Monday, December 19, 2005

Welcome to (ahem) my little place

Yes, that's right, if you're ever passing Cambridge, do drop into the Judge Business School. Just mention my name and you're sure to get a warm welcome....

On a visit to Cambridge last week, I got to fulfill a long-held ambition. Not to found a Business School, but to visit one that happens to have my name. And get my photo taken in the very fanciful foyer.

The Judge school is a fantastic looking building, and it's worth checking the much better pictures at John Outram architects. It's immediately opposite my old College, Peterhouse (also named after me - in the year 1284) in what used to be the Old Addenbrookes Hospital. This was a strangely useless neighbour as a student: a friend got a rusty railing through his foot, while trying to climb into college, and the Casualty department was in the New Addenbrookes, outside town. .

Monday, December 12, 2005

Yes, but see the lights....

But it really is nearly Christmas. We went with my mum to see some lovely Christmas Lights, in Newstead Road in Hither Green. It's someone's front garden, and they've gone right over the top, including turning their front room into Santa's Grotto. Well worth a look if you're passing round London's wonderful South Circular road. And they're collecting for charity.

And PS: Got the Christmas CD from the Jazz Protagonists, and it's getting a lot of play here. Is it good jazz,? I don't know. but Kitty loves it, and it's changing my feelings about Baptists from Texas...

How Tony Blair made the Tories electable

I just had a spam, signed by Jo Brand, fishing for donations to the Labour Party. The pitch is that with David Cameron's new-found popularity, the Tories are a threat, so we'd better all pull together.

If it's true, then who's responsible? Tony Blair "made Labour electable" in the 1990s (or was that a combination of John Smith and the fact that there weren't any Tories left?). Looks like he's now done the same trick for the Tories.

The Tories are now more evil and uncaring and generally hopeless than at any time since Thatcher, and yet they are ahead in the polls. There's only reason I can think of for this incredible fact, and it's Tony Blair. He lied, to take us to a stupid war that's done no good. NOBODY TRUST TONY BLAIR.

I've sent an email back of course. But thought I'd put it here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Don't get me this for Christmas!

It's from Victorinox. It's a Swiss Army knife. It has a USB memory.

Now that has been done before. But this time they've outdone themselves with the gift that would say you are a total twat.

It's 18 karat gold. It can be engraved with your monogram. It starts at 1Gbyte. It costs from 980 euros. And it doesn't even have a knife blade, because you can't take knives on planes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My rusty steed

My bike is nice. It cost £35 second hand when I had my previous one stolen two years ago. I've added mudguards, dynamos, but it's the same old ten-speed, Reynolds 531 frame, blue painted, with a dent here and there.

But it's not getting the love it deserves. Since I went on the BMX track with my nephew, it's got a wobble (yes - I managed to leave the ground!). The chain is showing rust. The back mudguard needs another mend with duct tape - a fourth one - where a stay came loose. And today the back gear cable broke, so it's actually a tw-speed.

All right. It deserves care and attention. It's out there in the dark at the moment. But tomorrow, without fail, I will oil the chain. At the very least.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

O Come O Come and Search

My sheer innocent delight in the Internet has been restored.

The group test of Linux desktop products I did for ZDNet was quoted in Slashdot. ZDNet was pleased and got lots of traffic, but I saw the review ripped apart and myself described as a "trained Windows monkey" (wrong about the training, guys!). So, I'm feeling a little bruised.

But last Friday, Alison said "I'm leading a quiet day for St Matthews, and I need O Come O come Emmanuel. Will they have it in the rocord shop?" Record shop? I'm on the Internet right away.

A Google Search finds a ton of links and I start sifting. There's
Within an hour, I've burned a CD for Ali, and ordered a copy of the Jazz Protagonists' album We Three Kings, because the clips sound so nice, and I like their site.

And within a week, I get a friendly email from the Protagonists' pianist Barry Brake, offering me a three-for-two offer on the CD, and sharing memories of Brixton (I declare, everyone has been to Brixton!).

See what I mean? The Internet is just as good as it ever was!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

It's panto time again (oh no it isn't)!

This year's South London Theatre Pantomime looks like being a good one. Sleeping Beauty will feature me in the chorus and Kitty as one of the fairies.

It's on 3-14 January, but we've been rehearsing for weeks now. Mostly in West Norwood's gay bar Ego. Apparently this is "South London's premier gay and lesbian night spot". It's not as exciting or sleazy as the site suggests, although I've never been there later than 10pm.

I cna tell you what happens in the back room though. In the early evening, it's full of a bunch of poeple shouting "Hiya Kids!" and "He's behind you".

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Two children's books I liked

"It was a dark blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea." That has to be one of the more "perfect" opening lines of any book (The Towers of Trebizond, hah!).

