The journal of Paul M. Watson.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Breast meat

Las Vegas is crazy. Seriously. I was looking for some decent hotel rooms and was recommended the Hooters Casino Hotel. Yes folks, there is a hotel themed around the Hooters "restaurant" chain. Can you imagine what the room service will be like?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Joy

Joy by Paul Watson

Some shots from the Geoffs gig.

Friday, February 24, 2006

At Geoffs

The Chalets Crushed to the front of the "stage" at Geoffs with the alt. scene going mad behind me and The Chalets going even bigger in front of me was about the best experience I have had in Waterford since I moved here. When Peepee of The Chalets suggested the crowd lick the person in front of them some mad boy next to me yelled he wanted to lick the drummer.

Murphys Live at Geoffs last night was a blast. The place was packed, the Murphys was flowing and the three bands went large. The Chalets, The Trains and Ashley Sheehan and the Mute really put on a great show. It was good to see such a range of music in Waterford.

I know The Chalets are available on iTunes Ireland, Checkin is a lovely album, but I am not sure about the other two. However you can get a podcast of the demo tapes for the Murphys Live tour off of iTunes, just search for The Chalets or for Murphys Live.

Long stay hotel

I just realised the last time I stayed in a hotel was 11 years ago when I was 15. The family, nothing mobbish I assure you, had moved down to Cape Town and we stayed at the Holiday Inn, all four of us in one room, for a week or so. Since then whenever I have travelled it has been camping, B&Bs or the backseat of a car (that happened in Scotland on the Isle of Skye. I woke up to inquisitive cows standing around the car which I had parked in a field. Bloody tourists eh.) One trip up to Joburg a few years back I stayed at a motel but that is hardly a hotel, even if they did serve us G&Ts by the pool.

Tea, sir?

I can thoroughly recommend Dooley's Hotel on the Waterford quay. I spent the night there after locking myself out of my house last night. I checked in at 3am with the helpful night manager and had no problems getting a room. I don't know what other hotels in the area cost but at €65 per person per night I was happy. The room was modern, clean and well stocked. In the morning I came downstairs and while they arranged a cab to work for me I had a fine breakfast (included in the room price.) I could easily start each day pouring tea from a silver pewter teapot.

It was strange explaining to the night manager why the address I entered into the register was in Waterford. He kept pointing out that I was South African, so I must be on holiday. He couldn't get his head around the fact that I couldn't get into my house and just wanted a place to crash for a few hours. Though I admit this probably doesn't happen often.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Free as in beer

Tonight is going to be felt well into tomorrow I fear.

Free drink + head cold + dancing + bands + late night == farked.

So if you are in Waterford then head on over to Geoffs for some free Murphys and music tonight (the 23rd.) It is part of the Murphys Live tour. At Geoffs you'll get to hear Ashley Sheehan and the Mute, The Trains and The Chalets.

Text me (+353 86 896 8944) if you get there, I'll be the dork with the big camera.

The evolutionary knot

People who think evolution is a load of crock often use Lego to highlight how building bricks randomly bumped together don't form anything. They transfer this to the elements, molecules and other chemistry matters on which Lego has little bearing. Their arguement is that if Lego can't form complex shapes from component pieces then life, love, the universe and everything else that evolution may have touched also cannot.

Well. After having just spent 10 minutes unravelling the knot the earphones for my iPod nano arranged themselves into I have to disagree. Given enough time I am sure the cord could form, say, an eyeball or Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Duty to invent

I am reading up on IPR law, oh the joy, and came across this line:
whether it was something that was the employees duty to invent
Good lord. "duty to invent", what an awful way to put it.

All hail!

It just hailed for 1 minute here. Little hailstones bouncing off the walls. Riding home this evening is going to be so much fun.

Canon EOS 30D

Canon have announced the Canon EOS 30D digital SLR, a minor update of the Canon EOS 20D. I think a good number of people were excepting a lot more from the 30D, it has been talked about for years now.

Having recently bought a 20D I can safely say I won't feel any pain about not having waited for the 30D. The only new features of the 30D which I would want are; the 2.5" LCD, 100,000 cycle shutter and the spot-meter. The last is a welcome improvement. Also the 30D is apparently going to be priced lower than the 20D.

Sadly Canon are persisting in the DirectPrint nonsense and have put a whole, physical, non-customisable button on the back of the 30D for it. First the 5D and now the 30D, soon every DSLR. Why they think any DSLR above a 350D needs this is beyond me.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I am from Africa

...while I was in Africa last week.


I will wager that a Brazilian says "I am from Brazil" rather than "I am from South America." and then clarifies with "Brazil." Yet I will often allude to Africa, that vast, dark, dangerous continent, rather than simply say I am from South Africa.

