April 2006 Archives

Dave's Tech Tips #134567


On a Windows machine, go into the Device Manager, select the various USB hubs, go into their properties and uncheck the "allow the computer to turn this device off to save power" checkbox.

Your computer will now only take 6 seconds to respond to a USB device being plugged in, as opposed to 20+ seconds before.

The Colbert Report


Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner: http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/04/29.html#a8104:

"Colbert complained that he was "surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides - the president's side and the vice president's side."

Also, from Editor and Publisher:

He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. ”This administration is soaring, not sinking,„ he said. ”They are re-arranging the deck chairs--on the Hindenburg.„

via many places, but Making Light originally.

UPDATE: they just covered the dinner on the local news (TVB NEWS), and only covered the Bush impersonator, not Colbert. Afterwards, one of their announcers referred to the clip as "making fun of Bill", proving once gain the world-class nature of news in this city.

UPDATE2: YouTube: Colbert Roasts the pResident.

UPDATE3: torrent.

Day Of The Landlords


From the letters page of the SCMP a week or so ago:

Day of the landlords

William Dixon, the writer of the letter "Greed bound to backfire" (April 1), should realise that the first step in any entrepreneurial activity is to understand market forces. The market is a harsh mistress to landlords and tenants alike. Landlords go out of business during periods of rent depression - to little public wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Andrew Rolfe, former chief executive of Pret A Manger, grudgingly noted in his speech at the opening of the company's first Hong Kong shop that all work goes to pay the rent, commenting: "I hope in my next life to be born a Hong Kong landlord."

That every vacated shop on Lyndhurst Terrace is now being occupied by a prestigious new tenant only serves to prove the market is on the side of the landlord this time. It worries every small operator, but it is one of the costs of doing business.

As a restaurant owner in Central, I am always wary of the power the landlord has over my business. The only way to avoid it would be to raise significantly more capital at start-up and become the landlord myself. But do you think the mortgage lender would be any more forgiving than the landlord in terms of interest rate hikes and the like?


Comparing the rampant greed of many Hong Kong Landlords with mortgage providers is not really fair. Mortgage lenders don't usually triple their fees overnight. Having the mortgage to your own restaurant would be vastly preferable to depending on some parasite not tripling your rent with no warning.

As to landlords going out of business, I'd really love to see examples of Hong Kong Property companies actually going out of business. I think some smaller ones might have not had enough inertia to survive the recent stagnant rents (it never really went down), but any company which acquired properties before 1997 could sell their properties at a profit anyway. It was always only those who bought at the top of the market who were seriously burnt by the downturn.

The basic fact of the market is that Hong Kong landlords are not taking a big risk in terms of their own outlay, but they require that every one of their tenants be prepared to write off the costs of outfitting their premises on a yearly basis.



That AMD 3000+ chip I got the other day overclocks very easily.

Without extra cooling or voltage changes, I've got it from 1.8Ghz to 2.4Ghz:


It runs a little bit hotter under load than before — 47°C versus 45°C — nothing the 12cm fans can't handle easily.



Oh look, Print100.com has an English section now. Is that new?

Miscellaneous Geekery


I was out and about in the warrens of the Sham Shui Po golden Arcade today and decided it was finally time to upgrade from Pentium III based hardware. I didn't want to have to shell out for a graphics card on top of a computer, so that meant something with an AGP slot. However, neither did I want to be stuck with no upgrade option on the graphics front, so I needed a PCI-Express slot as well. There's not a lot with both of those, and the only one with a native AGP 8X is the ASRock 939 Dual SATA2, which is a pretty well specified bit of kit, considering it retailed for HK$420!

The motherboard will take a dual-core AMD, but I decided not too go for that at the moment. They're still a bit on the expensive side, and I wanted to build a machine on the cheap, as always! I went for the entry level AMD 64 3000+, a 1.8Ghz chip, roughly equivalent to a Pentium 4 3.0. This is to build a better Windows box, not a linux box. Linux really works much better with multiple processors.

cpuid screen cap

Plenty of RAM helps too, so I got 1GB in one stick, with the prospect of another 1GB stick to get dual channel ram going.

Of course, given that I have to re-install windows when going from one dual processor 1Ghz pentium box to another of almost the same specification, going to a 64-bit single processor meant that it took me a while to get everything working again.

Total cost of upgrade: HK$1920. Not bad, considering I had to replace the motherboard, processor and RAM. Plus I have an upgrade path for the graphics card via PCI-Express and also for the processor, via the AM2 slot.

Bra Ad of the Week

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(With apologies to Avedon Carol.)

This bra ad by Wacoal (motto: "Making Mountains out of Molehills"), has been appearing in the MTR stations recently.

Wacoal Mermaid Bra

(Sorry about the reflections - forgot to bring my circular polariser.) It's not too unpleasant to look at — attractive ladies in their skivvies are normally quite pleasant on the eyes, after all.

However, one part of it has been bugging me:

Fancy Strapes

Fancy Strapes? Oh dear. Obviously a typo. On a huge advertising campaign in the MTR, where 2.4 million people per day realize that Wacoal can't spell.

But what if it isn't a spelling mistake; what if they really are offering 'fancy strapes'? What is (or are) strapes anyway?


A common sexually transmitted disease found among native mountain people of virginia.

"That dirty inbred Katy has got a nasty case of the strapes."

Hmm, not the nicest of things to get with a bra.

(Oh and if you're wondering why this post is dated before noon and didn't appear until midnight, the explanation is quite simple. I started the post, realized I had to go out and photograph the poster, then ended up in Sham Shui Po and bought a new motherboard. Honest, it all seemed logical at the time.)

Tomb Raider Legend

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I just got my paws on the latest Lara Croft adventure: Tomb Raider Legend. It looks gorgeous, but it's completely unplayable. Why? You can't invert the mouse Y-Axis! There's even an option to do it, but it doesn't work. Pathetic!

Samba Wierdness


Do you get the following annoying error when connecting to a Linux box with Samba Shares from a Mac running OSX 10.4 and above?

[root@gizmo ~]#tail -50f /var/log/samba/mac-mini.log

[2006/04/24 00:18:50, 0] rpc_parse/parse_prs.c:prs_mem_get(537)

prs_mem_get: reading data of size 2 would overrun buffer.

[2006/04/24 00:18:51, 0] rpc_server/srv_pipe.c:api_pipe_bind_req(919)

api_pipe_bind_req: unable to unmarshall RPC_HDR_RB struct.

Well, the problem is with the enumeration of Samba groups with version 3.0.14 of Samba, which is what you get with Fedora Core 4. Windows boxes handle it ok, probably because they have to be able to handle really old versions of Samba on their network, but Macs hang. (Or at least the mount -t smbfs process hangs.)

So, what's the cure? Well, it's a little complicated. You'll need the following:

  • A web browser (or wget or similar);
  • root access to the linux box;
  • At least one glass of wine/beer or other beverage of your choice;
  • Cardboard cutouts or action figures of Steve Jobs and the Red Hat Developers (Why isn't there an action figure of Steve Jobs? With the inbuilt Reality Distortion Field and the +2 Charisma roll when he's presenting cool new technology?)
  • A baseball bat; Cricket bats are an acceptable subsitute for those regimes where baseball is not played. Other alternatives, such as hurleys or edged weapons are also suitable. Note that Japanese are allowed to use both edged weapons *and* baseball bats in a sen no sen stance.)
  • A glass of wine/beer or other beverage of your choice. (Well, you'll probably need more than one.)

Here's what you need to do:

  1. On the linux box, point your browser at http://us3.samba.org/samba/ftp/Binary_Packages/Fedora/RPMS/i386/core/4/.
  2. Download all the files there
  3. Drink your beverage while waiting for the files to download.
  4. Idly thwack your cardboard cutouts/actions figures with your weapon of choice as if to say, "one of you guys has got it coming later"
  5. Upgrade your samba packages: rpm -Uvh samba-*
  6. Have another sip of your beverage while this is happening.
  7. Taunt cutouts/figures a second time.
  8. restart samba: /etc/init.d/samba restart
  9. Switch to your Mac (you may need to wear a stylish beret/shades/ponytail when using the Mac) and browse samba shares on your linux box.
  10. Viola! (err, that's a big fiddle, sorry) Voila! your shares are now visible on the Mac!
  11. Firmly thwack both the Jobs *and* redhat cutouts/figures for not solving this simple problem with simple updates.
  12. Raise your remaining beverage in a toast to the samba guys for actually fixing the problem in the first place.

webmail clients


I've been considering changing from Squirrellmail for some time now, and Roundcube looks really good: Roundcube Webmail System.



Happy Earth Day!

An Inconvenient Truth


Eloquently weaves the science of global warming with Al Gore’s personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change. A longtime advocate for the environment, Gore presents a wide array of facts and information in a thoughtful and compelling way. The film is not a story of despair but rather a rallying cry.

Source: An Inconvenient Truth

IRAN: Wow! I’m not saying you deserved that…

U.S.: Shut up.

IRAN: But you kinda deserved that.

U.S.: Shut up!

A History of US/Iranian Relations Since 9/11

Definitely read the whole thing. Via Making Light.

Getting Organised


I notice that mpk has a posting on getting Reorganized, relating his experiences with Palms and Treos and various methods of organising yourself.

I've gone through so many PDAs over the years - the Psions, my Palm V, and sundry later Palms and Clies leading finally to my Treo 650 - always thinking that maybe this latest gadget would be the one to iron out the bugs and actually become the life-organisation tool that their proponents claimed it would be. But it's never happened - every one's just ended up being a fun and expensive toy.

Source: Uffish.net: Reorganized

I'm in a similar situation. I've had a Palm III, a Palm m515, and now a Palm TX, and they've all been great tools for keeping track of things, playing the odd game and looking busy in meetings when you're really playing solitaire (or recently, surfing the internet). But as a tool for Getting Things Done, they do have a few shortcomings.

One problem with the Palms (and WinCE too) is that the To Do list isn't infitely configurable. You can't set it up to reflect your exact priorities and requirements. The normal Palm ToDo allows a due date, a category, and the task itself. What I want is:

  • What is the overall task?
  • What is the specific action to be done?
  • What resources do I need or what other tasks does this depend on?
  • Where do I need to be to complete this task?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • When does it have to be done by?

Which is about five categories over what you're allowed to do.

But the fundamental problem with Palm-style devices is input. Sure, they have handwriting recognition (where you learn the handwriting the Palm can understand), and they have little keyboards (either real or virtual), where you can hunt and peck like someone who first saw a keyboard thirty minutes ago. But one thing they don't have is a system where one hand can input text as fast as you can type.

(Actually, they do. It's called MicroWriting, and it was developed in the 1980's in England. Devices called Microwriters enabled one handed text entry and they were wildly popular when a typical desktop computer had 64K of RAM. There's a modern version which works with Palms (see the link above), but they're a little too expensive for me, at about EUR 90.) I've love to see a commonly available chording keyboard.)

But practically, input on Palm-style devices depends on having a decent sized keyboard on the PC you sync to, or some IR/Bluetooth type of keyboard, which are pretty universally crap. (Trust me, I've had a few; they fold in the middle, they're not stiff, they flex and wobble and you can't touch-type because they're even worse than lap-top keyboards with all the punctuation keys in the wrong places. There was a stunning device available a few years ago: it projected a keyboard on a flat surface and used infrared to detect your key presses. Trouble was, it required a flat surface about the size of a normal keyboard. I'm sure it was hell on batteries too.)

You may not always be syncing to a PC and, if you're on the road most of the time, you want to be able to enter decent amounts of text on your PDA.

So what's my solution? Well, currently, I'm carrying two notebooks plus a palm plus a phone. Two notebooks, because I'd already made notes in a larger notebook before getting the smaller one. But basically, it's one notebook (which fits in a shirt pocket) as a todo list, and another notebook (which fits in a cargo trouser pocket or suit jacket pocket), for more detailed notes and sketches. (Note: notebook here refers to rectangles of paper bound up between slightly harder covers. Not 5kg of portable computer.)

Really, if I want to doodle out an idea, I want to use standard A4 size paper, not A5 or A6, which are barely big enough to see, let alone use as a serious sketchbook.

(Use of Letter size or other non-standard sizes is a short cut to American Exceptionalism which leads to electing idiots like George W. Bush and starting nuclear wars because you're too stupid to see if your president is a moron or not.)

Yum Cha


I had to travel to darkest Kowloon for Yum Cha on Sunday and it really crystalised just why I dislike the whole experience of Sunday Yum Cha so much.

It's not the food, which I quite like. A good feed of fried and steamed dumplings and shellfish is quite good food. I'm not a fan of chicken's feet or the bony tthings on offer, but it's yum cha, so you can pick and choose what you want.

It's not the company - We were there with the in-laws, neither of whom speak English. Thery're usually occupied with feeding and playing with their grandkids at these things anyway, so I normally bring a book, or my Palm. (A surprising number of Chinese restaurants have free wireless internet.)

It's the fact that you are surrounded by people who are determined to eat while shouting as loudly as possible and smoking as much as possible. It's difficult to enjoy your lunch when the table next to you seems to be composed of chain smokers with Tourette's FECKING Syndrome.

