September 16, 2008
Trickle Down Economics?

It's trickling down now, all right.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
September 04, 2008
Apress eBooks

Buy a book from Apress (such as the superb Definitive Guide to Django) and you can get the PDF version for a fiver, so you can keep a copy on your laptop when you are on the road.

What a great idea. I don't want only the PDF - I much prefer to read the dead tree edition. But you can't carry dozens of chunky tech books around with you, so I want the PDF too. Clearly I shouldn't have to pay full whack twice, but the fiver that Apress is asking seems fair.

I wish O'Reilly did this.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
August 19, 2008
Epic Fail

My Mac died again a month or so ago - another HDD failure. Not a problem, I thought - new disk, restore from Time Machine, sorted.

Only my Time Machine backup disk had been plugged in to my Mac when it died, which is at least as bad as pulling the plug without unmounting. The backup disk wouldn't mount. Dash it, I thought.

All in all, though, I'm surprised how little I lost:

  • My music, all recovered from My iPod. Thank you Senuti. It even recovered most of my metadata - play counts, star ratings, the sort of thing that only the painfully anal people like me care about. I'm very glad about this - re-ripping all my CDs would have taken months.
  • My contacts were in a vCard file on my iPod too.
  • My email is all on Gmail.
  • My calendar, ditto, synched with iCal via BusySync.
  • My bookmarks are all in delicious, accessed via Delicious Bookmarks.
  • Most of my documents I managed to dredge out of email too.
  • Code. All in one Subversion repository or another, naturally.

What did I lose?

  • Some of my photos. It wasn't too bad - I have a backup from about six months ago, so most of them were there. I'd sent CDs to family with more recent stuff, so I could recvover those. But I know I lost some.
  • A few documents. Having said that I recovered most of my documents, I was missing a few things. Most notably, I have a couple of VoodooPad documents that I keep loads of notes in, and I lost several month's worth of these. Bah.
  • An episode of Doctor Who or two, grabbed with iplayer-dl. Ah well, they'll repeat them sooner or later.

Lesson learned - Time Machine is great for convenience, but don't trust it as your only backup mechanism. If it wasn't for those DVD-R backups I'd taken a few months back, i'd have lost far more than I have.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)
August 14, 2008
Goodhart's law

Via "Let's set a new standard" I discovered Goodhart's law. I've long been arguing, err, OK, ranting that the setting of targets in an organization is usually counter-productive, because people will very soon learn to game the system, meeting the targets without actually doing what the organization is supposed to be doing. Think SATs, hospital waiting lists, arrest figures, the list goes on.

It's nice to know that the effect has a name.

Dan Abel had a similar discovery recently, when he stumbled on the term Moral Hazard, an effect he'd noticed before.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
May 06, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, wherein a man has his heart ripped out of his chest, and is then pushed, still living, into lava. Certificate PG.

The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, containing trivial swearing, a little comic violence, and nothing more scary than some very nerdy humour. Certificate 15. WTF?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
April 22, 2008
Sport Without Beer?

The good news; the new Guardian Sport and Football sites were launched successfully, and seem to be working fine. The bad news; 24 hour licensing notwithstanding, we couldn't find anywhere to serve us a beer at two in the morning. Grrr.

Update: More on the new sites here; Our new look.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
January 01, 2008
Bitter at all?

Thanks to Jay for pointing out this rant, via reddit.

Now, I'm sorry they guy can't get a job, but if this is his attitude, I can't say I'm surprised. He's burned his bridges with ThoughtWorks, for a start. ;-)

Disclaimer - I work for ThoughtWorks. But I can say that with perfect honestly that his impression of TW doesn't mesh with mine. Thing is, he seems to think that what TW sells is platform expertise. It's not. We primarily sell smart people. (Oh, and me, too.) A smart person will pick up a new platform quickly. If that's not possible with Rails, that that's Rail's problem - not that I believe that to be the case. Yes, you do need a cadre of people with platform experience for a project to succeed, but not the whole team. (Perhaps he'd have better luck job hunting if he didn't restrict himself exclusively to Rails?)

He says that TW leaves bad code bases behind. Again, in my limited experience, that's not true at all. TWers seem to care deeply about what they do. Anyone else out there who doesn't work for TW who has any experiences they'd care to hare?

