The Software Engineers Behind My Alarm Clock

[this post was lost during a server failure on Sunday 11th July 2004; it was partially recovered on 21st March 2012]

They must die.

My alarm clock has an interesting featurette. The design is, on the hole, like many similar mains-powered radio alarm clocks. It has a button for “Time Set”, and one for “Alarm Set”, and buttons for “Hour” and “Minute”, respectively. To set the time, you hold down the “Time Set” button – which is deliberately small and well-concealed to make sure you don’t press it by accident – and use the “Hour” and “Minute” buttons. To set the alarm, you hold down the “Alarm Set” button and use the “Hour” and “Minute” buttons.

Anyway; the featurette I mentioned is that if you are setting the alarm, say, and you release the “Alarm Set” button before you release the “Hour” or “Minute” buttons, the clock immediately adds an hour or a minute to it’s time, respectively.

So, when I – tired and using only one hand and the least effort I could manage – set my alarm last night, I didn’t even notice that I’d managed to put forward the time on the clock face by two hours. When my alarm woke me this morning at what I thought was 8:15am (but was actually 6:15am), I was completely exhausted. So I reset the alarm to 8:45 (actually 6:45) and … [the rest of this post is lost]

Orange Gives Me 80p For No Apparent Reason

Today, Orange sent me a text message apologising for charging me for two picture messages earlier this year, and have apparently credited me 80p as a gesture of compensation. The Register reports that this has happened to others, too, but I can’t help but feel that Orange’s mistake is even larger than they thought it was – I never received these picture messages in the first place!

I’m tempted to call them and complain that I didn’t ever receive the two picture messages for which I’m having my money refunded, but as I’m not even sure that I was charged for them, either (can’t see it on my bill), I’ll probably lose me free 80p if I do. Decisions, decisions.

In other news, comment-heavy discussion on the difference between Christianity and Islam on Alec’s LiveJournal [link updated to use Web Archive, which still holds a copy]. Take a look.

AbNib & Str8Up!

Oh yeh; and, in case you hadn’t noticed – AbNib is down. And it’s not my fault! The server fucked up something rotten, but seems to be okay now. And whoever posted a comment to one of my entries the other day and had it not-appear; sorry: same issue.

I’ll try to get AbNib up again on Wednesday – my backup is at the office, and that’s when I’m next at work.

Went out to Str8Up! (Aber’s LGB Society’s event) at Bar Retro last night. Great night out with silly cocktails and dancing and general merriment. And I’d forgotten quite how horny it is to watch two guys – or two girls – getting it on. Fun in the sun.

And in other news, Tonari no Totoro, which I ordered from Japan on DVD last week, hasn’t arrived yet. It’s a great film. I hope it arrives in time for Troma Night on Saturday.

Next stop: Mecca, for lunch!

Parcel Of Goodies

Woo and indeed hoo. Just when I was about to wander down to Richley’s and take advantage of their sale on jeans (having had a nasty shredding-related accident with one-too-many of my existing pairs of trousers a couple of weeks back), my Auntie Anne sends me a parcel of goodies, including several pairs of trousers (including one with a million pockets, or thereabouts).

I think I’ve put on weight since the last time she sent me any clothes. [measures waist size]. Yup; I’m two inches fatter than this time last year. Well; there’s an incentive to lose it again.

In other news; I’ve almost completed an exciting little project that will provide some amusement to those of you who attend Chez Geek Night (BTW: it’s on Tuesday this week, so we don’t end up in a fight with the Irish Band again). No; it’s not a computer game version (although I’m hoping that the author will allow me to write one, one day)… but I think you’ll like it, anyway. Details tonight or tomorrow.

Yay! No more lectures today!

A Most Unlikely Couple

It turns out that two people I know have become a couple, in what is perhaps the most unlikely relationship I could ever imagine. I’ll not say who they are, here, but it’s quite funny.

Claire: X and Y are toghether now.
Dan: X? And Y?
Claire: Yeh. That’s what I thought.
Bryn: Hang on… X [surname]…
Claire: Yup.
Bryn: And Y [surname]…
Claire: Yup.
Dan: Well; it sounds to me like a match made in… Disneyland.

Warning: Extreme Geek Humour

Sat in Burger King…

Bryn: So many nice things come in .deb packages…
Dan: Yeh. Except for some nice things which still come in nasty RPM-shaped packages.
Bryn: I’m not even sure I have an RPM package manager installed.
Dan: I’m sure you can ‘apt-get’ one.

Oh; how we laughed.

First Part Of My Dissertation

Gave a presentation about my dissertation today in a poster session which is worth 0.825% of my mark for this year. Seems insignificant, but they say that it all adds up. In any case, it went very well; people seemed interested in the technical side of my ideas and nobody bothered to ask any questions that I couldn’t answer, so that was fab.

Bryn and Claire have spent the evening so far playing Mirror Mode on Mario Kart: Double Dash. I’ve been configuring Apache to cope with a funky new SSL certificate, which would have been a lot easier if Bryn hadn’t misled me into thinking that a command had a different name to that which it actually had when I asked him for assistance. Wally.

And now we’re off to Chez Geek night! Woo. And, indeed, hoo.

