30 Apr

Say No To 0870

You know those 0870 numbers that companies so kindly provide instead of a real geographical number? Have you noticed that they are excluded from most inclusive call packages on landlines and mobiles? You can pay up to and over 8p a minute, and since they aren’t regulated like premium numbers they can keepm you on hold for ages, whilst they get a kick backl for every recorded message they play, since the company (in cash or benefit in kind) gets a kickback from the telecoms provider.

It has always annoyed me to ring a company and then be on hold for 20 minutes and then be passed back and forth, and even more so when it could be costing me more than a quid (Sky are particularly bad at this). Fortunately some consumers have kicked back and launched a site that lists as many of the normal phone numbers for companies that they can find. For example not only do they have the normal geographical number for Sky but they even have an 0800 number listed. SayNoTo0870 is a consumer driven site and whilst it doesn’t have every number in the world, I have find it often gives you a much cheaper alternative.

04 Apr

Brothers Grimm

On the other hand, I watched the Brothers Grimm on Sky today and frankly this was a fantast for me. Slightly mad, wondefully imagined and realised, it mixes and matches fairy tales into a great tale mixing fantasy and the eponymous brothers. If you like rich complex work and liked Time Bandits or The Fisher King then try this.. oh and Matt Damon acts, I mean really acts..

03 Apr


I saw 300 at the weekend. I had so wanted to see if that I was deeply disappointed.

I thought it was a storyboard with almost no flow, but a series of muscular poses against CGI backdrops. I felt the portrayal of Spartans as defenders of Western civilization, whilst perhaps true, was unnuanced by the fact that Sparta was a hideous military aristocracy with the majority of the citizenship kept in perpetual serfdom. Xerxes grandad Cyrus is hailed as the first person to espouse human rights and yet the Persian Empire is shown as oppressors. The fact that the Thespians, who stayed with the Spartans for the last stand, were ignored, that the Athenian fleet fighting a sea battle to block the Persian fleet was ignored was all unhelpful. The simple fact that the Spartans and Athenians worked together to plan the blocking manoeuvre and that none of the shit about the ephors (who did exist then but certainly were not lascivious old priests) was true could have been forgiven but wasn’t great. Now, I rarely sympathise with the Iranian regime and I am not going to start now (Holocaust Denial Conference anyone) but the depiction of the Persians was insulting on so many levels. Why were the only baddies black or brown people? Why were the pederast Spartans not depicted as such but the Persians as perverts and freaks? Why does handicapped or disfigured equal evil in this film?

Now I can cope with a lot of artistic licence and I am sure that the argument that this is a narrative told utterly from a Spartan point of view might explain this appaling bias, but frankly does it really excuse making a film that Joseph Goebbels would applaud and Riefenstahl could have made?

It is fascist art, and I didn’t like it. 🙁

Sadly my friend gspearing and I disagreed and I may have put his nose out of joint with my vehemence, which was in no way aimed at him.

27 Mar

1984 and Brave New World

I read George Orwell‘s 1984 again last week. I enjoyed it greatly, but it is a work of it’s day and indeed the immediate past at the time of writing (1949). It is the twisting of truth that strikes you the most now, indeed the manipulation of people and society by media and doublethink is the key message for me.

On the other hand I also read Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World, and that does strike me as a piece of actual prophesy. The nature of the society, with Fordism (or mass production) as the key driver to a society kept compliant on drugs and sex, has echoes on our Western world of the early 21st century.

Not that it is necessarily a dystopia. I am not at all sure Huxley thought it was wholly dystopian, but it definitely separates mankind from the mystical, and that was key for Huxley. For me? Well I quite liked the place as long as I could be an Alpha or Beta..

I am going to carry on having a look at this prophetic book idea, so have ordered Zamyatin‘s We which is apparently the book that influenced Orwell and Huxley, although Huxley is obviously satirising Wells utopianism (which is best seen in The Shape of Things To Come and before in other works.

I also read Ian Fleming‘s Casino Royale, and then we watched the recent film version. I have to say that the novel shows and much grimmer Bond, not as sure or smooth as the films to date, and the film did an excellent job of capturing that feel. Ann and Matt were not impressed, but I like this grittier Bond. Oddly it is in fact the original.

22 Mar


Hi, I have been travelling and travelling. Antwerp, Amsterdam, Delft, Brussels, Gothenberg. Gosh I am so tired and so much want to come home.

Pete has finalised the latest Gwenthia magic chapter which is great, so I need to read and understand that and finish the Gwenthia religions chapter. Then I have a stack of actions from all the work meetings. I am going to be very busy this Easter!

16 Mar


Just been to Antwerp for a pretty good conference on inter modal freight. Antwerp is a much nicer city than Brussels, but gosh it is so dusty and dirty! All the buildings are shabby and the total lack of cleanliness is quite depressing. Brussels is also pretty grubby, I do wonder if it is a Belgian trait? A Belgian colleague did once suggest that the Belgians spend their money inside the home and not outside. Mind you, many British cities are not much better.

I have been watching the excellent Ghost in the Shell 2nd GIG, and now I am on a Thalys train watching the first series of the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

09 Mar

Windows Apps on Linux

I did it! I got Cedega working and Guild Wars running on Ubuntu 6.10. Runs fine! Smooth with music and graphics about the same as the same game on XP on the same PC. I got Microsoft Project running under Crossover, so all I need is to fix the invisible icon problem in Serif Pageplus and I can uninstall Windows on my machine forever.

See screenshots here.

It wasn’t totally easy, I discovered I hadn’t got my NVIDIA drivers properly installed, so I used synaptic to completely remove linux-generic, linux-restricted-modules-2.6.17-10-generic, linux-restricted-modules-generic, nvidia-glx, nvidia-kernel-common. Then I followed the instructions from this NVIDIA on Edgy guide. It was very very easy to follow. Just remember to reboot the system since it changes the kernel and it didn’t seem to fully work with games until I had.

When I installed Cedega my system passed the system tests but I kept getting problems with Guild Wars, until I went into the setup for the programme and entered the exact video memory and AGP vertex memory I had (which Cedega reported in it’s system settings report).. Then all worked well.

Dungeon Siege next then. Oh and Steam.

08 Mar

The Perfect Ubuntu Desktop

With the release of Microsoft’s new Windows operating system (Vista), more and more people are looking for alternatives to Windows for various reasons. This tutorial is the third in a series of articles where I will show people who are willing to switch to Linux how they can set up a Linux desktop (Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft in this article) that fully replaces their Windows desktop, i.e. that has all software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that runs also on older hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge.