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I have a new monitor for the work PC, a 24" full 1080p HD monitor, with 1920x1080 resolution in perfect 16:9, whose utility is somewhat lost when half of the time I seem to be using 80 character wide terminal windows onto Unix (actually, Solaris) boxes to talk to databases. Still, at least I can have a lot of them on screen simultaneously without overlap, now :-)

One thing I really like about Gnome that hasn't yet been migrated to Windows is the ability to define a double-click on the window title bar to maximise said window either vertically, horizontally, or both. See, with 1920 width, a maximised window isn't actually that helpful - it'd be much nicer simply to maximise vertically, leaving me free desktop to the right and left for reference to other panes. Instead I have to drag the corner to fit, which is hardly an ordeal, but it's one example of where these little tricks that Linux offers make quite a difference to how your workspace is organised.
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I was over at one of the user's offices yesterday to sort out (a trivial, as it happened) problem she was having with Word (which is a whole separate story, because I'm not Word support).

Anyway, said colleague was wearing an absolutely fantastic short, short skirt, of which I highly approved, but decided it was probably better to say nothing of her wardrobe choices for fear of ... if not exactly being misinterpreted, at least being inappropriate.

Discretion's the better part of valour, right? ;-P
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What with the weekend, and having been on a training course Thursday and Friday, it feels like a long time since I was last at the desk. I had been hoping to make some serious inroads into a big project that Colleague H and I are supposed to be tackling, but what with catching up on the Thursday/Friday flak, I haven't really made much headway at all.

This is starting to get serious - we've got a project progress update meeting tomorrow afternoon, and, er, I don't think 'well, I've been thinking it over whilst walking the dog' is really the type of thing they're expecting to hear.

Nonetheless, I think I've more or less cleared the decks, so now I can make a start on the project stuff.

No, really. Honest.

Trust me...
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Huh. Intermittent internets seem to have plagued Castle Fox for the weekend - am not sure whether the fault lies with my router (a Netgear 4 port with (disabled) WiFi), or upstream from these walls... either way, though, if it's intermittent, that usually means it's a pain to diagnose.

Another quiet day, really - P & I ambled into town this afternoon, and I picked up River of Gods by Ian MacDonald, a SF story set in mid-21st Century (I think), where India has been carved up into twelve (I think) semi-independent states. I'm barely a chapter in, thinking it's got a sort of Gibsonesque vibe to it. Proper review as and when...

...which could be a while. I've currently got four open books at the moment, which is unusual for me, because I tend to read serially rather than in parallel. Hmm. Must. Try. Harder.
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's been a quiet Saturday, all told; I took advantage of being dog-less to have a lie-in, until 7.15am.

It was pouring when I went to fetch the hound, but has since eased off a bit. Nonetheless, given the recently thawed snow will have saturated the ground, it's no surprise that the roads were starting to do the Venetian impression...

I was actually wondering if I was going to be able to get online today at all - the router dropped the net connection this afternoon, and I've been flicking it on every hour or so since to see if the situation had corrected itself. Assuming that this post does, y'know, post, then that should be evidence that a resolution of sorts was found, but it's a bit disappointing to lose access across the weekend - especially when KC have an effective monopoly as the ISP for this fair city.
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Overall, I was somewhat unimpressed with the two days' training - the instructor was personable, the group I was in were good, but the actual knowledge transfer thing was pretty limited.

I confess, the course did help demystify the deification of the triangle a little (I'm now campaigning for a reclassification of this as a quadrangle, with limited success so far, but it's early days), and there were some fun elements across the two days.

But was it worth missing two days' work for this? Absolutely not.

A couple of us were lamenting missed opportunities - we collectively felt that the course would've benefitted greatly from a quad-bike-paintballing session as a team building exercise. Sadly, neither paintball nor quad-bike were proferred, so we had to make do instead with rhapsodizing over scented flipchart pens.
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The training course is taking place at a farm/conference venue a little way outside Hull, and I was rather surprised to discover, once I'd made it past the outskirts of civilisation* that there was actually quite a bit of snow about. Had I been so forewarned, I'd probably have allowed myself a little extra time for the Castle Fox -> Happy Holiday Home -> Work Training run.

As it is, I wasn't late, arriving about 2 minutes early, but that's slightly closer than I like to cut things.

Anyway, the drive back was through some pretty thick fog as we came up over the hills, and it caught me by surprise. At home, briefly, before heading up to the Farm to collect ex and thence to P's school for parents' evening.
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Having mentioned Edge of Darkness in the previous post, I thought I'd amble over to the Wikipedia entry, where the following sentence struck me:

The series' director, Martin Campbell is filming a remake...

Awesome! The original director, filming a remake. YES!!!

...for release in 2010...

And I don't even have to wait that long for it!!! *bounces*

starring Mel Gibson

WTF??? *ded*
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The Guardian has compiled a list of the top 50 television dramas of all time.

