Monthly Archives: December 2006

When you run a tech company…

When you run a tech company, say a PC manufacturer, don’t you think you’d be watching out for well-known journos and bloggers and making sure they got exemplary service? Ed Bott rips into Shuttle, whose support for the PC he got was a complete shambles. I reckon if I were running such a company, even if I was evil enough to give everyday plebs crap service, I’d make sure names like his were on the priority list, to avoid my name becoming mud.

But I guess that just underscores how disorganised they are.

Attachment manager

You learn something new every day. Or maybe every week. This week I learnt about Attachment Manager.

Remember how we wailed when, back in 2000, Microsoft patched Outlook to block extensions from dozens of file types that were useful, but dangerous err powerful. Initially the extra security was optional, but it came built into later versions of Outlook.

Some of us resorted to hacks like Attachment Options to tell Outlook to STFU and give us the attachment.

From XP SP2 they’ve replaced it with the Attachment Manager (via David), which provides an extra prompt when you try and open/run the file. The file attribute even survives the file being moved around, provided it’s on NTFS. And it covers numerous applications, including Outlook, IE and MSN IM.

In some cases it simply won’t let you open/extract the file. For those you need to go into the Properties and Unblock it manually. Just another hoop to jump through.

Time Magazine’s pitch of the year

So, Time Magazine decided the person of the year is you. Me. Us. The citizenry. With out digital cameras and our blogs and our mobile phone cameras and our YouTube accounts and our podcasts.

Well, woop-de-doo. So citizen media is having an impact.

Who actually reads Time Magazine anymore? Other than noting the Person Of the Year, does the bulk of the populace pay it any attention these days? Doesn’t Time-Life make more money selling old TV shows on DVD?

As Darren Prowse says, what Time have done is to be the linkbaiter of the year. This is just MSM trying to cash-in on Web 2.0 by pouring praise on it.

What’s gone from Man Of The Year, to Group Of The Year (numerous scientists in 1960, and the entire babyboomer generation in 1966) to Person Of The Year (switched in 1999, so hardly in the forefront of sexual equality, even though Wallis Simpson was awarded Man Of The Year in 1936), to Thing Of The Year (The Computer in 1982) is not a reward or an honour (hello: Adolf Hitler 1938, Ayatollah Khomeini 1979).

It’s not really a prize. It’s just a way of selling more magazines.

Games, games, games!

Version 1.0 (eg the non-beta) of Microsoft’s XNA is out (note, it’s another new MS release that is not supported on Vista) — Ars Technica has an interesting article about it, which ponders the homebrew development it might spawn. No, I don’t really want to do Quest for Windows, though I fully intend to give it a try, if I find the time to learn a little C#.

I like this idea: a handheld Linux-based game machine called the GP2X. It plays media, runs MAME, SNES, Megadrive etc emulation and includes an SDK that makes it sound ripe for development of new games. They’re looking for distributors.

Got a spare Xbox controller? Grab a USB adapter off ebay (search for XBox USB, or build it yourself), grab the drivers and use it on your PC. (Doesn’t mean it’ll be any good for Joust on MAME though, with its frenetic flapping).

Oh, for Lego Mindstorms people (and those hoping to design robots to take over the world), Microsoft has released its first Robotics software, compatible with a number of different vendors’ hardware.

Take today’s kids and sit them down in front of some of the classic games of yesteryear. Note their reactions.
First article / Followup article. Obviously it’s just the funny bits, but MY kids don’t react like that. They’ve both got a healthy interest in old games. (Gee, wonder where they got that from.)

The tale of Dac’s broken computer

It’s 2am Sunday morning, and somewhere in Canberra Dac is feverishly engaged in conflict with computer generated bad guys, aided by a friend, in the never-ending fun land of City of Heroes.

My on-line friend has just berated me because my logical choice of a pathway between one end of a huge zone (Independence Port) and the other end, involved some twisty turny antics — The VIP pass to Pocket-D club, a trip to Talos Island to sell enhancements that have dropped during the previous mission, at the appropriate stores, to maximise profit, then a trip on the tram from Talos to Brickstown, and zap across to the Independence Port tunnel way at the south end of IP. I was 30 seconds slower than him (he just went straight there), and he said that it was a was of time being complicated when I could have gone straight there too.