It's the start of Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, a story of mechanised cities fighting each other for the scarce resources of Earth, and coming up against the immovable heresy of the Anti-Traction League, while airships duel overhead and the ancient evil technology is revived.

It's exactly the kind of book I'd have loved aged 11 to 13, with action all the way, cliff-hangers, mysterious characters, and all the rest of it. None of the girls have picked up on it, even though I've left it lying on the stairs, but I have hopes. It's got sequels, too...

Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, on the other hand, is going down a storm with Kitty. It's a perfect children's book - a sort of fairy story about story-telling. Haroun goes through all sorts of troubles on Earth's other moon, that is the source of the world's stories.

Can he restore the abilities of his father Rashid, the greatest story teller in the world? Can he save all the stories of the world from poisoning by the cultmaster, Kattam-Shud whose aim is to write finito at the end of them?

It's beautifully written - and really exciting, says Kitty. There's lots of characters that simply demand to be read out loud in funny voices, and morals that aren't laid on too thick or spelt out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

updating old sites

I've just been updating my old static site, Peter Judge. Still useful to have it there, but it's obviously a really obsolete way to do things.

Every time I update it, I'm using a different FTP client, I'm re-remembering what my storage limits are. And the rest of the time, it's really out of date.

Any "real" web person would be able to integrate a blog with the important static content, and keep the blog updated. And wouldn't be using FrontPage, either...

And don't get me started on my church's site, which I supposedly have responsibility for...

Monday, November 21, 2005

That Goblet...

Well, of course we went to the Harry Potter film at the weekend. And we liked it.

We had another family with us, who brought a friend who -- gasp -- was getting her first encounter with Harry Potter. Hard to credit, but there are people out there who actually haven't read any of the books or seen any of the films. Incredible. Yet somehow they live...

"Don't worry with the synopsis," she said, as people tried to sum up the first three films to her. Some of us felt she absolutely needed to know about Voldemort. "OK - Voldemort. Is he played by Robbie Coltrane?"

The two eight year olds were up the far end of the row, with an adult I hope, and we started sliding off the Ritzy chairs. They thought it was the best film ever. I dozed off for a minute about 15 minutes in, and stayed with it after that.

Not as good as the third one, I thought. Less chance for the children to show any personality, except in a closed-off little story line about the Yule Ball. The whole scene in the graveyard was good and -- after all the "Who dies?" fuss when the book came out -- the death at the end was very well handled. Mad-Eye Moody was great

They did well to chop out all the stuff they did. As we walked home, Nan got round to missing House Elves and Rita Skeeter's come-uppance, and all the other bits and bobs. Did you know there's a character called Ludo Bagman in the book? Anyone else remember him and want him in the flm?

Maybe the last book should be chopped down and adapted to a film first, then handed to someone else to novelise, before it gets published as a book.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Five Linuxes in a week

I've been busy over at ZDNet reviewing Linux distributions. So far the Red Hat and SUSE ones are online. Mandriva, Novell Linux Desktop and Ubuntu still to come.

I think I was chosen for my lack of Linux experience. The reviews are intended to be from the point of view of a business looking at putting in desktops for non-technical workers, so I was given the task of installing, setting up, and connecting to a minimal set of business tools - files, printers, IM, ands Exchange email, calendar and contacts.

I found a bunch of very solid products but - because of the constraints of the review series - I've wound up with a limited view. My favourite Linux is still running on my spare machine at home and I like it. But while I've linked it to all the things I was told to connect to, I still haven't got a USB drive working on it...

Friday, November 04, 2005

A new kind of radio?

So I'm in Florida to see xMax, a new kind of radio technology from a company called xG. The details are all on Techworld, and you can also see stuff at xG's site.

The demo we saw appeared to send data from a 50mW base station, using an omnidirectional antenna, to a receiver 18 miles away. Now that is impressive - consider how small a signal that is, when you reach that radius!

Now, such demos are often prey to claims that they might have been faked. This one has been checked over by Princeton professor of electrical engineering Stuart Schwartz, but the journalists on the trip still did our best to check things out.

Here is radio wizard Rupert Goodwins of ZDNet checking the antenna connections to the black box and the oscilloscope, while the inventor, Joe Bobier, talked to the rest of us.

But when it came to the base station, we had to take their word for it. Was it really a 50mW signal? Was the antenna really omnidirection (a crucial point, since a directional antenna would have given a far better power level at the receiving station.

I'm afraid we had to take the word of Bobier and Schwartz, because the transmitting station is at the top of an 850 foot tower, in the middle of the hurricane-battered Everglades.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jogging In Florida

I'm at the Westin in Fort Lauderdale. It has a jogging track. Perhaps more of a challenge than some jogging tracks...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A temptation (not) resisted

I'm at the Wi-Fi business development summit in Milan. I'm in a theatre in a conference centre owned by IBM. And I'm on Wi-Fi of course.

I notice that my phone has no signal. Not a poor signal, but a completee absence of GSM. the explanation is pretty obvious - the walls are metal. This is deliberate. No one at the conference so far has had to say "please turn off your mobile phones", because IBM made the whole theatre into a Faraday cage.

So the temptation is clear: I really should turn the sound up on the laptop, and get someone to phone me on Skype. I won't of course, but it would be worth it, to see the IBM staff's double take, and to have the first phone to ring in the centre.

On the other hand, I could ring someone else's Skype. How about Nico MacDonald who is sitting at the back? Of course, he too has his volume down. Ah well, back to the conference session.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sex and violence

Just a quick thought. Sex and violence are the two things on TV to which children's access is limited. But as a parent, I react to them in opposite ways.

With sex, I am happier if it's realistic - ie non-pornographic, and portrayed with its consequences and attendant emotions. With violence, the more realistic it gets, the more unhappy I am.

I'm thinking that because we're all hooked on Firefly, the cult-TV-series (thanks to Eamonn Sullivan, who lent us the DVDs).

It's a 15, but then so is Joss Whedon's previous opus, Buffy, and that went out at tea-time on UK TV. There's been implied sex right from the start, with a major character being a "Companion" or high-class call-girl, but it's only in Episode ten when there is torture, that I start to think, is this all right for everyone? Actually, if there's torture, I'd rather it was unrealistic, like the machine in the Princess Bride, than seeing someone's ear cut off....

On the whole, I'm happy to trust Whedon's moral universe and press on. It's great character-driven storytelling. The girls are all hooked, and sing the theme tune all the time....

But violence. Why do we watch it? Is it different because I can't actually imagine real pain and am genuinely scared of it?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Do phones do too much?

When I mentioned I'd been to a smartphone show, it sparked that old conversation about how "phones do too much".

Well, I said. I was synchronising my calendar this morning and speaking on the phone at the same time. Then later in the day, on the same phone, I was listening to the radio and taking pictures at the same time.

The point is that this is not on a "smartphone", but a standard-ordinary phone that I got free with a low-rate contract (a Sony Ericsson K700i if you want numbers). It's not a toy I've borrowed or splashed out to get. It's an ordinary day-to-day phone.

While I was at the show, I tried email on it. I wouldn't recommend this as an email device - it doesn't show very many messages on screen, and jumbles the subject fields so you can't see which message came from whom. But it does email (and unlike my friend Kieren I found it quite easy to set up).

The camera is adequate, and so is the FM radio. It also synchs by Bluetooth without too much tweaking, and displays calendar appointments and contacts very nicely.

I don't think phones do too much. If anything, they still do too little. The features they have are often still fiddly. What is happening now is that they are starting to make it easy to do the things they do. Email and the web are the next things to be made easy (see O2's i-mode and T-Mobile's Web'n'walk for instance)

Like I say, I'm looking at what can be done on a more-or-less bog-standard phone. Smartphones and higher featured phones may do it better and easier - in a bigger heavier package - but the baseline level of phone can pack quite a lot of fun.

Next, I'm going to use voice dialling...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Washing the guinea pigs

Kitty and I washed Hannah's guinea pigs on Saturday. Here are some pictures of the occasion

Howl's Moving Castle

A lovely film -- we emerged into the evening sunshine in Clapham, and the world looked different. The yellow handrails on the 137 bus were brighter, and the sky was bluer.

It's all about love and connection. It's a lot like Spirited Away (in fact some of the characters look a little too much like the characters in Spirited Away.

I think Spirited Away might be a better film. It felt more as if it came from the folk tales of a real country, not from a made-up world. Howl seems to have moved into a more multi-national world with bigger distribution and (I think) bigger names on the English soundtrack.

But Howl's moving castle is what it said it is. Moving.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Conkers in Brixton

Nothing much to say. Here's some pictures of conkers in Brockwell Park. The tree-stump was nearly covered when I arrived, so I helped out and took pictures. We tried different arrangements...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

London Cycling

I love cycling in London - how about a cycling blog? Oh yes, there are plenty of cycling blogs.

What do I like? Getting places quickly, parking easily, having something to talk about and feeling smug and superior. I learned from Richard's Bicycle Book in my youth how good it is to have a vehicle you can build, repair and power all by yourself.

There's a lot of cyclists on the road now - I went into town in the rush hour yesterday and was drawn along in a peletton. Cycled back after a breakfast meeting at Claridges to write a story (eBay bought Skype?), then back to town for meetings in the City (with iAnywhere - part of Sybase) and in Kensington (with Netgear to see their toaster like SAN). Then on, via a huge Subway sandwicth, to dance the Morris outside pubs in Fitzrovia (that's near Russel Square.