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

I Am The Mario Kart God

I’ve just beaten Mario Kart: Double Dash‘s “All Cups Cup” (the cup you gain access to having already beaten all the other cups – including the Special Cup – at the maximum engine power) at 150cc! Which makes me a happy bunny, ‘cos now it’s unlocked all the tracks… backwards! Another excuse to waste lots of time.

In other news, AbNib now has a really annoying banner ad that I can slap onto pretty much anywhere I can post to. Like here, for example:

[image removed]

I promise I’ll try to refrain from doing that again.

I have lectures in the morning. Better put the rubbish out and go to bed. Goodnight;

Being Charlie Kaufman

Just watched Adaptation with Claire and Paul. Absolutely fantastic – a post-modern marvel. Put simply, it’s an adaptation of a book entitled The Orchid Thief – a true story about the author, Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep), meeting John Laroche (Chris Cooper), a horticultural specialist who collects endangered orchids, set to the backdrop of Charlie Kaufman, the film’s writer (Nicholas Cage), trying in vain to write a screenplay version of the book, The Orchid Thief. The film spans four billion years, with particular emphasis on the last 17, and, despite the best intentions of the in-film screenwriter, manages to include guns, drugs, and a car chase… and not so many flowers.

I’d never thought that Charlie Kaufman could ever produce anything quite so mind-boggling as Being John Malkovich, but he really has. My mind boggles still. Watch it. And invite me along. <wink>

Artificial Intelligence For Dummies

I’ve just written an artificial intelligence gamebot, designed to pseudointelligently play simple board games which involve a finite upper number of moves and a board of tokens – for example: Connect Four, Noughts & Crosses, Go!, or Othello. It uses the (appropriately-written) rules of the game in order to pre-anticipate a vast number of moves, and select the ‘best’ ones based on the likelihood of them winning. It’s not terribly powerful, but I’d never written such a widely-scoped A.I. before, and I fancied the challenge.

I let it out for it’s first run this afternoon, and started a game of Connect Four with it. Here are the results:

I took the first turn, and put one of my pieces into the first column of the grid.

The gamebot took the second turn, picked up an enormous handful of pieces, and put six of them into the grid (two in the first column and four in the next four adjacent columns). These four-in-a-row, of course, won it the game.

Perhaps I need to define ‘cheating’ for it. Hmm… back to the drawing board…

Pretend You’re A Traffic Police Officer

…and one day, on your beat, you catch a guy driving the wrong way down a residential one-way street. Well; that’s not very good, so you flag him down and investigate. Upon reaching the car, you discover that he is driving the wrong way down the road as a result of a lack of due care and attention – he was using his laptop. Moreover, his pants are round his ankles and he’s using his laptop to look at kiddie porn. As if this isn’t enough, he’d been downloading said illegal porn using an internet connection hijacked using wireless networking gear.

What do you charge him with?

The full story here.

Rage Against The Monkeys

I’ve been thinking about a popular mathematical document easily available on the web, More Monkey Business, which uses the maths behind the otherwise inconceivable “infinite monkey problem” (if a million monkeys at a million keyboardsetc.… also known as Usenet…) as a gateway to argue against molecular biology’s evolutionary theory, which states that life ‘came together’ out of primordial soup as a result of a ‘miraculous’ coincidence.

It states, for example: “From a strictly mathematical perspective, the idea that life arose out of a pre-biotic soup is about as reasonable as the idea that Hamlet could arise out of alphabet noodle soup.”

What the author, and many creationists in general, fail to realise, is that there is nothing fundamentally ‘special’ or ‘miraculous’ about life. Life is nothing more than a series of stable, perpetual (although not eternally-perpetual) chemical reactions, and the fact that we see it as anything more than this is an example of our failings as rational entities to realise the fundamental truth about our existance: that life, intelligence, and humanity are nothing more than basic chemical processes examined at a level of blindingly indefinate abstraction.

Or, at least, that’s what I believe.

Read the article. It’s good.

Windows Longhorn Continued

It turns out that Windows Longhorn is a lot like the child of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, but (at this early stage) less stable. Just what we’ve come to expect.

On the other hand, it’s a lot faster than I might have expected (considering its dependency on the .NET framework). If you play with the pre-release version, though, be warned: you can turn off the themes and make it look like good old Windows 2000 (yay!) if you like but doing so isn’t very well implemented and it’ll make at least a little bit of a mess of all your Explorer toolbars.

Internet Explorer 6.05 introduces (at long last) some of the features that all of the other popular browsers have had for ages – including a download manager, security features, and pop-up blocking.

The ‘sidebar’ sucks. It really does. Lots. And it leaks memory all over the place.

I couldn’t actually find anything new in Internet Information Server 7.0, but then: I couldn’t check the documentation as they haven’t finished writing it. It’s existence, however, does lend weight to the suggestion that Microsoft will be making a Longhorn-powered platform for the Windows Server family, too.

Anyway: enough geekspeak.

Windows Longhorn

Have… acquired a pre-pre-pre-release copy of Windows Longhorn, the new version of Windows that’ll be coming out in 2004…2005…2006. Will post reports of my experience with it. But first I’ll need to buy a spare hard drive…