The West Wing is at number 11, The Wire close behind at 14. Somewhat bizarrely, Buffy is there at 22 ('drama'), which makes Battlestar Galactica's inclusion at 25 a little less incongruous.

Given the spread, I'm surprised that Edge of Darkness didn't warrant inclusion, and if they're going to allow Buffy and BSG, you'd have thought that Firefly, however short-lived, might have warranted a mention. And I understand that some people rate Stargate: SG1 as above average, too :-)


Jan. 12th, 2010 08:37 am
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Lighting, as keen scholars of these pages will be aware, tends to be something of a contentious issue amongst us code monkeys.

We've been trying to come to an effective compromise with the lighting in here, both natural and artificial, and Friday saw us shuffling the desks around so that we can open the blinds on some of the windows without having monitors backlit by the resultant glare (hey, there's a world out there!).

Yesterday we decided to try out Colleague S's wine-bar-stylee uplighter, rather than have the serried ranks of overhead fluourescents flood the place.

And, y'know... it's actually better this way, I think. We could possibly do with a little more candlepower somewhere, but I certainly find it preferable to the floodlit alternative.
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At the desk three days this week, and then for Thursday and Friday I'm on a training course off-site. This in turn means that Mali gets checked into his Happy Holiday Home on Thursday morning, picked up on Saturday morning, because I can't get back to him at lunchtimes.

It was a very static weekend on my part - it wasn't the snow so much as the ice: the ice was lethal. Put it this way; when Mali, with four-paw-drive, is falling over, you know conditions are dicey. However, the rain started on Sunday and has made substantial inroads on the ice/slush, such that one can walk along with some fair degree of confidence, for the most part, that you'll manage to stay upright.

Finally, Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte were talking on Security Now last week about ShadowServer, a site that tracks botnets across the interwebs. From the graphs, it looks like there was some massive cut-off on New Year's Eve...
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Chud has an article about James Cameron's original treatment for the concept that would become Avatar, initially entitled Project 880.

And I have to say, having read the article (but not the treatment), it sounds pretty cool - and explains a lot of things that went unexplained in the film proper.

I mention this because the good ol' Grauniad had an article talking about Cameron's envisaged Avatar trilogy, which, again, sounds as if it could be pretty cool, given the right plot.
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Following on from Thursday's post about 'GodMode' in Windows 7, in transpires that
  • a: the name of the folder doesn't matter, it's the extension that does the trick

  • b: there's a whole host of 'GodMode' extensions that do different things.

However, in one of those early nomenclature designation things, I strongly suspect that whatever technical term Microsoft have for these codes, they'll forever now be labelled 'GodMode'. has the list of codes, although I haven't had either the time nor, truthfully, the inclination to test them out to see what they do. Perhaps in an idle moment somewhen...

In other news, still snowy in Hull.
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Six XBox Live Arcade Recommendations:
  • Braid: this is a deceptively simple-looking 2D puzzle/platformer with hidden depth. The big deal with Braid is time rewind/manipulation. Almost every puzzle requires you to manipulate time in some fashion for the solution, and the levels are almost universally excellent. The final stage, though, is genius... and this is before you then go star-hunting to unlock the alternative ending. It's possibly a mite pretentious when you first encounter it (there's a story to go along with the puzzles, but the true story is much, much deeper, and actually sort of blows your mind when you discover it), but this is offset by the sheer visual beauty and fantastic soundtrack. On the negative side, it's expensive at 1,200 points, and once you've worked out how to solve a given puzzle, replay value (star-hunting aside) is kinda limited.

  • Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2: The fact that it's the sequel is important, the older version is still available, and half the price, but about a quarter as good. This is a twin-stick shooter - you pilot your spacecraft about a 2D arena, shooting at neon-coloured geometric shapes that have various properties, collecting score multipliers as you rack up the kills. The visuals to this game are intense, and the first time you see it, be prepared for full-on visual overload, because there's so much happening on screen it's almost impossible to divine what's going on. There are six different game modes, each with their own particular quirks and features, my favourite of which is Pacifism. Replay value is off the chart: you will constantly be having 'just one more game' to try and beat your previous high score...

  • Defense Grid: The Awakening: I'm new to the Tower Defense/Defence genre, but this is a seriously addictive game where you place towers with various characteristics about the game map so as to impede incoming swarms of aliens' progress. The game has a story, which includes a kinda shell-shocked, discombobulated British-voiced AI that talks you through the various towers you've got and the aliens you're encountering as well as dwelling on the horrors of wars past and reminiscing about raspberries(!). Hugely compelling, and as the levels progress, the difficulty certainly ramps up - part of the challenge is in preserving all the power cores you're trying to protect whilst using the minimum of resource to do so. I'm not very good at that bit. Yet ;-P

  • Every Extend Extra Extreme: or E4, for short :-) Completely abstract game, where the object is to explode yourself in such a way as to cause chain reaction explosions through the waves of incoming snowflake/geometric shaped, um, 'enemies', and thereby build scores. Some of the enemies have power-ups (additional time, score multipliers, shields), and as you play, the chain reactions you can set off get longer and longer, until you can press a single button and then watch the screen just explode in mesmerising pyrotechnics for 30 seconds or more. Best played late at night, with the music up, and is, I concede, an acquired taste