Also, his dismissal of TDD and agile practices such as pair programming suggests to me that he's not really tried them. We at TW have a lot of experience in these areas, and it all works just fine for us. If he claims to have improved productivity by dropping them, then he's clearly not comparing like-for-like. Done properly, I fervently believe that these practices improve productivity in the long term (if not in the short term).

I do wish we used more Django and less Rails, though. ;-)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
December 17, 2007
The Reckless Cycle of Consumerism Trundles On

Bah - my shiny new PS3 won't work with my (admittedly antediluvian) TV. The TV just can't see the PS3 at all. Once you start upgrading...

Rant time. My TV probably could see the PS3 if I were able to fiddle with the settings, but since the remote died, 90% of the functionality has become unavailable to me. I know we live in a throw-away society, but not being able to use a TV 'cos the remote has died - what's that all about?

Hitherto that hadn't really been a big problem; I could turn it on and off, and turn the sound up and down, and that was all that I needed. Everything else was done via the DVD player or Digital TV tuner. But now...

Then again, perhaps it is time for a new TV. I say I can turn my current one on and off - in fact, the switch is broken, and I can only put it on standby. I'd been struggling with this for a while. On the one hand, leaving a TV in standby mode is a terrible waste of energy, but on the other, so is buying a new TV. Where does the balance lie there?

But now the Gordian Knot has been cut - I need a new telly. Tom recommends this. I don't watch a lot of TV, so I don't want anything too big or too expensive. Think I'll look for one of these in the new year.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
November 13, 2007

ThoughtWorks had a few Dell 926 all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/card-readers given to them, so they decided to raffle them off. I won one, but I had to throw the fish back - turns out it's a Windows only machine. Windows only! Naturally, I won't have Windows in the house, and I don't know anyone who uses Windows, either.

Well, at least I won't admit to knowing that class of person. ;-)

It's uncanny. Whenever there's a raffle with a prize I don't want, I win every time, without fail. That's proper ironic, Alanis.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
November 02, 2007
Illiterate MP

Not only does Nadine Dorries MP cast aspersions on Ben Goldacre for making perfectly legitimate enquiries into the undisclosed interests of experts presenting evidence to a Commons Select Committee, not only does she disingenuously cite time pressures as her reason for removing commenting from her piss-poor excuse for a blog when it's obvious she just didn't like the comments she was getting, but what's worse, she doesn't even know the difference between "your" and "you're" - "You can't do breakfast TV", the vanity lobe in my brain screamed, "Your wearing no make up and the dog walking jumper." Not too hot on punctuation, either.

Who voted for her? Come on, own up.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
October 25, 2007

Roar this evening. Good - I could do with a laugh.

I didn't get out of the office 'till after 11 yesterday - we were launching stuff. Shiny shiny!

It took so long 'cos the launch procedure didn't work properly 'cos of an Oracle bug. Bloody thing. Turns out that Orable's materialised views can be configure only to update periodically rather than synchronously. Which is fair enough, except that the query optimiser still sometimes decides to use the stale view. At one point yesterday, we had select

count(*) from table
returning zero, and
select * from table
returning a whole bunch of rows! Madness.

I mean, what's the point in an expensive product like Oracle if the bloody thing doesn't work? This stuff was all sorted on the '400 20 years ago. Bah.

Then, when I got home after midnight, I found that one of the t-shirts that I'd left on my washing line in my front garden had caught fire. It was one of my favorites, too - Make Coldplay History.

Bizarre thing was, only the one t-shirt was damaged. The other clothes hanging around it weren't even scorched. Weird.

I'm rather hoping that t-shirts don't do this sort of thing spontaneously, so I'm assuming that it was either some nasty little oik on his way home from school, or some drunken tosser on his way home from the pub. Git. Where am I going to dry my washing now?

Update: List minute bill update - Tim Vine's on! It's not too late to get here.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
October 16, 2007
Speed Kills

"Motorists will face a mandatory speed limit of 20mph in residential areas if the government accepts proposals that would reduce the annual death toll of 3,100 people on British roads". Wouldn't that be nice?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Your chances of killing a child at 20, should you hit one, are very low. It 30, much higher. At 40, they are dead. Even the most skillful driver can't avoid hitting a child who runs out in front of them, as they are wont to do.