W. stands for War.


Seymour Hersh's article about the Bush plan to start a nuclear war with Iran:

There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be ”wiped off the map.„ Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. ”That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’ „

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that ”a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.„ He added, ”I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ „

The New Yorker: THE IRAN PLANS by Seymour Hersh.

Buggle Lau


I just saw an interview with one Buggle Lau from Midland Realty on TVB news. I do believe that may be the silliest name I've ever come across. It makes all the Pianos and Apples seem quite ordinary.

Google: "Buggle Lau".

W. Stands for Wacko


One of the things that happens with a person like Bush, is that he becomes a compulsive and congenital liar. And lying is a complicated thing also, in that, as a liar like he is, he believes what he says is true. He lies ultimately to himself. So, when he said the other day that he never made a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, and that he never made a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, and that he doesn't know where people get these ideas, it makes me think he believes it when he says that, and that's what's very disturbing. It's as disturbing as if he were just a basic liar.

Source: George Bush Is a Very Destructive Man; He Needs To Be Removed From Office

Link spotted on DailyKos.

Dell Sucks even more


Further evidence of how Dells are built down to a price: I noticed that the drives on the IDE1 interface werre running slower than those on IDE0:

Apr 14 15:58:44 gizmo kernel: hda: 78165360 sectors (40020 MB) w/2048KiB Cache, CHS=65535/16/63, UDMA(66)

Apr 14 15:58:44 gizmo kernel: hdb: 488397168 sectors (250059 MB) w/8192KiB Cache, CHS=30401/255/63, UDMA(66)

Apr 14 15:58:44 gizmo kernel: hdc: 586072368 sectors (300069 MB) w/8192KiB Cache, CHS=36481/255/63, UDMA(33)

Apr 14 15:58:44 gizmo kernel: hdd: 312581808 sectors (160041 MB) w/2048KiB Cache, CHS=19457/255/63, UDMA(33)

Notice the number after UDMA in the last two lines. Hmmm, thinks I, what if Dell have opted to save a few cents by having a 40-pin cable instead of an 80-pin cable. The 80-pin cable is required for ATA 66 and above, but if you're only ever going to have CD drives on IDE1 because you've rigged the drive bays to be non-standard, maybe you can save a few cents by going for the cheaper cable.

So, I shutdown the case, open it up and have a quick look at the cables. What do I see? Indeed, Dell have specced even the cables down to a price!

Open up the Toolbox Of Tricks And Useful Bits and put in an 80-pin cable. Startup.

Apr 14 23:00:50 gizmo kernel: hda: 78165360 sectors (40020 MB) w/2048KiB Cache, CHS=65535/16/63, UDMA(66)

Apr 14 23:00:50 gizmo kernel: hdb: 488397168 sectors (250059 MB) w/8192KiB Cache, CHS=30401/255/63, UDMA(66)

Apr 14 23:00:50 gizmo kernel: hdc: 586072368 sectors (300069 MB) w/8192KiB Cache, CHS=36481/255/63, UDMA(66)

Apr 14 23:00:50 gizmo kernel: hdd: 312581808 sectors (160041 MB) w/2048KiB Cache, CHS=19457/255/63, UDMA(66)

All well and good. Well, not quite. Before the brain transplant it was:

Apr 9 16:41:38 gizmo kernel: hda: 78165360 sectors (40020 MB) w/2048KiB Cache, CHS=65535/16/63, UDMA(100)

Apr 9 16:41:38 gizmo kernel: hdb: 488397168 sectors (250059 MB) w/8192KiB Cache, CHS=30401/255/63, UDMA(100)

Apr 9 16:41:38 gizmo kernel: hdc: 586072368 sectors (300069 MB) w/8192KiB Cache, CHS=36481/255/63, UDMA(100)

Apr 9 16:41:38 gizmo kernel: hdd: 312581808 sectors (160041 MB) w/2048KiB Cache, CHS=19457/255/63, UDMA(100)

Notice that UDMA(100). Hmmm, the Dell's IDE channels are 33% slower than the piece of crap VIA motherboard I resurrected with a soldering iron! (And it's spent the last 2.5 years as the webserver and mailserver you've used whenever you've seen this site or sent me email. It's also been my primary workstation for all that time. I think that was a successful repair.)

Hmm, time to rummage in the parts bin for an IDE/133 card. Not got one. Bugger. Will have to shoot off down to Wanchai to pick one up just before Crazy Hour in Carnegies...


Arr! Wahey Mateys! What?! It's not talk like a pirate day yet? Bugger.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah I need to do complicated sysadmin stuff after a few pints. No worries. About the only real danger is static electricity and I'm all in natural fibres and on wooden floors. I'll just earth myself to the parrot ZOT! SQUAWK! and we're ok.


Damn parroty errors.

shutdown -h now

Well, another lesson in Dell thrift — the IDE cables are precisely measured to only go from the disks to the IDE connectors on the motherboard. You need to get new cables to connect them to a PCI board. Now *that* idea must have cost more to arrive at than it saved in production.

But it was all to naught, as the Dell refuses to boot from a non motherboard-connected disk, thanks to the cut down BIOS with no real options to choose from. Never buy a Dell. They're just complete crap.

So, at the end of it all, this is what I have:

[root@gizmo ~]# hdparm -tT /dev/hda /dev/hdb /dev/hdc /dev/hdd


Timing cached reads: 524 MB in 2.00 seconds = 261.75 MB/sec

Timing buffered disk reads: 66 MB in 3.04 seconds = 21.73 MB/sec


Timing cached reads: 332 MB in 2.00 seconds = 165.84 MB/sec

Timing buffered disk reads: 114 MB in 3.02 seconds = 37.80 MB/sec


Timing cached reads: 660 MB in 2.01 seconds = 329.10 MB/sec

Timing buffered disk reads: 124 MB in 3.02 seconds = 41.02 MB/sec


Timing cached reads: 660 MB in 2.01 seconds = 328.93 MB/sec

Timing buffered disk reads: 122 MB in 3.01 seconds = 40.55 MB/sec

For non-linux geeks, that means everything is chugging away at ATA-66 apart from hda, which is older and slower anyway.

Comment Spam


I'm getting rather a lot of comment spam today, so I've tightened up the restrictions on commenting.

How much comment spam? Check the graph:

daily comment spam on diaspoir.net

Note: this graph is live and updated every 10 minutes. It normally lives here: diaspoir.net comment spam.

UPDATE: the graph above is not live anymore, but the ones on the linked page are.

Excellent commentary from Juan Cole:

Despite all the sloppy and inaccurate headlines about Iran "going nuclear," the fact is that all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they "cascade."


What is really going on here is a ratcheting war of rhetoric. The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran.

Source: Juan Cole: Iran Can Now Make glowing Mickey Mouse Watches

(Via Making Light.)

Mutual Assured Dementia


Billmon: Mutual Assured Dementia:

In other words, the current hegemony of American influence and ideas (backed by overwhelming military force) would be replaced by an overt dictatorship based - more or less explicitly - on fear of nuclear annihilation. U.S. foreign policy would become nothing more than a variation on the ancient Roman warning: For every one of our dead; 100 of yours. Never again would American rulers (or their foreign counterparts) be able to hide behind the comfortable fiction that the United States is just primus inter pares - first among equals. A country that nukes other countries merely on the suspicion that they may pose a future security threat isn't the equal of anybody. America would stand completely alone: hated by many, feared by all, admired only by the world’s other tyrants. To call that a watershed event seems a ridiculous understatement.

Source: Billmon: Mutual Assured Dementia

Aftermath of the Brain Transplant II


So, after swapping the hardware underlying the Linux and Windows boxes, the Linux box booted up straight away, spent 15 minutes fscking its disks and went back to work as the web and mail server. This linux box has gone from being a PII 350 Mhz, to a PIII 1Ghz, to a 1.5Ghz Celeron to a dual 1Ghz PIII and now to a Slot1 Dual 1Ghz PIII. All with basically no problems apart from re-compiling the kernel with the appropriate device drivers.

The Windows box needs a reinstall when moving between two motherboards with almost exactly the same specification. Crap.

Brain Transplant Part II


Right, I've hopefully sorted out the problems with my Dell Precision 220's stupid 5.25" mounting rails, and I'm going to move my Linux box into that as part of my plan for world domination.

So far, the plan is:

  • Move linux box to Dell
  • ???
  • Profit!!11!!1!shift+one!!!!1

OK, so the plan needs a little work...

Anyway, not that you'll be able to read this, but the webserver will be in pieces on the office floor for a bit, so clearly out of action.

