Friday, May 31, 2002

Dave Mill tried to walk unaided to the North Pole a while back, and ended up having to be rescued. Here you can read the actual reports sent back by Dave from the arctic. A fascinating read.
posted by Mark 1:55 AM

Time for another silly game - fly a copter and see how far you can get. My best so far is 1139 but I'm sure you can beat that easily.
posted by Mark 1:44 AM

Did you know that the climate is controlled by teeny-tiny bugs that live in clouds, in order to secure their own survival? No, it's true, and if you give me £130,000 I'll prove it to you with my revolutionary "cyclonic cloud catcher".
posted by Mark 1:35 AM

This BBC news report is destined to become a modern classic; it's a tale that couldn't really have happened without the pervasive communications technology we have nowadays, but which, given that technology, seems inevitable. If it wasn't the BBC I'd have suspected it of being an urban legend.

A maths teacher watching over students taking a mock exam was keeping himself busy surfing for porn on his laptop. Unfortunately he had forgotten he was still hooked up to the class video projector. Oh. I'd love to have seen his face when he realised what he'd done. Imagine the conversation with the Headmaster...
posted by Mark 1:19 AM

I've been fiddling again, and the archives are now good to go. Go on, have a rummage among the links on the left there.
posted by Mark 12:55 AM

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Another odd reference site for the colection; An Index of Logical Fallacies. It doesn't sound like much fun does it? Well if you like a good argument, this is some of the best ammo you're going to find; spot these faults in your opponents reasoning and you'll be slicing and dicing 'em in no time; spot them in your own debating style and you can root the damn things out and tighten up those defences. Very handy info indeed. Or not.
posted by Mark 12:57 AM

The Compromise Effect. . . and the new thinking about money is that your irrationality is predictable. What a fascinating article! Apparently almost everyone is terrible at dealing with money - not only are so many of us alike, we're sufficiently alike that we are predictably irrational. How's that go again? I feel so much better now.
posted by Mark 12:45 AM

As if a shower in the morning wasn't already enough of a wake-up, ThinkGeek is selling Shower Shock Caffeinated Soap to really jolt you out of your slumber. No, they're not kidding and no you don't eat it. The caffeine is absorbed through the skin. What a wild idea.
posted by Mark 12:40 AM

I'm not a huge fan of Star Wars, but I want one of these beautiful lightsabres badly. I've no idea what on earth I might do with such a thing if I had one (although wandering about tryng to cut people in half isn't outside the bounds of possibility), I just know I want one.
posted by Mark 12:36 AM

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Wow. Everyone has probably noticed that I get worked up about computer security, but I'm extraordinarily relaxed compared to this guy.
posted by Mark 2:34 AM

It's amazing what some people do with Lego. Like The Brick Testament for example. Bible stories acted out by plastic building bricks? Amazing. I especially liked the classification icons to warn you in cases of nudity, sexual content, violence and cursing. I mean really; Lego nudity? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (warning: nudity and violence)
posted by Mark 2:16 AM

Computer speech is not new anymore, but this demonstration by AT&T Research Labs is particularly impressive (and great fun to play with). Just type in your phrase to hear it spoken by their latest Multi-Lingual Text-To-Speech software. This is probably the most natural-sounding computer voice I've heard so far, but I couldn't figure out how to make it sing, and I strongly suspect it's french accent is terrible . . .
posted by Mark 2:02 AM

I like adverts, especially old ones, so I was delighted to discover the collection at AdFlip, the worlds largest archive of classic print ads. Adverts are like pop songs in the way they can bring a memory flooding back, but they have the added advantage that some of them are hilarious. The database here is huge, so I'll let them explain how it all works...

You can search by category, by decade, even by year.

The "what are you looking for" search box allows you to type in a brand name and even a specific model name. We won't guarantee that you will always get a match, but you may be surprised at what is lurking deep in our archives.

"Today's 10" and "Another 10" are our attempt at humor and let you see ads that you might not find through a conventional search. The ads change every twenty four hours.

"my adflip" puts ads from all decades into categories that have a common theme.

There is stuff on here from the 1940's up to yesterday, so get on over and have a wander around. I think my favourite so far is the Audi A4 kangaroo. Vorsprung Durch Technik indeed.
posted by Mark 1:46 AM

Hot on the Contrails of Weather is an interesting article about the effects of jet contrails on the climate. It has long been theorised that the emission trails from jets could have an effect on the weather, but no one could prove it either way, because to see what the weather is like without them you would have to ground all aircraft.

As a side effect of the New York attack that's exactly what happened on September 11-13th last year, and the data has been examined with great interest. Using satellite imagery, Patrick Minnis of NASA's Langley Research Center watched "six contrails, each no wider than an airplane wing, evolve in a matter of hours into cloud banks that covered 20,000 square kilometers." The results are fascinating, but in a purely theoretical way - after all, no matter how bad it is, no-one will seriously consider banning all aircraft now will they?
posted by Mark 1:28 AM

Thanks to this very entertaining and informative guide to Key Words and Tricky Phrases for
Emergency Medical Personnel
I now know what a Gomer is, and how to evaluate a patients TTR (that one has me giggling still). Black humour at it's finest, not least because I'm pretty sure it's all perfectly serious.
posted by Mark 1:09 AM