Am I scared that my kids will be abducted buy those predatory paedoes that you read about in the gutter press all the time? Not particularly. I'm aware, but the risk there is very low. No, it's the roads that scare me.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 08:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
October 03, 2006

I went to the London 2.0 meetup last night. Bit of luck, really, 'cos I missed all the problems on the Northern Line.

I did hear the announcement, though; "Severe Delays are being experienced in both directions on The Northern Line this evening due to a passenger being taken ill". Both directions? Just how ill can you get? Ebola?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
November 28, 2005
Sodding Object Access Protocol

SOAP - I hate the bloody thing.

Can I get SOAPpy to access an Axis server using digest authentication? No, I bloody can't.

Can I write decent unit tests for an Axis SOAP client? Nope. Bloody concrete classes without no-arg constructors all over the shop, so I can't mock anything - or even get Spring inserting anything worthwhile in the first place.

Next time, I'm sending the bloody messages by post.

There, rant over. I feel better now.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 06, 2005
Serve Them Right

It seems that some silly sods are getting caught out by the Crazy Frog. The think that they are just ordering the one ringtone, but find that they have in fact subscribed to a rather expensive service.

Serve them bloody right, I would have said. Anyone wanting that bloody thing deserves whatever they get. But no, the regulators are after them.

Oh, Lord, it's got its own bloody game now, too.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
May 27, 2005

"The whole country is very proud of you", says Tony Blair. Err, no it isn't. I for one couldn't give a stuff either way.

When does the bloody football season end again?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
January 28, 2005
Bloody Pregnant Women

I got a seat at Colliers Wood for a change. Then a heavily pregnant woman got on at Tooting Broadway, and wasn't quick enough to get the last seat. All the people near her started reading their papers really intently.

Well, I say papers - mostly it was Metro or The Daily Bigot, neither of which really deserve the appellation. They were probably all too intent reading some rant about how nobody has any manners any more to notice her. And how it's all the fault of immigrants and the left wing press.

So, I ended up standing all the way to Bank again. :-(

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)
January 05, 2005
And another thing!

While I'm in grumpy old man mode - what do you call it when the last track on a CD has a long silent patch after the last listed song, followed by another, unlisted song?

What do you call it, and why do they do it? It was irritating enough when I just listened to the CD, but now, on my iPod, it's even worse. There I am on the train, and my iPod goes quiet. I dig it out of my pocket, elbowing my neighbour in the process, only to find that it's still playing. Bah!

Who came up with this stupid idea? I thing that I first came across it on The Black Crowes' Shake Your Money Maker in '89, but that probably isn't the first time it was done. Anyone know of an earlier occurrence?

And another thing. When I was a boy, R&B was the kind of music that Chuck Berry and The Fabulous Thunderbirds played. When did it start referring to that insipid ballady sub-soul come hip-hop shite that people call R&B these days?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
Who am I working with?


El Presidente's been looking into MySQL, and we were chatting about searching and sorting techniques. In MySQL, I gather, you can specify one of a number of data structures and algorithms to be used for a given index. One of those available is a 'btree', which I assumed to be binary tree.

I dug out Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 3, Sorting and Searching, (As much to scare El P as anything else - it's not like I understand it). El P asked what a Fibonaccian search is.

I haven't got any idea. Hey, I write accounting packages! But like anyone who's gone through primary school, I know what the Fibonacci Numbers are.

"Hey, I know that," piped up Tulna, "That's from The Da Vinci Code!"

Arrrrgh! Arrrrgh! Arrrrgh! What is it about that book that irritates me so much?

Perhaps it's the fact that I wasted a good few hours reading it. "Hey", I thought, "all those hundreds of people that I've seen reading it on the train can't be wrong. It must be good."

Wrong. It's dreadful. It reads like Jeffrey Archer's take on Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

If you want to read a good novel about the Templars, the Illuminati and so on, pick up Umberto Eco's Foucaultís Pendulum instead.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)
November 19, 2004
A plague on both their houses

I've had my say about fox hunting and country affairs before, and I've not changed my mind.

The thing that strikes me at the moment, though, is that I seem to find myself in violent disagreement with whatever is said by any of the politicians or faction leaders involved in this, whichever side they are on. It's almost as if I'm always on the side of whoever is keeping their mouths shut for a change.