  • Shadow Complex: Metroid Fusion was the best game I ever played on my GBA - a 2D platformer/side-scrolling shooter where you guided your protagonist through a maze of, in that case, an abandoned space station, collecting power-ups as you went, uncovering the map and solving the mystery of what had happened. Shadow Complex is basically exactly that, for the XBox - it's a 2.5D thing - your character can only move in 2D, but can shoot about a 3D space, which takes some getting used to, but is cleverly executed. The basic story is that you're hiking through the woods with your girlfriend when you discover an underground lair in a cave complex that's the base for a conspiracy to assassinate the Vice-President of the USA. Definitely fun :-)

  • Alien Hominid HD: looking at my icon, it's no surprise to see this one here :-) Alien Hominid is a basic, 2D side-scrolling shooter, the twist being that you're controlling the alien against the human baddies (such as the FBI etc). The art-style is fantastic (icon refers), and if you find the gore too much, you can switch the blood effect off to be replaced with flowers and stuff. Nonetheless, despite the Alien Hominids various moves, weapons and ridiculous power-ups, this game is pretty tough. But awesome all the same.
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*HUGE* pic alert, courtesy of NASA - Satellite photo of the UK, under snow.

Be warned, it's rather large.
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I have spent a largely unprofitable hour trying to work out why xsd.exe couldn't parse a specific .xsd file I was presenting it with.

If, for example, the parent .xsd has a namespace reference of


followed by an import element

    <xs:import namespace="" schemaLocation="SlowFox.xsd"/>

then when running the xsd tool from the Visual Studio command prompt, you get the following error message:

Warning: Schema could not be validated. Class generation may fail or may produce incorrect results.

The answer, which I learnt courtesy of Scott Hanselman's blog is to provide all the dependent files on the command line, in addition to the parent .xsd.

So you'd run

xsd.exe /c MainSchemaDefinition.xsd SlowFox.xsd

which produces the desired result (C# classes generated automagically from the .xsd).

The issue, apparently, is that the xsd tool can't handle the xs:import element (despite the fact that you've given it an exact file name to match against the specified namespace), but if you provide all the consituent files as part of the command's argument, xsd.exe knows where to try and look for the various dependencies it stumbles across.
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Nothing is quite as suave as only realising that you've dribbled toothpaste down your jumper after you've sat down at your desk in the office.
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One of the mild irritants of Windows 7 is that the Control Panel is kinda fragmented with multiple folders and stuff, but no readily apparent means of seeing everything in one go...

Well, news is out on the Interwebs of Windows 7 GodMode, which gives you a single folder view of the various Control Panel options.

To do this, all you need to do is create a Folder, anywhere you please, and give it this exact name (copy and paste):


The folder itself is displayed simply as GodMode (I'd have been unimpressed if it had displayed the rather impenetrable extension), and at least Works For Me™.
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The Galactic Watercooler Podcast is a new one I'm trying that I picked up via the Podcast Awards site, as I'm trying to branch out from my monoculture.

It's basically three geeks (two guys, one girl) talking about Sci-Fi/fantasy kinda stuff. To be honest, 1½ episodes in (199 and 201, because 200 was a retrospective 'best of' that I decided to skip), I'm not wholly convinced of the hosts' credentials (they couldn't remember which was Merry and which was Pippin), and they unreservedly love everything about Avatar, but I'm giving it a whirl nonetheless, to see how it fares over the longer term.

Snow again

Jan. 5th, 2010 09:56 pm
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We have fresh snow round these parts - this is preferable to the partially melted then refrozen slush that we'd had earlier, although since the snow has simply settled on the ice, the surafces are still pretty much as treacherous as they were before, but it at least looks prettier :-)

The first book of 2010 proved to be Rachel Caine's Carpe Corpus, book VI of the Morganville Vampires series, and whereas the earlier instalments pretty much finished on consecutive cliffhangers, this one at least feels like it has an ending proper

I say 'feels like', because book VII is out now, and I'm assuming that it's probably going to kick off a new(ish) story arc, since I think most of the plot threads from the tale to date have been, if not exactly resolved, at least touched on in part VI.

They're fun reads (much moreso than Twiglet), although I felt that Book II was a little off-pace, and Book VI, whilst it had its moments, didn't quite gel for me; I felt that we had less of an image of who Claire is, again. On the other hand, certain aspects did work pretty well (Oliver is nicely done, even if he doesn't get enough screen time, and I do like Myrnin, who, as I'm sure I've said before, I'm sure must be Merlin).

So yeah, pretty good series, although I'd say that the Sook is a lot more fun for mature readers... still waiting on the next instalment from Bon Temps, which we've been promised this year. Rest assured; the moment that's published, it's mine :D


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