2009-04-27

On Chesil Beach


As near-perfect a book as I've come across. A brilliantly crafted work. This is great, McEwan is getting better.

The Malverns


I don't have a camera, and Kazim only sent photos of me!

This is a reservoir...

The Man In The High Castle


Kazim lent me this book after our jaunt in the Malverns. His copy has a US flag with swastikas as the stars. He hoped it would get me funny looks on my train journey home (it didn't).

There are several books that I've had to stop reading due to psychological disquiet, one of them was a Philip K Dick. High Castle had that quality, though to a lesser degree. It's clever, engaging and mildly disturbing. It was a bit too enigmatic for my taste, I like to have everything laid out clearly. I'm not brainy enough to grasp the full meaning of the book. Interestingly, in this book there's a discussion about what an author is trying to say in a book. All very post-modern I'm sure.

Play Ogg


From my friends' experience, the main barrier to wider adoption of desktop Linux is that it can't play MP3 files out of the box (due to software patents). So I was interested in the FSF's Play Ogg website. This does a good job of explaining the issue. Please will the BBC take notice, and use Ogg for publishing its programmes!

2009-04-19

The Cobblestone Plant


Here's Bill's plant. It reminds him of cobblestones.

2009-04-18

Newton's Wake


I read MacLeod's The Star Fraction over a year ago now. I enjoyed it, and Newton's Wake is even better. Apparently the guy used to be a computer programmer, then turned his hand to sci-fi. I've toyed with writing a book, but with software I just have to write it, with books I don't have that natural compulsion.

There's an intelligent use of technology in this book. Singularities seem to crop up everywhere now. It seems that once a culture hits a singularity, they then disappear to some other dimension. Can someone explain a bit more about this? A similar thing happens in Banks' culture books. They sublime or something.

I know it's only a book, and I know people are often backed up, but I'm concerned at the casual violence. The violence is depicted, but then not really explored. It may not be fun to dwell on the consequences of violence, but when the protagonist despatches another soldier we don't see the months and years of grief felt by her family and friends.

Well, I end on a rant. Well, that's what blogs are for no?

The Chamber

We were discussing racism, and my dad recommended The Chamber. I'd heard people talk about John Grisham, and I must admit I'd avoided him. However, the Chamber was very well written. Good plot, and Grisham really does capture the mood of the prison in the American south (I say that, but I haven't been a prisoner on death row, in fact I've never been to America). I probably won't go reading madly through his entire oeuvre, but I won't avoid him as before.

2009-04-16

Digital sharecropping

A colleague talked of the:
unpaid digital sharecropping edifice of Wikipedia
This has a nice rhetorical ring to it, but is wrong because it's an analogy between physical goods and information. Property and information obey completely different rules, so you can't reason by analogy between them.

If someone makes a copy of some information I hold, I don't lose anything, but the other person gains something. However, if someone takes my cake, then I lose it, and the other person gains it.

The moral is: don't use the rules of property to reason about information.

2009-04-12

Amsterdam


I really enjoy Ian McEwan's writing. He's reflective and introspective through his characters, without indulging in navel gazing. You get the feeling that a huge amount of effort goes into his books.

In Amsterdam, the two protagonists focus on their own work to the detriment of other parts of their lives. In a fitting denouement, the friendship between the two is irretrievably lost.

Drinking is part of the background of the story. A visitor arrives, and champagne is fetched from the fridge. In my world, champagne is for weddings and such. I do like the idea of having a bottle of champagne chilled and waiting for a random visitor.

Perhaps the next Ian McEwan should be On Chesil Beach. I don't want to binge on him though...

Landshare's up and running!


Remember I was going on about turning my back garden into an allotment? Well now the Landshare scheme has got going and I've posted a listing. Let me know if there are any spelling mistakes, or changes I should make...

2009-04-10

Badminton epic

Yesterday I lost against Paddy *again*, 2 games to 1.

Backhand let me down as ever. Paddy's main tactic was to hit high and long to my backhand, then I'd do a lame return. If it actually made it over the net he'd just smash it. Then if I was in a position to return it with my forehand, he'd do a drop shot just over the net on the opposite side of the court to where I was. This is new. He's got pretty good at those drop shots now.

Also, I have to say that Paddy's returns were awesome against my smashes. I don't know how he does it.

Fitness let me down as well. Towards the end of the third game I barely had the strength to hold the racquet. I was utterly exhausted. That night I slept for 11 hours straight.

Just in case Paddy reads this: I'll be back!

2009-04-09

No place for software patents in Open Source

I agree with Glyn Moody when he writes that Open Source licences should continue to disallow software patents. Software patents are antithetical to Open Source.

2009-04-08

Desperately seeking followers



I've finally jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. I've got zero followers, can someone follow me, please, not because you want to, just out of charity?

2009-04-07

Chorded keyboard

I'd like to write blog posts or write software using a mobile phone. I think a big problem would be entering text. Janos at work suggested a chorded keyboard. Can anyone recommend one?

First Great Waste Of Time



Okay, this may get a bit tedious and involved, but I just need to get it off my chest. I all happened when I was travelling from Trowbridge to Swindon by train on Saturday, then coming back the next day.

I travelled from Trowbridge to Bath Spa on my season ticket. At Bath there wasn't time to buy a ticket before the train departed for Swindon, so I hopped on, thinking I'd buy a ticket on the train or at Swindon.

At Swindon I asked if I could buy a return from Bath to Swindon. The person said yes, and led me to the ticket office. The ticket office person refused, saying that I had illegally travelled without a ticked, and I'd have to pay for two singles rather than a return. I argued my case for about half an hour before capitulating. During this time all sorts of security people and supervisors were brought on the scene.

I make a plea to the rail regulator, please can we change the rules so that as long as you buy a ticket at the first convenient opportunity, nobody gets penalised?

2009-04-02

OpenStreetmap



I've joined OpenStreetMap, now I just have to get a GPS device and I'll be able to map my locale. I'm thinking of getting an HTC Magic when they come out.

People say, 'why? what's wrong with Google Maps?'. The problem with GMaps is that the use of their data is hedged around with all sorts of restrictions. I want to help create a libre map, a map where people can:

(0) use the map for any purpose
(1) study its mechanisms, to be able to modify and adapt it to their own needs
(2) make and distribute copies, in whole or in part
(3) enhance and/or extend the map and share the result.

I'm doing it for selfish reasons; it'll help create a richer society for my enjoyment! For example, businesses will be able to provide services for me that they otherwise wouldn't be able to do.

I reject the libre manifesto; I'm not against capitalism, and in fact I think that libre knowledge is good for capitalism. Proprietary knowledge is a monopoly, and free trade abhors a monopoly.