When one of the bumpkins country types is banging on about how city folk should stop interfering with their lives, I'm ranting "Yeah, and we'll start by ceasing to interfere with your economies - no more agricultural subsidies or loss making public transport for you lot, then. See how you like that."

Then Gerald Kaufman pops up, and I'm shouting "Did you know that children in care in this country get an average of one GCSE each? What kind of a future do you think they are going to have with that? Oh, and remember the war in Iraq? How many people are being killed over there? And you are worried about bloody foxes. What a shameful waste of parliamentary time."

Makes me sick, it really does.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
September 08, 2004
StyleReport Pro

I've not been blogging too much recently. I think that this is mainly because I've spent the last two weeks grappling with the suppurating ulcerated sore that is StyleReport. This is simultaneously boring and frustrating - incredibly frustrating. It's got to the point where I've been dreading coming to work, and I've been clock watching and leaving dead on time. Working with StyleReport is actually stressful - I feel tight in the chest all the time I'm doing it, and at times it makes me genuinely angry.

Besides - StyleReport's report builder eats all the memory on my PC, leaving none for running a browser.

Still, I've finished with it for the moment, Thank Christ.

I think I can see how we ended up with it. If you tried out a really simple report, you could knock it out in minutes. Problem is, real world reports are difficult if not impossible. This is usually the case to some extent with tools which try to do too much for you - simple stuff is simple, complex stuff is difficult if not impossible.

StyleReport just takes this one stage further - sometimes, easy stuff is impossible, too. A justified paragraph with some words in bold? Sorry, no, impossible. Page breaks after a given database level break? No, a bug prevents any pages being printed thereafter. Embedded PNGs? Too slow for practical use. Tables with cells with differing border formats? Do one. A mix of portrait and landscape pages in a flow report? Sorry.


Sorry about that, everyone. Rant over. I just had to get that off my chest.

Update: The report I've just spent over a week working on won't run - java.lang.OutOfMemoryError. Bastard.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
February 24, 2004
Locating the configuration files for my J2EE app

Arrrrrgh! I just can't believe that this is hard! (Or perhaps it's just me that finds this hard. That's not so difficult to believe.)

OK, so, the J2EE application we are working on needs some configuration, so I've monkied up a quick Digester based configuration file reader. That should have been the hard bit, but it's been a piece of cake. Digester is great!

But now I need to get it to read the configuration file from within my J2EE application. So where do I put this file, and how do I tell Tomcat (or whatever) where to look for it?

I've currently got this file in WEB-INF/config.xml, which feels right. But Tomcat can't find it given just this as a file path. I suppose that I need to prepend the document root to this - but how do I find that? (I'm currently trying to read this file in a ServletContextListener's contextInitialized method.)

Naturally, I'd rather not use anything Tomcat specific if I can help it. But I did try this:

final ProxyDirContext proxyDirContext = (ProxyDirContext) servletContext.getAttribute("org.apache.catalina.resources");
final String docBase = proxyDirContext.getDocBase();

But unluckily (or perhaps luckily) this didn't work. It *would* work from a Servlet, I think, but the org.apache.catalina.resources context attribute doesn't seem to exist as the context is initialised.


Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)
December 18, 2003

Good luck to the National Crime Squad's new online paedophile trap scheme, Project Pin. I have a feeling that the technically adept will be find ways around this easily enough, though, and the online paedophiles seem to be nothing if not technically adept. Anonymous browsing isn't rocket science, for a start. Still, it'll hopefully sweep up a number of dangerous people, and perhaps the Project Pin people have a few tricks of their own. Lets hope so.

(I have heard the argument that users of paedophile pornography aren't actually doing anything wrong - as opposed to those who abuse children directly. This is, of course, bollocks. Users of paedophile pornography create a market, children are abused to fulfil this market, and they are heavily responsible for this abuse.)

I've heard nothing to indicate that Ian Huntley was active online, so Project Pin wouldn't have identified him even had it existed. But we see now that he had a history of allegations of sexual offences, so background checks should have prevented him from working with children in the first place.

There are certainly human rights issues to consider here. If someone is not convicted of an offence, is it right that it should stain their character? It's a tough one. I think that when it comes to the compilation of a register of those who might pose a risk to children, a civil standard of proof should be sufficient. That is to say - a person cannot (and should not) be convicted of a crime unless the evidence proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but that this information should be available on the register if the preponderance of evidence indicates reason to be concerned. Clearly, by this standard, Huntley would have been on such a register.

When I say 'available' here, I do mean available to those who have a good reason for needing to know - those who employ people to work with children. If this information were to be available too easily, vigilantes would certainly make use of it. (It might distract them from attacking paediatricians, I suppose.) There should also be an appeals process.

And the there's Michael Jackson. Sigh. I just don't know what to think about this. I can quite believe that there was something untoward going on - after all, his childhood would be enough to screw anybody up. But then, on the other hand, I can equally believe that the allegations were fabricated, motivated by greed for publicity or cash. I suppose that we'll never know - the chances of a fair trial must be just about zero.

But let's keep this whole predatory paedophile thing in perspective. Parents: if you are worried about your child's safety (and all of you are), teach them to cross the road. Over 300 children were killed crossing the road in the UK in just one year (according to the 1999 figures, the latest that I've been able to find online). Whereas the danger of your child being murdered by a stranger is tiny - according to The Sunday Times (6/8/95): "Despite the scepticism of parents, the murder figures look relatively reassuring. Between 1983 and 1993, on average 86 children under 16 were killed each year in England and Wales, mostly by their parents and minders. But the number murdered by strangers has been tiny, averaging five a year... children are not becoming more vulnerable to homicide". And this figure is pretty static, too: it's not on the increase.

The number of parents I see dragging their children across busy roads appals me. What do they think they are teaching them? I always use a pedestrian crossing when I'm with the girls, if there's one available, and I always wait for the green light. (I wait for the green light when any children are around, in fact.) If there's no pedestrian crossing, we do the full 'green cross code' thing, and I make the girls tell me when they think it's safe to cross.

Deep breath. Deep breath.

OK, rant over.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
December 01, 2003
Umbrellas reprise

I've ranted about umbrellas before, and my feelings haven't changed. One more thing, though - why do people insist on using umbrellas even when it isn't bloody raining any more! Gits.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
November 21, 2003
Have trouble remembering your new password?

Simple. Just reinstall IE. You'll have to reboot so many f$@king times that your password will be burned into your brain forever.

I can't get Java applets running in IE6 at the moment. It keeps suggesting that I download and install the Microsoft Virtual machine, which I've already done. Several times. Arrrrgh! Reinstalling IE hasn't helped.

I must point out that I'm only using IE for testing purposes - Firebird remains my browser of choice.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
October 09, 2003
Sex and the Holy City

Vatican: condoms don't stop Aids. Bloody Hell, doesn't the truth matter to these people at all?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)
September 05, 2003
Rant of the week

Rogue Semiotics' Daily Mail deconstruction is just too good to miss.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
August 27, 2003
Ladder theory

Ladder theory. And I thought I was cynical.

Not a single woman who wasn't a bitch has ever complained about misogyny at this site. I can prove this on an abacus. ;-)

Via Tao of the Machine.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
July 17, 2003

People ought to have to pass some form of a test, like a driving test, before they are allowed to use dangerous implements like umbrellas.

If you are, oh, say six foot two, you'll find that very many people hold their umbrellas with the spokes at your eye level. And then appear to do their level best to poke your eyes out.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
July 15, 2003
The apostrophe in the 21st century

The end of the world...

Now, there are two distinct elements to my opinion on modern English usage.

On the one hand, my rational side, Stephen Pinker reader that I am1, agrees with the article in that "language is normative, not prescriptive". English is the thing (or things) that people speak. Any 'rules' which don't reflect actual, live, usage, are bunk.

But, on the other hand, I'm a total pedant, and the 'grocer's apostrophe' drives me insane whenever I see it.

I am quite unable to reconcile these two opinions. Ho hum.

Via Something.

1 I'm reading The Blank Slate right now, and it's totally fascinating. Not quite as jaw droppingly awesome as The Language Instinct, but then, what is?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)
February 20, 2003
Say it loud, single and proud

Reader, don't marry him

True love is a wonderful thing, but more and more people are finding that other things are wonderful, too, such as self-sufficiency, independence and not twisting ourselves in knots straining to hear the ticking of our biological clocks.

Yeah, say it, brother! (Sister? Hadley? Who knows?)