That there are less Africans around here than other foreigners, Asians, Americans, Australians etc., adds to the allure of Africa. When you hear Africa you see the starving millions against the backdrop of the Serengeti or towering Kilimanjaro. You hear the chanting voices around a fire and the screams of a dying continent. It is dark and dangerous. And I come from there.

Tasteless

The TSSG has an internet monitor called Websense and I run into it a good couple times a day. A few blogs I regularly read are labelled as adult and more than one photo site I like to visit is banned.

The best though is urbandictionary.com which Websense has blocked and labelled as "Tasteless." Thanks Websense, I knew that, that is why I was going there.

PMW P1231

Imagine for a moment that magazines and newspapers titled their stories like companies name their products. A New York Times story on Cheney's hunting accident* would be titled "NYT DC HA 001" while Jacko's court case might be "Wacko Special CC1xT Supreme."

What the hell am I talking about?

I just got back from 9 days away from my feed aggregator and on opening the PC Magazine New Product Reviews feed I was presented with the most unintelligble list of product names this side of 1970's USSR military resources.

Saitek A-250, Plus V-339, Podzinger, Konica Minolta PagePro 1400W, Lenovo ThinkVision L201p, Cingular 2125, Vizio L32, Westinghouse LTV-32w1, Proview RX-326, Velocity Micro Vision GX and Nokia 6102/6101.


Did I just stumble across a list of produce codes rather than marketable, understandable product names? No. Those are the names. I only know the last two products are mobile-phones because that is what Nokia makes. Otherwise they could have been Swedish massagers for all I know.

Why can't the Westinghouse LTV-32w1 (say that three times fast) be named the Westinghouse 32" HiDef TV 2006. Keep the LTV-32w1 bit for when it breaks and I need to phone Westinghouse support, but keep it in the manual or on the back of the telly. Don't make me sound stupid when I go to a store and ask for the Westinghouse el, tee, vee, dash, thirty two, double-u, one.

* Why is the second-in-charge of the free world hunting anyway?

Titivate

I need to titivate. Look it up.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hello from Africa

Just a quick shout out to say I am still alive. Haven't had a net connection for over a week now down here in South Africa. My uncle's funeral/memorial went very well in Gabarone. I'll be back in Ireland on Sunday and back up and running on Monday.

See you all then my friends.

Friday, February 10, 2006

3GSM

The Infinitim team just gave the rest of the TSSG a demo of their SIP IM client. It integrates with a BEA server and allows text, audio and video calls all initiated using SIP.

At one point a voice call was made from a Windows desktop client to a WiFi SIP phone. That was quite impressive. Eventually you'll be able to roam with the phone and it will automatically switch between the best available network (e.g. WiFi, GSM etc.) Another concept carried over from the Impruve team is that of IM "bots" which allow automated systems to integrate with your IM client. The one they had was a location bot that showed you your location on a map when asked.

The team will be at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona at the BEA stand. If you are there give them a shout.

Travel tip #001

Handy travel trip thanks to Brian.

At first I was going to fly Ryanair Dublin to London Stansted and then catch a connecting bus to London Heathrow to catch a flight out of there. The Ryanair flight would have cost €59 and the bus €29. But Brian mentioned that Aer Lingus fly Dublin to London Heathrow and on checking the flight, in total, costs €90. So if I pay €2 extra I cut out that awful 2 hour airport bus connection and don't run the risk of missing my later flight thanks to London traffic.

thanks Brian.

Travelling

Airline Prices by Paul Watson


Airlines are insane. Look at the above price selector. Two different flights, both from Johannesburg, South Africa to London. Both on the same day. Both at economy level. The cheaper one leaves 5 minutes later and arrives 10 minutes earlier. It is cheaper by £50. Why on earth would anyone choose the first one?


Even more insane is €2333 for a return flight from Dublin to Johannesburg when a return flight from London to Johannesburg is just €1100. I can get a return Ryanair flight from Dublin to London for €100, saving me about €800 even factoring in the hassle and bus trip from Stansted Airport in London to Heathrow.


It is going to be a bit of a mad trip though.


I'll have to catch a bus from Waterford to Dublin on Friday evening. 21:30 arriving 23:30. I'll then stay overnight in Dublin Airport to catch a flight to London Stansted, 06:30 to 07:45. I then need to catch a bus to London Heathrow, 08:40 to 10:05. I then depart London Heathrow at 17:50 on Saturday and arrive in Johannesburg at 06:45 on Sunday. I'll have a breather till Tuesday when we drive from Johannesburg to Gabarone, Botswana. About a 6 hour trip. Funeral is then on Wednesday. Drive back to Johannesburg on Thursday. Another breather till I depart Johannesburg at 21:20 on Saturday the 18th and arrive in London Heathrow at 06:20 on Sunday the 19th. I then catch a bus to London Stansted to catch a flight to Dublin where I will need to find a bus back to Waterford.