UPDATE: Well, that wasn't any worse than pulling teeth, really. It went better than the last time I tried it, but hey ho. You can see the results here: diaspoir.net: phpsysinfo, not that there's much difference. The processors are slightly slower (993 vs 1000 Mhz), but the RAM is faster (266 vs 133 Mhz) and the disk interface is faster too (133 vs 100 Mhz). (I think, I'm not sure about the last - the OS reports only udma4 on ide0 and udma2 on ide1.)

UPDATE: My imaginary reader is asking how I solved the problem of the non-standard 5.25" mounting bay. Simple, in hindsight. I was out and about in the computer arcades here in Hong Kong and I saw some removable IDE disk kits, featuring a 5.25" mount and disk caddy. After some investigation of the pattern of screw holes on the bottom of the mounts, and the subsequent attempts to explain that in Cantonese, I eventually found a brand that would work with minimal drilling of mounting holes.

Hopefully the single fan in the system (another reason Dell sucks - only one fan point on the entire board!) can maintain the system's cool. You can monitor that at diaspoir.net: system temperatures, although it'll probably take a while for the system temps to show up properly.

In-Flight Movie Reviews: Narnia


First impressions are that someone saw how WETA made all the equipment and a lot of the special effects for the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and thought that they could do a good job on Narnia. And they do, but only sort of.

The real problem is that all of the scenes which really showcase the special effects look exactly like scenes from the Return of The King. The final battle looks like a replay of the Battle of Pelennor Fields with some different skins on the Orcs and the Gondorians/Rohirrim. Tracking with the line of charge: check. Vertiginious diving shots with the flying beasties: check. Half the bloody Weta crew dressed up as goblins making swords: check. Glorious New Zealand countryside as mythological land: check.

The sense of the movie being a historical re-enactment which was very strong in Lord of The Rings fails here and I think it's to do with the shorter shoot. In the Lord of the Rings movies, the principal actors were shooting every day for almost two years. There's a tremendous bond there, which I think is obvious.

Also, most of the weapons used were what's called the 'Hero Swords', i.e., real swords made by Weta. There's a visible difference in the body language of someone wielding a real longsword and a lightweight replica and it shows on screen. Almost every time you see Viggo Mortensen wielding a sword it's a real one, and you can see the effort it takes to swing it and hold it. Swords are basically a heavy lump of metal and wielding one requires strength and exertion. Compare that with "Peter's" lightly holding a hand-and-a-half-sword high with one hand with no apparent effort. It just doesn't seem like a real sword.

Now I could have a go at the ludicruously heavy handed Christian imagery, but that's just shooting fish in a barrel where a CS Lewis book is concerned. It's a fundamental part of the source material. If you think The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is heavy handed, go read The Last Battle, or one of his "Out of the Silent Planet" books. They're so heavy handed that, even if you're sympathetic to his message, you'll find it a bit too much.

Final Verdict: Watchable, but feels very derivative.

I haven't seen the movie in the Cinema, so I don't know if it's because the StudioCX version is very heavily edited, but there were a lot of large jumps at the start of this movie and and one whole plot-line (dobby) was removed. I didn't really like the version I saw at all.

I guess the editing was inevitable, given the constraints in getting a 700 page book onto the screen in, but it doesn't bode well for the remaining books (assuming that book 7 is similar in length to the others).

The whole Quidditch World Cup scene was cut so tight as to be barely recognisable and I would have loved to have seen more time on that. Also, most of the school work seems to have been cut out, as was the whole Leprechaun Gold issue. (It adds a lot of depth to Ron's character.)

The Ministry of Magic guards as Italian Carabinieri, and the minister of Magic as Oswald Mosely was a bit odd - it doesn't really jibe with the books as I read them. I suppose it helps to set up the next book (or 2), but it made me very unsympathetic to the Ministry and their cause.

Alan Rickman was superbly over the top, as usual. Dumbledore's Irish accent was especially grating: just get Ian KcKellen to play him, you know he's the right choice. Stuffing Malfoy as a ferret down Goyle's trousers was a classic moment though: English comedy at its finest.

On the whole: Meh.

Stunning news: Apple unveils software to permit Windows use!

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL - news), the maker of the Macintosh computer and iPod music player, on Wednesday rolled out a first-ever software patch to run Microsoft's dominant Windows operating system on its PCs, a move that could draw millions of new buyers


Apple, with about 3 percent of the worldwide PC market, said the "Boot Camp" software, available immediately as a download, enables Macs to run either Windows XP or the Mac OS X operating software.

Source: Reuters: Apple unveils software to permit Windows use

Boot Camp is available here: Boot Camp Public Beta.

