The Star Fraction

Before I'd read The Star Fraction, I recognized the name Ken Macleod as a friend of Iain Banks. Reading the book, one can tell they might be friends. Birds of a feather one might say. Macleod goes in a bit more for clever word play. Banks' work has a more sweeping, elegaic quality.

There's quite a bit of ideology, or rather references to ideology and ideological positions. I imagine there's something of Macleod's own background here. Perhaps he attended meetings of socialist groups in his youth?

I understand this is his first book, I'm interested to see how his writing develops...


Ogg Vorbis

'Why oh why BBC, must we continually...', thus it seemed all letters to the BBC began when I watched TV in the 80s. Now I too have reached the required level of exasperation to write to the BBC: here's my message.

Dear BBC,

Why oh why BBC, must you continue to use proprietary formats for audio on your website? Please would you switch to an open format such as Ogg / Vorbis without delay.

With an open audio format, anyone can write the software to listen to it, giving your listeners the maximum freedom. Proprietary formats are often opaque and encumbered with patent / copyright restrictions and can tie users in to particular companies.

So come on BBC, unshackle your brilliant content!

Yours expectantly,

Tony Locke

I'll let you know their reaction...


Last Light

In order to cheer me up, Bob at work lent me Last Light by Alex Scarrow. The jacket read, 'they tell us not to panic...the lights will go out...people will walk the devastated streets...civilization will be at the point of no return'. If that's meant to cheer me up, I'd hate Bob to recommend me a depressing book.

The book's about an artificial peak oil scenario. Over the past few year, I've found myself circulating in a milieu of peak oil buffs, and their feeling is that global civilization could well collapse. I disagree.

As oil runs out, its price will increase. This will make alternative sources of energy steadily more attractive, and the world will switch to those.My detractors say, 'Tony, you can't just leave it to the free market. We need government intervention NOW!'.

Well, we'll see who's right...

Oh yes, and the book was gripping.


Google Sites

I've switched my site over to Google Sites. I made the switch because I was fed up with the adverts for other wikis on Wetpaint. Here are my likes and dislikes about Google sites (or 'cheers and jeers' as they said on Family Guy). First the cheers:

  • Good that one can edit HTML directly, and the editor keeps the HTML exactly as you wrote it.
  • Clean design; little extraneous content outside one's own content boxes.
  • One can edit the navigation box.
  • One can add other boxes (I've added one for the content licence).

Now the jeers:

  • One can add sites eg. /mysite but one can't have a top level site. The top site is actually the log-in screen. I think one should be able to create a top-level site. In fact, if I was designing the thing, I'd just have one site.
  • It's possible to use one's own domain name, but there are severe limitations. I've set up http://www.tlocke.org.uk/ to point to my site, but this just redirects to the login page. Not much use if you're setting up a site for general internet use.
  • Google Sites allows one to to put pages in sub-directories. But one thing we've learnt about wikis is that all pages should be on the top level.
  • I always use the HTML editor. So there should be a setting to go straight to HTML view, rather than going through the hassle of entering the editor each time.
  • Does funny redirect thing to links.
  • I've compiled a general wish-list for things I'd like a wiki to do.

Well there it is.


NHS Parking Charges

I've just heard about the absurd idea to abolish parking charges at NHS hospitals. If this were to be done, it would (if I remember correctly) remove £78m from NHS treatment, surely a bad thing.

The poorest people don't own a car, so parking charges don't affect them. If the rich are concerned about parking charges, perhaps they should take the bus?