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Archive for November 2005

broad beams

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The installation of wireless broadband at home was effectively painless, and took about three minutes after I picked up the system this morning. I literally had to do nothing at all except hook the transceiver to my little WiFi router/switch, and power it on. I’m fairly far from the main antenna, I think, but still got a signal rated three out of five with a little positioning. I only had time for a little web surfing this morning, no advanced applications yet.

I won’t get a chance to do any more with it until later tonight, since I’m at work all day, then out all evening at my Japanese class. Still, you can expect to see a few changes around here, including the migration of much of my static content in to WordPress. I’ve figured out the static page system, mostly, and should be able to approximate the structure I have already. It won’t be exact, however, but I can do redirection pages, and maybe even some more tricks with my 404 page. It already offers additional help if it detects certain strings in the requested page, and I have the redirection logs to see which links from other sites are working, or not.

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Written by brian t

November 29, 2005 at 1:03 pm

Posted in internet, technology

on the line

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Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and ordered a wireless broadband setup for home, which should be arriving in a few days. I’ve been muddling through using the facilities available at work, which is fine for planned things, but it’s been the little things I’ve missed by not having internet access at home: the ability to do quick checks for software and drivers, do some random surfing, online games, etc. I will also have more time to work on this site, and expect to be doing more interesting things with its layout and formats. Then there’s online gaming to think of.

Written by brian t

November 25, 2005 at 3:20 pm

Posted in technology, work

lullaby now, pay later

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I don’t have any children, and parenthood is looking even less interesting to me, over time, than it ever was. Today the BBC has been discussing discrimination against women who become pregnant. The Open University has a plain-speaking article on the financial cost of parenthood, which lays down some possibly unpalatable truths for prospective parents.

I don’t think I’m the best person to be talking about this topic, starting with my position on the male side of the gender divide that polarizes discussion on this topic. I tend to think that, since the Sexual Revolution freed women from unplanned pregnancy, they were free to make choices about whether to have children or not. I see many women exercising that choice, by having children later in life, or not at all.

If you want to build up a career, you can not expect to walk away in the middle of the process, with no guarantees that you will ever return to your previous enthusiasm or ability, and expect there to be no consequences. By way of comparison: if a university student missed the whole of her third year, because she stopped studying to have a child, would she expect the university to grant her the degree as if she had done the work?

I’m not disputing that having and raising a child is work; of course it is, and bloody hard work it is too, but it is not useful work in the context of the society and economy we live in today. It is a decision that people make for their personal fulfilment, and the world does not need any more people – it is already overloaded. Since the decision to have a child is your ticket to twenty years of financial burden and daily aggravation, it is not one to be made lightly, or forced on parents through ignorance or coercion. In an ideal world, that is.

People have noticed how much harder it has become – you only need to look at the demographics in Europe to see how birth rates are falling in general. Most of this decrease can be attributed to the educated classes of society, who are tending to stop at one child, maybe two, if they have any. The lumpenproletariat continue to breed as before, heedless of the cost.

This article has a more detailed analysis of the financial situation affecting working people throughout Europe, and places the blame squarely on increased taxation, which can be traced back to the socialist policies of European governments. With 70% of under-30s in Italy still living with their parents, because it’s too expensive to set up their own homes, is it surprising that the average birth rate, per person is 1.2? (A “replacement level” that keeps population steady is about 2.2.) So much of their money goes into funding the elderly, via the social system, that there is little left for this generation.

This relates to today’s discussion, because support for mothers, to offset the financial disadvantages of having a child, comes from taxes on the rest of us. Why should I pay for someone else’s children? I have friends with children, and they all seem to have gone in to parenthood with open eyes, and seem to me to be getting much more out of it as a result.

Written by brian t

November 25, 2005 at 3:13 pm

elimination

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Well, we know what it’s not. The MRI scans show no signs of any damage to my spine, whether the vertebrae or discs, etc. What they do show, however, are some odd spots on my spinal cord, areas of stress or damage, or perhaps even deposits of some sort. Next stop: a neurologist, at which point I expect to have needles stuck in to me and wired to various machines. Hmmm…

Tablet PC is back up and running, nearly fine, though I ended doing a “repair” using standard Windows XP. I already had backups of my personal data, work data usually resides on servers, so I was able to continue work while I got this one back up. The only problem is that some of the Tablet facilities are not fully functional, but I think that just means reinstalling certain bits, which I will do later. I really should be using the Tablet PC version of Windows XP, but I don’t have a copy of that yet – it didn’t come with the system. I’ll get on to that now.