All of a sudden, that MacBook Pro looks even more desireable, and the prospect of running all three major platforms (Mac OSX, Linux and Windows) on one laptop makes me want to flap my little flippers with glee!

UPDATE: Chris is sceptical, but I tend to agree with this:

The distinction between these two equations may strike you as subtle, but the difference is potentially momentous. The point is that it recasts Macs from being "different" to being "special". Instead of occupying a separate universe from that of PC hardware, it"s now a superset of PC hardware. Instead of choosing between a Windows PC or a Mac — which decision, as I wrote recently, for most people is more accurately stated as "choosing between a familiar Windows PC or an unfamiliar Mac" — you now get to choose between a computer that can only run Windows or a computer that can run both Windows and Mac OS X.

I.e. anything a regular PC can do a Mac can do, plus a Mac can do something regular PCs can"t: run Mac OS X properly and legitimately.

Source: Daring Fireball: Windows, The New Classic.

UPDATE: Finally. the simplest statement of why this is so cool:

...now there is simply a computing option that runs every major OS.

Source: Penny Arcade.

And that's it. Suddenly, the Mac is the machine of the master of all OSen. Someone who is equally at home in OSX, Linux, Windows now has one machine which runs everything. (I'm sure it'll have Solaris and *BSD on it in pretty short order too.) The multi-OS geek now only needs to travel with one elegant piece of machinery.

I'm just waiting for the new iBooks now. With the Mac Mini spec in a laptop configuration, that will be a very capable WinXP laptop too.

Live from the Qantas Club


Well, I finally did get my Marco Polo Membership sorted out, and I'm enjoying the Qantas Lounge in Brisbane. Not a hive of sybaritic luxury, but it's nice to have some decent coffee and a chance to check email and stuff before being out of contact for eight or nine hours.

Rampant Corporatism in New Orleans


Seen on Yahoo! News:

NEW ORLEANS - A showdown may be looming over a free wireless Internet network that New Orleans set up to boost recovery after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the city.


The system uses hardware mounted on street lights. Its "mesh" technology passes the wireless signal from pole to pole rather than through Wi-Fi transmitters plugged directly into a physical network cable. That way, laptop users can connect even in areas where the wireline phone network has not been restored.

That's a really clever way of doing it. Simple, practical and cheap.

Hundreds of similar projects in other cities have met with stiff opposition from phone and cable TV companies, which have poured money into legislative bills aimed at blocking competition from government agencies.


Bills to allow New Orleans to keep the network operating full-time at 512 kbps failed during a recent special legislative session. Several similar bills are pending in the current regular session, but Meffert says city lobbyists give them little hope of passage because of opposition from the telecommunications lobby.

"We've been told in no uncertain terms those bills are going to get shot down," Meffert said.

So something which is helping to rebuild the city is being threatened so that large corporations can make more profits.

David Grabert, a spokesman for Cox Communications Inc., a major telecommunications provider in New Orleans, said the company backs the state's Fair Competition Act, which would end the city's legal authority to continue operating the system at full speed after the state of emergency ends.

"We believe the Fair Competition Act was established to provide safeguards for private industry," Grabert said. "Efforts to repeal it do raise concerns."

BellSouth Corp. says it does not comment on pending legislation, but its regional director for southern Louisiana, Merlin Villar, denies the company's trying to shut down the city's system.

"The law does not prevent New Orleans or any other local government from providing Wi-Fi service," Villar said in a statement.

Source: Big Easy May Face Showdown Over Internet

Right, so it's all about fair competition, not about profiteering, huh? If it were really about competition, the Telcos would just provide a faster Wifi service and win customers from the city's slower service that way.

W. Stands For Worst President Ever


Some letters to the Editor in Stars And Stripes, a US military newspaper:

Bush’s sorry legacy

Three years after ”shock and awe,„ now it’s called ”the Long War,„ just as the CATO Institute in 2003 said it would be.

Last month, President Bush casually informed Americans that troops would remain there past his second term, which ends on Jan. 20, 2009, and not a moment too soon. What a disaster Bush will leave Americans when calculating the costs of his generational commitment to ”democratize„ the Middle East. Columbia and Harvard economics professors estimate the U.S. invasion/occupation of Iraq through 2010 will cost taxpayers $1 trillion, minimum.

