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...