Written by brian t

November 22, 2005 at 5:53 pm

Posted in medical, technology, work

on hold

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After the MRI scan last Friday, I may find out more when I visit the orthopaedic specialist again tomorrow. After insisting, I’m being squeezed in whenever the guy has a minute, but it’s either that or I wait another four weeks to find out what’s happening. It might be OK to wait another four weeks, but that’s a decision for the specialist to make – not mine, and certainly not a receptionist’s.

I think this is going to be an ongoing saga, so I’ve added the Medical category to this blog, as I thought I’d want to. Much as I’d like to know what’s going on, I expect the specialist to go “I don’t know”. If that happens I’ll want this case escalated further, to a Professor of Medicine if necessary – whatever it takes.

Just to add insult to injury: my work PC became unbootable after I installed some approved hotfixes on it; part of the logon process crashes, due to some missing file or configuration, and it hangs with no logon prompt. Good thing I have a spare work PC to use. None of the standard procedures help at all – not Safe Mode, or Last Known Good, since those are all alternate startup configurations that assume everything is sane with regard to files etc. I’ve ended up kicking off a new Windows XP Professional installation, but using the “repair” option. It seems to be working, which will be a first: if I remember rightly, I’ve only tried it once before, and it told me the old Windows installation was unrepairable.

Written by brian t

November 21, 2005 at 5:34 pm

Posted in medical, technology

sonification

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Wikipedia, being a user-authored and -moderated encyclopaedia, has much in common with the fictional Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate”. It seems to me that the most reliable and sensible articles are those in the mainstream, subjected to the most eyeballs, and hence the most corrections. The Sony article is such an article, and contains the following understatement:

Sony has historically been notable for creating its own in-house standards for new recording and storage technologies instead of adopting those of other manufacturers and standards bodies.

For as long as I’ve had any interest in shopping for technology, before I even had the money to indulge it, I’ve avoided Sony for just this reason. The first strike against them in my book was MiniDisc, which they tried to position as a replacement for the CD, at least partially, selling pre-recorded music on it. They repeated the pattern with Memory Stick, and recently with the UMD discs for the PlayStation Portable (PSP).

The content on these media is inevitably by Sony artists, which also sets alarm bells ringing; the thought of a single corporation owning the whole entertainment production process gives me the willies. After their takeover of Columbia Entertainment’s roster, they could sign up artists (musicians, film producers etc.), and have Marxist-grade control over the means of production, distribution, and consumption of their products. Think I’m exaggerating? OK, Sony don’t make guitars or drums, but they make mixing desks and recorders for studios, both for multitrack and mastering. They then release the content on their proprietary formats, which can only be used on equipment made or licensed by them.

They have tried all this in the Film and TV worlds too; after the failure of Betamax video – which wasn’t bad technically. Sony make video cameras of all types, including HiDef ones used for films such as this year’s Collateral. They tried to lock down Surround Sound formats with SDDS, but failed against Dolby and DTS. Now we have the aforementioned UMD (PSP only), and are fighting to push their Blu-Ray as the next-generation DVD format, to be played on Sony and Sony-licensed drives, ideally on Sony TVs.

All this means that I have informally boycotted Sony products for at least a decade now. Informal, because I just kept it to myself or to anyone who asked, and may have bought a standard CD or two released on Sony Records, such as a couple by Pearl Jam. As of this week it’s formal and public, because they have stepped way over the line in their attempts at world domination. It was discovered that DRM-protected CDs, when played on PCs, have been installing clandestine services on your computers. These have been termed as “rootkits”, but I’m not convinced that’s quite the correct term; if it really is a “rootkit”, then Sony will be able to access it remotely and get “root” (i.e complete) control over your PC.

This has hit the mainstream media in the last few days, including the BBC, yet yesterday IT news site The Register was moved to comment:

“It is alarming how little outrage there is from ordinary PC users. While Register readers are well versed in the restrictions of DRM and the dangers of malware, there’s little sign the public shares this knowledge.

Well: if I don’t sound terribly outraged, it’s because I am only vaguely surprised. The RIAA in the USA has been talking up aggressive tactics of this nature for some time now, and it was inevitable, if unethical and possibly illegal. It will be interesting to see what happens next, but Sony are completely off my shopping list for good now.

What depresses me about all this is: every time I wonder if I’m being too cynical about people and corporations, and their motives, along comes something like this to show me that I’m not overreacting. Last month it was the poor response to the earthquake in Pakistan, before that the hurricane disaster mismanagement in the US. Mix in the constant “race to the bottom” in the business world, the drive for short-term profits at the expense of all other considerations, and I have to wonder if we’ll even need a handbasket to get to Hell. We don’t need to go looking for it, it’s expanding to cover this world, encroaching daily.

Written by brian t

November 4, 2005 at 1:12 pm

Posted in japan, movies, music, technology