In ”The True Costs of the Iraq War,„ Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University professor of economics) states, ”One cannot help but wonder: Were there alternative ways of spending a fraction of the war’s $1-$2 trillion in costs that would have better strengthened security, boosted prosperity, and promoted democracy?„

And spared lives? Clearly, but at a loss of billions in contracts to Halliburton/KBR, Bechtel and the Carlyle Group, of which George H.W. Bush is senior adviser. If it weren’t for war, the Bush family empire would be bankrupt. Self-enrichment is why Bush and (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair were determined to launch an invasion against Iraq. That’s why Iran is next.

Bush has said that he wouldn’t be in Iraq if not for a good reason. Bush isn’t in Iraq, and neither are members of his family. Some soldiers are on their third deployment and wish to be liberated from stop loss. Bush likely won’t initiate a ”front-door„ draft before the elections, which means more troop deployments until help — a new Congress and commander in chief — arrives.

Bush’s policy of touting peace and democracy while dropping bombs on oil-producing countries and promoting crony capitalism in an America deteriorating into a feudal backwater will be Bush’s legacy as the worst president in U.S. history.

Michele Winter

Würzburg, Germany

Source: Letters to the Editor for Monday, April 3, 2006

Well said that woman!

And another on the subject of how it's "unpatriotic to criticise the God-King, President":


I also remember talking with my division chief in late 2000 who stated to me and others that he was afraid of only one thing in that election: that George W. Bush would win the popular vote but not the Electoral College. He said if that happened, he expected the military to ”step in„ and set things right. He reacted with indignation when I informed him that such talk was treason and he questioned my loyalties. Not surprisingly, he did not advocate armed insurrection when what he feared did happen, only not to the guy he was supporting.

If criticizing the administration is wrong now, how many were guilty of doing it during Clinton’s administration?

Michael Williams



Source: Letters to the Editor for Monday, April 3, 2006

(Found via DailyKos.)

(Stars and Stripes is a daily newspaper published for the U.S. military, DoD civilians, contractors, and their families. Unique among the many military publications, Stars and Stripes operates as a First Amendment newspaper, free of control and censorship.)

It's time to make some music...


Palm Desktop For Mac


At last it's here, the Palm Desktop for Mac with support for the TX. Hopefully that includes Hotsync over Bluetooth. And hopefully it's better than the Windows desktop software, which has always been a bit kludgy for my taste.

"We Are not OK"


I read in the newspaper delivered to my hotel room on Saturday, that "New Orleans is Doing Fine!". I'll try and track down a link, but the paper was The Australian, a Murdoch rag. The gist of the article was that New Orleans was now up and back in business after Katrina.

When I got into the office, I noticed that Making Light was linking to "We Are Not OK" by author Poppy Z. Brite:

1. Most of the city is still officially uninhabitable. We and most other current New Orleanians live in what is sometimes known as The Sliver By The River, a section between the Mississippi River and St. Charles Avenue that didn't flood, as well as in the French Quarter and part of the Faubourg Marigny. In the "uninhabitable sections," there are hundreds of people living clandestinely in their homes with no lights, power, or (in many cases) drinkable water. They cannot afford generators or the gasoline it takes to run them, or if they have generators, they can only run them for part of the day. They cook on camp stoves and light their homes with candles or oil lamps at night.


9. Cadaver dogs and youth volunteers gutting houses are still finding bodies in the Lower Ninth Ward...


It's quite powerful stuff, and well worth reading if you want to know what the place is like after Katrina.

So which to believe? The right-wing rag or the author who lives in New Orelans? I guess you know the answer to that one already.

Effects of Global Warming


Here's a great use of Google Maps to show the effects of global warming and the rise in the sea levels.

Hong Kong with 14m rise. (click on 'Flood SAT', there's no maps for HK.)

What's surprising to me is how little Hong Kong island is affected. Victoria Park, Tamar and a lot of the reclaimed land to the north of the island is gone, but Central, Wanchai, Causeway and North Point are pretty unscathed. Kowloon, though is inundated.

I've nearly always lived on higher ground in Hong Kong, and I'm certainly going to keep it that way!

(Via the ever-wonderful Making Light.)

Transparent Screens


A German team reckons they can have a prototype transparent screen in two years:

Their approach is to use transparent TFTs (thin-film transistors) made of a 100-nanometer-thick layer of zinc-tin-oxide, which transmits more than 90 percent of visible light. Such transistors are more often made of silicon, which is used for LCDs (liquid crystal displays) but is highly absorptive in the visible part of the spectrum.

Source: German Researchers Say 'Minority Report' Transparent Screens Possible

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