying if unclear and possibly unreliable. FWIW, I know I wouldn't by a Windows Mobile 7 phone. I mean, what's with these huge rectangles on the home screen? Yuck!

So, good luck Nokia, and not so much Microsoft, but I would start to worry, right about... NOW!

PS
A really cunning move would be to go with both Google and Microsoft.


PPS
The markets may be vindicating my suspicions. As I write this Nokia shares are down more than 8% in Helsinki.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Politics: Never Ending Revolution

And then, when everyone thought they won, this...

Supposed to have resigned himself to his own resignation Hosni Mubarak rides again, merrily letting everyone know he's here to stay at least until September. It does seem that 17 days is not nearly enough to change things, even if you add to it all the brewing for months, years, and decades before. And then, there's also news that Iran (poignantly on the anniversary of its own revolution) started jamming BBC coverage of event in Egypt. Have ayatollahs started worrying, too? Here's hoping.

Not that the shah was much better...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Science: One For The Books?

We just might be on the edge of wining the war against the flue...

According to this intriguing piece of news, the universal flu vaccine has now been successfully tested in volunteers. For those in need of a flu vaccine mechanics refresher: the usual annual trivalent vaccine targets proteins on the surface of the flu virus (or rather the three expected to be prevalent in a particular flu season). As these viruses tend to evolve and change every year, you need a new jab annually (and it will be different to the previous year's). On the other hand, the new vaccine targets proteins inside the flu virus, and also those that are common to all currently known (or at least most prevalent) strains. Therefore, you will be protected for much more than a year. But, as ever with this kind of thing, a word of caution: the results are very early, and the sample was very small. Still, it has been found that volunteers were less likely to contract flu, and had more T cells.

So, here's hoping that the next, larger scale trial will be at least as successful...

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Food: Geek's Eye Candy

Google have just released ultimate geek's eye candy - fractal rendering in your browser...

If you're reading this line less than half an hour after you've read the previous one you're either not a geek, not an engineer, or have praiseworthy delayed gratification circuits in your brain (hopefully also in your salivary glands, too). I know there have been (too) many programs to enable rendering too many types of fractal (and wasting too many hours whilst at it), but this promises to be the be all and end all. After all, these days we all live in our browser or are at least glued to our screens and keyboards pretty much 24/7 (well, geeks and engineers are, at least). And being able to play with Mandelbrot and Julia (for now, I'm sure more will come) within the browser, and using Google Maps interface and engine to pan and zoom around is just magnificent!

And, as helpfully pointed by El Reg here, it's a sort of porn your boss can walk past and be none the wiser...

Monday, 7 February 2011

Business: Intriguing

Sony Ericsson has recently announced Experia PLAY phone...

It looks very intriguing, not least from the business perspective of Sony. It looks to have a winning combination of component parts: Android operating system (which recently overtook Apple in smartphone market), Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) built in, and not least Sony Ericsson name behind it. From my perspective the only thing it misses is the full hardware keyboard, but I must admit it'd have been a feat of engineering genius to fit it in. But I am still sorely tempted as I love both the Android and the PSP, and have always had very good experiences with both Sony and Sony Ericsson phones. Maybe as a second handset? I already lug two with me in any case.

But the most intriguing part is if it will be a success for Sony...

Religion: Nothing Much To Say

Apologies for missing the usual religion slot yesterday...

No, I did not forget my commitment to my three faithful readers (you do not know who you are, and some of you may be imaginary). It is just that I had nothing much to say about religion yesterday. This "nothing much" was divided between "nothing at all good" and "nothing much" bad - at least not anything you haven't heard before. There is s little bit more brewing somewhere there in the empty wilderness of my highly evolved brain, but it's not yet ready for the prime time.

And, it was Sunday, a day of rest, not to be lightly s(p)oiled with bad things...

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Technology: Marketing

When I recently donated some money to Linux Mint project I had no idea what a good marketing move it will be...