It will all work out as things always have.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Authentication for SVN with SwitchTower

If you are using SwitchTower to deploy your apps and your subversion repository needs a different user and password to your deployment boxes then use the following snippet in your deploy.rb:
set :repository, "--username usr --password pass http://repourl/"


It isn't ideal as your password is in deploy.rb but you could use a read-only user. I am hoping I can figure out how to send an environment variable when using rake deploy so that I can set the password then.

I found this little trick on SwitchTower progress.

Programming

Marc Clifton asked "What is a computer program?" Toxcct answered with this brilliant reply:
do
write randomly 0 or 1
while (not enough)

Reveal's zoom

Reveal's zoom by Paul Watson


Reveal is an extension for Firefox which does a thumbnailed timeline view of your open tabs or browser history. It works well and is useful.

But hidden in the extension is also this fantastic little zoom utility. All you do is triple-click anywhere in a page and a mangified box area appears. You can then move it around and use the scroll wheel on your mouse to control the level of zoom. Handy for images and small text.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Email to subscribe to feeds

A good deal of buzz going around on how feeds (aka RSS) are hard to subscribe to. I am working on a feed project and I agree that feeds are hard. The only way I subscribe to feeds at present is via the convoluted process of setting Firefox up with LiveLines and pointing it at my Bloglines account. Not a chance my mom will be bothered to do that.

So what will make it easier?

How about using your email address? Most internet users have one now, most who do also understand how to use email. Email is more complicated than feeds if you get right into it but thanks to its penetration and prevalence in everyday conversations and business it has become easy(ish). Plus it is based on snail mail which goes back awhile.

I haven't thought it through yet (I want you to trample on the idea and kick the bad bits in it) but it would be lovely if my mom could subscribe to a feed via her email address. Not have the feed items delivered via email like some systems do, no. Just make the email address the feed subscribtion enabler ("subscribe feedX to joe@schmoe.com".) So really it is an ID associated with you that your feed reader can use as well.

Technically on first glance whoever captures your email for feed subscription would have to forward onto some central feed system that knows to send it to your Bloglines/Feeddemon/Attensa/Newsgator/Windows/Apple/Google feed account.

The first major objection I see to this idea is spam. As soon as you hand out the ability to send subscriptions there is going to be spam involved. Still, we are dealing with spam in email well enough and I don't see the lack of spam as such a huge benefit to feeds (froth and yell at me all you like on that one.) And as feeds get more commercial even without sending feed subscriptions you are going to see more and more spam in your subscribed feeds. Sure, you can unsubscribe but that feed might have items you want.

The idea has problems but we have to get talking on this issue. How does my mom subscribe to feeds?

GMail me

I have taken the plunge and started using GMail as my main email client. Don't worry, you don't have to do anything different on your end, there is no change to my email address. I simply set my email hosting to forward all email sent to paulmwatson.com to my GMail account. Emails from me will still be from paul@paulmwatson.com too, not a GMail address.

For my personal email I was previously using Thunderbird on a laptop that stayed at home. I could access my personal email from work through the bare-bones Iloha webmail interface that TextDrive provides but it really isn't very good. Plus when I got home and fired up Thunderbird all the emails I had read that day in Iloha would be downloaded and marked as unread. A generally unsatisfying solution.

I will probably run Thunderbird every few days to sync with GMail so that I have an offline store of my email.

So GMail it is for all personal email. Wish me good fortune!

One integrated store

InfoWorld: Other companies are providing ALM tools, such as Rational and Borland. What are you going to be doing that they’re not providing? Would you say you have more of a Windows focus than they have?

Somasegar: I think the big value proposition that we bring to the table, much more than anybody else, is integration. Our tools work together well against one single integrated [store].

from Q&A: Microsoft's Somasegar touts value of ALM platform at Infoworld.

Frankly that is exactly what stopped us from using Visual Studio Team System and Team Foundation Server from Microsoft; its single, focused, no-other-providers model. It is a monolothic tool chain and while it has an API of sorts it doesn't work with the rest of TSSG's development environment. Our central code repository is Subversion, which is excellent, and VSTS won't work with it. I imagine add-ins will be made over the coming months and years but right now TFS is too closed for us and VSTS only understands one language, the Microsoft one. Such a pity.

As real as you

It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.


A wonderful passage from Atonement by Ian McEwan. Relevant to these past few days, weeks, months and years of cultural turmoil. The guy in the other trench is as real as you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

R.I.P Uncle Steve

My uncle died today; Steven Cooper.