Some good dancing (England beat Australia today at cricket, so there's an appetite for English men in white, especially as we adpated some dances to irritate Australians). A couple of pints and a tired cycle back home to Brixton.

I couldn't have done that day as easily, or got as much exercise, any other way.

I'm not interested in bikes - I've a rattling ten-speed.
I'm not even very interested in cycling - I'm average speed.

But cycling is kind of central to what I do.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Gardening is Good

What could be better after a Sunday morning in church, than a Sunday afternoon doing things in the garden?

The wisteria is cut back, and a bit more of the garden is dug and weeded. It'll all be lovely, eventually.

Our house is weird because there's about three times as much garden in front as there is in the back. We've put a bike shed in the front, and a bit of lawn at the back.

It does mean that if we actually do any gardening, we end up outside the front of the house a lot - and that's good for meeting neighbours.

So, gardening: good exercise, mystical in the way it connects you to the earth and all that. And, in our house, it makes us sociable.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I owe it all to Cats in Sinks

Everyone else has been talking about Cats in Sinks. I'll just mention here that, ths blog exists because of Cats in Sinks.

When I visited last week, I wanted to send them this picture. of Mackerel (it must be one of the last pictures of her with four legs - I can't imagine a three-legged cat jumping into this sink!). The only way to contact the site was with a response form. I needed to post this picture somewhere, so I had an URL to put in the response form.

So I start a blog, get the pic ready, and when I go back there today, they've added a feature to upload files. They've had 1700 pictures (watch the site and see if Mack appears!).

So this whole blog is a wasted effort.

Umm, even more than it obviously is....

Relativity over breakfast

I think Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in the Guardian, sometime gets a bit lost in itself, but he's done a good summary of how media science works. We journalists misrepresent it, and then shoot at the misunderstanding. And no-one ever tries to understand it.

I read that this morning, after I'd tried explaining relativity to my daughter Kitty over breakfast.

Well, Rachel and Hannah leave earlier for secondary school, so that leaves just Kitty from 7.30 to 8.45 (plenty of time to explain relativity, I'm sure you'd agree). And she's eight, so it should be no problem!

She started it: "I'm glad I don't move too fast. Because then I'd go back in time," she said.

We'd just read her the limerick

There was a young lady named Bright
Who travelled much faster than light
She started one day
In a relative way
And came back the previous night.

Not only that, but she had other evidence: "It said so on Jackie Chan," she said.

"But do you know why time goes backwards if you go faster than light?" I asked. "It's all to do with Relativity."

"Oh no, not your science stuff. I want a hot chocolate."

"Here's the deal, you get the hot chocolate after I've told you about Relativity."

So I started in: "If you were on a train going at ten miles an hour, and started walking at ten miles an hour, how fast would you look to a person by the track?"

Speeds add up, we agreed, and then I told her that light doesn't work like that. "If you shine a torch forward, it takes a three-hundred millionth of a second to move a meter, no matter where you look from," So if the train is going at the speed of light, and you're looking from the track, you see light that can't leave the torch at all - even though the person in the track sees it leaving the torch, and going at 300 million metres per second.

That, more or less is the experimental reality - found out in the Michelson-Morley experiments.

And there's only one way to make both those viewpoints true: make time different - and make it depend on how fast you are going. So if the train is going at the speed of light, time stops (And sure, if it was possible to go faster than light, it would go backwards - stands to reason).

She listened, got her hot chocolate, and went off to school, promising not to go faster than light.

And later that day, I'm wishing I could break light speed. After the amount of time I've wasted today (trying to make a Windows 2000 boot disk for a friend if you want to know), I'd like to go back in time. Going back and doing more work would be useful.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Goodbye summer?

A beautiful morning, but we know summer's on the way out.

Not too many more days of sandals.

Tai Chi in the park, and then a swim at the Lido. I love the Lido - it's an oasis of community in South London. Gets a bit hectic on a hot afternoon, but on a bright morning, it's beautiful.

All the usual people are there, swimming peacefully up and down in the sunshine, discussing their lives. A Peer of the Ream, a beatific grey haired lady with a gap-toothed grin. One woman dives in to join two friends: "I'm only doing two lengths." "Me too, then."

The paint in the changing rooms is peeling, toward the end of the season.

There's two extra weeks on the summer season, but it closes the Friday after next.

Next year, the Lido changes management, it will be run by Fusion, a group that runs other health venues in South London.

There's a User group, BLU, which has a meeting on Saturday 10 September at the Lido. What other AGM gives you coffee and cake first, and a swim afterwards...?

Monday, September 05, 2005

It starts here

The children are back at school (tomorrow), my wife is back at work. Things are happening, and it's time to start blogging.