That puts me in a bit of a bad mood, because I hate being called ‘wrong’ when I wasn’t wrong at all — I maximised my influence (money in CoH) gain, and he just offloaded at a discount rate at the nearest shop (Magic origin, south of IP).

We get inside the instanced mission, and we’re fighting Circle of Thorns mages and other beasties. I’m hot and bothered, it’s 26C in the computer room, and 56C inside my computer case, where the fans haven’t been cleaned since last summer.

BANG go the headphones, the screen goes black, the computer whirrs down to silence.

But the room lights are still on, so it wasn’t a power failure. “Oh, perhaps it overheated and the motherboard protection circuit kicked in, like it did last week”. The power light on the case is still on (highly unusual).

I press the power button for four seconds, and nothing happens.

So I yank the power cord out of the power supply (it has no on/off switch), and then put it in again.

Press the power button on the front of the case — nothing. Oh oh.

Then the smell of the magic escaping smoke assaults my nostrils. Something BAD has happened. Continue reading

AU copyright laws

The AU guvmint’s new copyright laws have received royal assent. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock feels compelled to an FAQ about them.

Hmmm. You’re not allowed to circumvent CD copy-protection. I wonder if that includes holding down Shift to stop the Autorun as you put it in the computer?

Even Kim Weatherall (who I assumed until the other day was a bloke; but she’s clearly not) notes that some of the significant dodgy provisions have been removed from the bill, particularly with regard to parody. Maybe that means I can produce Mcdonalds on Uluru t-shirts?

The UK is also reviewing its laws, and looks set to legalise parody.

And everybody’s seen this by now, but hey, it’s copyright-related: Google copies Yahoo. I mean really copies.

The free upgrade – dumping the old video card

The older of my PCs is a 1.7 Ghz Celeron with an Intel 845GL chipset and a 512Mb of RAM. It also has an old ancient Diamond Viper 550 (now owned by NVidia) graphics card in it, which under Windows 2000, it had seemed pretty zippy. Under XP, it’s not. It’s slow. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the XP drivers just aren’t up to scratch.

Over the weekend I got into the BIOS settings and switched back to the integrated graphics, with the frame buffer set to the max (8Mb). XP couldn’t figure out what it was looking at, so I had to go to the Intel web site and find the drivers. As it happens, up to that point I wasn’t even sure precisely what chipset it had (the manual has long been lost) but I figured out it was the 845GL just by looking at the initial prompts as the PC booted (and pressing Pause at the right time to jot down the precise details — which I later worked out I didn’t actually need).

In short, under XP, the integrated 845GL graphics whomps ye olde Diamond Viper 550. Suddenly scrolling the browser is back to a decent speed, and MAME doesn’t jutter. And incredibly the PC now boots up into XP faster than the newer 3 Ghz monster next to it — the latter has more software installed, including SQL Server.

The next test will be to see how 3D games perform with it, but general use looks much faster, so I’ll stick with it.

So while I had been considering putting more RAM and/or a new graphics card, I’ve just achieved what looks like a significant speed boost for $0 outlay. W00t!

Some brief stuff

Good news for our friends across the Tasman: iTunes NZ just opened.

Speculation that the death of CNet editor James Kim can be attributed to bad advice from an online mapping service, which didn’t know the road the family took was dangerous in winter. I’ve previously noted faults in trip planners though the worst I encountered was trips that would take too long, gain you a traffic ticket or were physically impossible.

By the way, for those in Melbourne, Metlink now have their Journey Planner plotting more trips, and showing you maps, including walking to the stop.

Microsoft’s RSS blog featured a pr0n image for a short time due to a Flickr image owner protesting over use of his picture without attribution.

Microsoft: please stop using Word

There’s a Zero-Day attack targeting MS-Word. This is the work-around:

Do not open or save Word files that you receive from untrusted sources or that you receive unexpectedly from trusted sources. This vulnerability could be exploited when a user opens a specially crafted Word file.

Don’t open Word files, not even in the Word viewer.

Nice.

I think I’ll just keep using Open Office.