Still, I must say that I might be cheating a little. I might be hearing the old biological clock myself if I hadn't already had children.

Via londonmark.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 06:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
September 23, 2002
Liberty and Livelihood

This Sunday, between 300,000 and 400,000 people (0.4% of the UK's population, approximately) came to London to protest against the government's handling of rural affairs. There seem to have been two main threads to the reasoning behind the protest.

Liberty. The government is planning to make fox-hunting illegal. The House of Commons has already voted this through twice, on both occasions allowing a free vote. On both occasions, the (unelected) House of Lords blocked the legislation. Assuming that a third vote goes against fox-hunting, the government is likely to use the Parliament Act to force the legislation through.

I have some sympathy with those who don't want fox-hunting banned. Not much, but some. I strongly disapprove of fox-hunting. I think that to hunt and kill an animal in a painful manner for pleasure is morally wrong. But, it is for the individual to decide on their own actions, and the government should stay out of it wherever possible. I think that the government should resist any impulse to legislate on matters of conscience.

Having said that, the ban on fox-hunting was in the government's manifesto, and the government won the election, so I suppose that they are entitled to legislate...

Livelihood. The farming industry in this country is becoming untenable. Subsidies are heavy already, and are very unlikely to increase, but farmers claim that is almost impossible to make a living.

Hmmm. Again, some sympathy here - no one likes to find out that their way of life has no future. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is. The farmers are, Canute like, fighting the tide of history, and they are bound to lose. The government couldn't change this if they wanted to. It seems that British farming as a means of mass food production is finished.

It must be said, this is not the first time that an industry has disappeared (or at least altered beyond all recognition). I can't say that I remember the farmers giving the miners much support ten years ago! Should the State keep obsolete industries alive? Can it? I think not.

If my skills go out of date, should the State support me? No, of course not. It is my responsibility to keep myself up to date and employable, and the same goes for the farmers. I suspect that farming can have a future in the UK, but as a producer of high quality produce for those willing to pay, not as a mass food producer. A smaller industry, certainly, but perhaps a sustainable one.

Personal observations - getting around London was a nightmare yesterday. The visitors have no idea as to tube-etiquette - pushing onto trains without letting people off first, mulling in large groups blocking interconnections, that sort of thing. One tweed-clad chap nearly crushed my little girl. I had to give him a firm shove to make some room for her.

Also, other than the tube, using public transport clearly didn't occur to people. The roads were chock-full of coaches, and I have never seen so many range-rovers parked throughout London's streets. I shudder to think how much CO2 was released! The train to Reading was nice and empty, though, as was the Science Museum!

The Science Museum is the best kid's day out in London by far, by the way. The girls and I go once a month at least - they pretty much demand it.

Update: Our Country Cousins & Damn those countryside people.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
September 18, 2002

They are threatening to make me use learn and use VB at work! Arrrrrgh! Arrrrrgh!

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
July 23, 2002
The Italians disable 5 US based websites

Police in Italy didn't care that five Web sites they deemed blasphemous and thus illegal were located in the United States, where First Amendment protections apply. The police shut them down anyway.

The Yanks are up in arms about it, naturally. "Other nations shouldn't be allowed to impose their laws on our citizens! Only we should be able to do that sort of thing!"

More light than heat at Slashdot, for a change.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) seems to take a balanced view . So naturally, they get called anti-Semites.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
July 22, 2002
They are all witches...

Heartless Bitches International.

Why don't they like nice guys? 'Cos they are all witches. That's why.

Seriously, it's an interesting thesis, but I don't actually believe the central 'nice guys are all insecure and needy' idea.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 05:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
One Hundred Albums You Should Remove from Your Collection Immediately's One Hundred Albums You Should Remove from Your Collection Immediately is an interesting list.

But there are some good albums listed - The Police - Synchronicity, Derek and the Dominoes - Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Dave Brubeck - Take Five, John Coltrane - Giant Steps, Tori Amos - Under the Pink, Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon, The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.

Well, I like them.

And does anyone actually have Celine Dion - Colour of My Love?

(Via SubAverage)

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 15, 2002
Biblical contradictions

An interesting list of Biblical contradictions on the American atheists site.


Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
July 01, 2002
Palladium update

I've mentioned Palladium before, but the storm keeps on brewing.