He is the last of my relatives that I thought would die young. He died aged 63 from cardiac-arrest after triple-bypass surgery. While running the Comrades Marathon 15 years ago he had a heart-attack. He had bypass surgery then but has been fine ever since. The doctors today said that they simply couldn't repair the damage, arteries too gone to salvage. They did their best but we just don't know enough.

Uncle Steve was a wonderful man, an uncle a boy is fortunate to have. I'll remember him well. From our fishing trips on Kariba dam to the time he took me up to 60kph in his motor-boat on the Zambezi river, just the two of us. The times at his his home in Bulawayo, beers by the swimming pool and G&Ts next to the tennis court.

My aunt, Aunty Gwen, must be distraught and my dad is pretty wrecked over it too. My love to all of them and I hope I can make it down for the funeral. It's tough being on the other end of the world.

Gmail Chat

Gmail Chat by Paul Watson



Google keep rolling out GTalk and GMail features that make sense. They aren't fun but useless features like the Winks of MSN Messenger but rather core ideas that make communications better. Today's is GMail Chat.

For a long while I have wanted my email and instant-messaging conversations to be integrated. Why they are separate in the first place is simply down to technological factors, not conceptual.

GMail Chat firstly does the simple but critical recording of all your GTalk chats. So you can always view your GTalk IM conversations through your GMail interface. Currently IM logging is poorly supported in every other IM app. MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger, like most, simply records to XML files on the local computer. So if you use your IM client from multiple clients then your logs are spread out across several computers. Daft.

The next feature GMail Chat aims to roll out is IM in your GMail interface. So you won't even need GTalk, you just chat to your mates within GMail. Obviously this isn't ideal for some chats but for chatting from any location without installing anything it is a great idea.

And all integrated. Your email, your IM, your contacts for both, one big happy family.

Now if only more people used GTalk. Get me on paulmwatson@gmail.com.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cowboy brands

Toyota, Apple, Blackberry, Sprint, HP, Ford. These are the brands of the good guys in 24.

On the flip side are the brands of the bad guys. BMW and Mercedes being the two main ones. It is cute seeing a Toyota* out maneuver a 5 series BMW.

All this brand placement reminds me of cowboy hats. White and black, good and bad. You never had any doubt.

* I own and drive a Toyota. Best damned cars on the planet. They just can't out drive BMWs.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Virtues

For my sins I thank thee, for they have kept me from death,
while my virtues, they have brought me closer.


(Not how I feel but just a thought I had about some peoples' lives.)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Programming

There are moments when I truly love programming. Those moments of slip sliding through code and getting results.

And then there are those programming moments when I place my forehead on the cool wood of my desk and begin to sob. I normally am found muttering "Why is it so obscure! So opaque! So unhuman!"

This is one of those moments which started as a former moment.

How do you get the description of a book through the Amazon Web Services? I can get the title, ISBN, authors, ASIN and even the publisher but nowhere can I find out how to get the description. All I want is the description. It should be right after title, nestled lovingly between it and authors. It is essential data. Without it there is no book. But for the life of me I cannot find the property, method, array or interface to get the description.

Why is programming so obscure at times?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Leeway


  1. 0900 54° 03' 00N / 3° 02' 01W bearing 216°

  2. 0930 54° 01' 00N / 3° 13' 00W bearing 279°

  3. 1500 54° 01' 00N / 4° 48' 00W bearing 315°

  4. 1806 54° 19' 00N / 5° 30' 00W bearing 315°

Comment

I truly wish that CSS had a single-line comment sequence. Every other language I know does but good old CSS doesn't, as far as I know.

e.g.
div#header
{
background-color: #000;
/* background-image: url(/images/backgrounds/header.png); */
background-repeat: repeat-x;
height: 50px;
}


That is how you comment in CSS, /* at the begining of the comment block and */ at the end. // sadly doesn't work.

37chances

37signals has gone off the Rails*.

* snigger.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Flat blog

Our apartment block has a blog and an RSS feed.

Isn't that grand? Nerdy, yes, and I wonder how many people in the block even know about it but still, grand. I suspect it is the concierge's son who updates it.

Go technology!

In deep

I am sitting on my bed, laptop in front of me, ear-phones wedged deep and my nano tucked into my boxers. The Arctic Monkeys are wrapping up a number and I look at the laptop screen to see that while the song has ended there is still a good 2 minutes left on the track. Aha! A secret track I think. So I move the mouse over into iTunes and click the track-line, trying to skip it ahead to near the end and hopefully grab the start of the secret track. No change, so I skip ahead a bit more. Still no change. There is only 10 seconds left on the track and I am wondering just how short this secret track is. I try again, clicking in iTunes.

It then dawns on me that iTunes is not the one controlling my ear-phones, it is the nano tucked into my boxers that is.

I look around sheepishly and close iTunes.