I mean, the only reason I did donate was because I feel that this particular flavour of Linux (based on Ubuntu, mostly) is well worth supporting. After all, I do use their product, and have been famously satisfied with it. However, it never occurred to me that typing in this blog's address into the donation form would result in a tenflod increase in traffic. Truly remarkable. I mean, I've punched in the same URL in various other place, too, but not a single one generated nowhere near the traffic - if any.

So, it does seem that Linux pays in many more ways than is immediately obvious...

PS
If you think that Linux is only good for riding on its coattails - shame on you!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Beer: Another One For The Calendar

Here's another local (to me, sort of) beer festival that may be worth a visit...

The piece I link to does not say if this event is supported by CAMRA (and it seems to be a more or less shameless plug for a local hotel). But, seeing as Lyme Regis is a nice place to start with and coupled with good beer, and especially if the late March weather proves to be clement, his could be a very good reason to up the sticks and go visit the South Coast.

See you there...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Politics: A Clarification

In yesterday's post I lamented over stupidity of American obsession with firearms...

Now, some of you, especially new readers (of which, I must boast, there are increasing numbers) may have thought I have totally lost 9if I ever possessed it in the first place) any sense of humour, ability to detect irony, etc, etc. Well, to put the record straight, I never, not for a second, actually thought the aforementioned bill was proposed for any other reason than trying to ridicule Obamacare. But, be honest, does it not, at least a little bit, sound plausible that some people in America will actually, seriously, want such a law to be introduced? I mean, as The Economist very helpfully points out, there has, in fact, been just such a bill, and from none others than the venerable founding fathers. Not to mention current mandatory purchases of meat and (three) veg.

So, before throwing the first stone, do look around: the culprit may not be the one you took aim at...

Politics: Of Stupidity

So, the best that Republicans in US can do to counter the healthcare for all is guns for all...

This would be comical if it weren't tragically stupid, dangerous, and nauseating. Some of the "funny" bits: every person over 21 will have to purchase a weapon "suitable to their temperament, physical capacity, and personal preference sufficient to provide for their ordinary self-defense". I guess then if Silvester Stallone was to move to South Dakota he'd have to buy the biggest machine gun available? Or maybe an RPG launcher?

I could probably go on about this, but I feel sick enough already...

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Science: Evolutionary Psychology Primer

You may or may have noticed that I am into evolution(ary psychology). Big time...

Just in case I ever gather enough courage to throw in my tupence worth, here's an instructive excerpt from a very good EP primer (by Cosmides and Tooby, here). Just so we know what we're talking about:
Debates about the “relative contribution” during development of “nature” and “nurture” have been among the most contentious in psychology. The premises that underlie these debates are flawed, yet they are so deeply entrenched that many people have difficulty seeing that there are other ways to think about these issues.

Evolutionary psychology is not just another swing of the nature/nurture pendulum. A defining characteristic of the field is the explicit rejection of the usual nature/nurture dichotomies — instinct vs. reasoning, innate vs. learned, biological vs. cultural. What effect the environment will have on an organism depends critically on the details of its evolved cognitive architecture. For this reason, coherent “environmentalist” theories of human behavior all make “nativist” claims about the exact form of our evolved psychological mechanisms. For an EP, the real scientific issues concern the design, nature, and number of these evolved mechanisms, not “biology versus culture” or other malformed oppositions.
I have found this via this excellent Evolutionary Psychology blog. Highly recommended...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Food: Fight

Last couple of days brought us two hi tech food fights...

Interestingly, in both Microsoft is playing the part of an inept baddie who tries to defend himself from the flying spaghetti and meatballs. In one, Yahoo chastises Microsoft for poor coding of the Yahoo Mail access from Windows Mobile 7, which results in unnecessary (and surreptitious) data transfers. In the other, Google is accusing Microsoft of a childlike theft of its (Google's) search results. Apparently, Microsoft is using instant search results form the Internet Explorer Google toolbar and copying them into its own (Microsofts's) search engine (Bing, but not as in Friend's Chandler Bing - although almost equally laughable).

It would seem that Microsoft is finally loosing it.
Which may actually be a good thing...