Bob Cringely told us so. The Observer calls it World Domination, Release 4.0. Lots of stuff at

Clearly, Bill has been reading the Evil Overlord, 'cos he has a backup plan - to get root on eveyone's PCs.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
June 27, 2002
The peace proposal which makes peace impossible

I can see that Arafat has to go before there can be any chance of peace, but surely Sharon has to go too.

Arafat colludes with the terrorists, and Sharon is a war criminal.

But the real problem, as David Aaronovitch points out, is that the President's proposal gives an effective veto to peace to just about everybody. The suicide bombers don't want peace. If bombing serves to block the peace process, then this will only encourage more bombings.

Robert Fisk is also well worth reading. He is somewhat knee-jerk anti-American and anti-Israeli, so you have to factor that into your reading, but he understands the Palestinians better than just about anyone. And most of the time he is quite justified in his anti-American and anti-Israeli writing.

On a lighter note...

Posted by Simon Brunning at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
June 25, 2002
Evolution Is Biologically Impossible

So far as I can make out, this guy put some ink in water, and the carbon didn't defuse. So Evolution is impossible. Evolution Is Biologically Impossible. Sheesh.

He's talking bollocks, naturally.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)
June 24, 2002
Microsoft bids to control your PC and the Internet

Palladium is Microsoft's attempt to gain full control for once and for all.

Amongst other things "Palladium won't run unauthorized programs". And Microsoft get to decide which programs are authorized. Yeah, right.

Still, they aren't getting it all their own way - further coverage of Peru's OSS laws, which I've mentioned before.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
June 14, 2002
Guns Are Only Deadly If Used For Their Intended Purpose

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. At least, if they've got a gun, they do.

I think that we in the UK don't really get the whole US gun thing. It's not so much that we don't approve of gun ownership (though most don't). It's that we really don't get why people want a gun...

I wouldn't mind having a gun when people let their dogs off the leash in my local park, I must say. Why is it that a farmer is allowed to shoot a dog which is worrying his sheep, but I'm not allowed to shoot a dog which is worrying my children?

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)
May 27, 2002
PC Pro

PC Pro is probably the best mainstream PC magazine available in the UK at the moment. But it almost never mentions non-Windows or non-commercial software.

When it comes to practical information about the Windows platform, running it, configuring it, and the purchase of hardware and software for it, I think that its content is considerably better than that of its closest rival, PCW.

But I have to say, in some ways, it's beginning to irritate me. It seems to totally ignore the Linux platform, and OS software in general. In terms of development environments, its pretty much Microsoft all the way, with a smattering of Delphi. Even Java is left out in the cold.

Just for a change, though Dick Pountain's column mentions Python. I was very glad to see this, despite its inaccuracies. A change on the horizon?

Dick refers to Python as a typeless language. It isn't. It's a dynamically typed language, but it's also a strongly typed language. The distinction is real, although of course the terminology is somewhat subjective. The terms that I have used are common in the Python community at least. Dive into Python explains the distinction very well here.

Also, Dick had no way of knowing this, but Python is probably going to grow a boolean type in the near future.

I referred to PC Pro as a mainstream magazine. Some of the more, uh, specialist magazines are excellent. DDJ is very good, and I recently came across Software Development. Both worth a look. If you are a total nerd, that is.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
May 17, 2002
Microsoft violates its own Statement of Privacy

(Via SlashDot)

Anyone who uses Microsoft's Hotmail service will be interested to know that they have decided to share all its user's private information, without consulting them, and in violation of their own Statement of Privacy. New privacy settings have appeared on the profile options page allowing MS to give personal information away, and they all started out checked by default. You can uncheck them, of course, but that is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted - MS has already given the information away.

Well, you can only uncheck these settings if you use IE - other browsers can't access the options page. Funny that.

And I say that they gave the information away. Actually, they sold it, naturally. Note that it's not just your email address that are selling - it's your full name, your age, your sex and your occupation.

I don't use Hotmail myself - I never trusted MS in the first place. But if you do, it's time for a new email address. And I know just the place to get one.

Update 28th May 2002: Yes, I know, only offers a forwarding address. If you want an email address that you can access via the web, well, there are lots of alternatives, but I like Just because the address is cool, basically.

Update 26th July: They are deleting your old mails now. Bastards. Hotmail, just say no.

Posted by Simon Brunning at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)