This may be one of the ugliest websites I have ever seen, but the product is brilliant. Tomy BitChar-G are remote-control toy cars. So? Well (this is my favourite bit) - they are only 2 ½ inches long! Just the very thing for staging races around your desk (although with my desk I'll have to wait until they make a 4x4 offroad model). Be warned about the page design though - it may induce siezures in those susceptilble, and it's noisy too...
posted by Mark 12:53 AM

Sunday, May 19, 2002

I suspect that like me, you have no idea why cats might paint or dance. Well, the Museum of Non Primate Art think they can tell us. The site also has (and this one really baffles me) significant works of Windshield art, which just looks like photographs of birdshit to me.
posted by Mark 2:46 PM

Saturday, May 18, 2002

An “EPK” (electronic press kit) for Tom Waits' latest albums “Alice” and “Blood Money” is in the final stages of editing and should be completed some time next week. The video piece contains exclusive interview footage with Tom speaking about his latest albums and future plans. This will be available exclusively on

I know most of you don't care, but hey, it's my page too :)
posted by Mark 5:48 PM

If you're interested in the many and various ways mankind is screwing around with the planet you might want to keep an eye on the Environment News Service.
posted by Mark 5:42 PM

Looks like today is a Security Day. I'll find some fun stuff later, right now I'm in righteous indignation mode . . .
posted by Mark 4:58 PM

A friend of mine has been having a problem with huge amounts of incoming spam email, so I pointed him at SpamCop, a free service to help sort out who is responsible for the email, and report them to their service providers. It occurred to me that it might be a handy link to put up here too. So I did.
posted by Mark 4:41 PM

Salon has a very worrying article online at the moment, telling the tale of the pop-up ad campaign from hell. "It's the latest in Web marketing innovation: Hijacked Web surfers, exploited Web browser vulnerabilities and malicious spyware all wrapped up together."

The stuff that's described there is not apparently operational anymore as it was shut down as soon as it was dicovered, but it serves as a very clear warning of the underhanded and invasive things that are achievable through these ever-present (and ever-annoying) pop up windows. Basically, if you went to a site that was running this ad, as soon as it popped up it would immediately re-direct you to another site, whether you wanted to go or not; no clicking required. The new site then starts downloading stuff to your hard-disk. Once installed, this new software was secretly monitoring browsing behaviour and setting up a hidden back-door to allow the programmers to upload anything they liked to the infected computer. This is just the stuff that's been figured out from analysing the programs so far; the techies are still trying to work out what else it's doing. Scary stuff, and very very naughty. This isn't advertising, it's illegal surviellance. Read the article for lots more details, it's simultaneously impressively clever and depressingly unprincipled.

What can we do to protect against this stuff?

Well, a decent virus checker with up-to-date data files is an essential first step. All the major anti-virus players have added checks for the programs mentioned above, but that doesn't really help against new variations - one thing that pretty much always happens with a new exploit like this is that the idea gets hijacked, modified and used again. And the virus checkers might not catch the next one until it's way too late. There have been 5000 reports of machines infected from this one campaign, and must be many more users out there who are blissfully unaware of what is happening on their net connection.

Ideally, you need to be able to kill the pop-up windows before they open, and there are a few ways to do this. My personal favourite (and one of the best pieces of free software I ever installed) is The Proxomitron, which can not only kill the pop-up windows, it can kill almost all adverts and unwanted code on any web page. Unfortunately, this is a fairly technical solution, and might not be suitable for more casual computer users. The author Scott Lemmon happily admits the he designed the program for "the unrepentant system tweaker" - this is definately me, but might not be you. This link will take you to a search results page at CNET's with a list of free software to allow you to control pop-up windows. I have never used any of these, so they don't get the Wasted Times Thumbs Up, but I have heard good things about "Pop-Up Stopper" in the past.
posted by Mark 4:38 PM

It's once more time for all you Internet Explorer users to do a bit more digital dancing to Miscrosoft's tune - we present for your displeasure The Security Update Two-Step . . .

Yep; another big security hole (well, six of 'em actually) has been found, and trust me, you want to close this down. M$ themselves describe this one as critical, as it potentially allows nasty unwashed hackers to run anything they like on your machine, which is a Bad Thing. It's not hard to do, and I really think you should.

So, are you ready? Right then, here we go.

Step One: Read the technical stuff in Security Bulletin MS02-023 (to be honest you can skip this bit if you like).

Step Two: Install the patch. You'll need this page of instructions which has a link to the actual patch files. I've linked it this way because there are different patches for different versions of IE, so you'll have to choose the one you need.
posted by Mark 3:28 PM

Thursday, May 16, 2002

I've been playing with the layout (I'm not brave enough to call it a design) again, did you notice? Apparently the last one looked very odd in some browsers, so I've gone for something simpler this time round. If anyone is still getting odd results (except Duncan, who doesn't count) can you let me know?

And now I've got that out of the way - on with the links . . .
posted by Mark 10:31 PM

One of the things I find constantly frustrating about the internet is American websites who won't send their wares out of the country. Often it's a t-shirt, or even a complete outfit that catches my eye; sometimes it's something for the house or the car, or maybe a neat watch. And look at this; the perfect thing to wear while answering the door at night.

It's just not fair, I mean all they have to do is post me some stuff.
posted by Mark 10:09 PM

I have no idea how to pronounce Loquax, but I do know I like the website they run. It's The UK's Competition Portal and is positively stuffed with details of hundreds of competitions that are running currently. It's amazingly comprehensive, detailing the prizes, closing dates and conditions of all the featured comps (see? I'm picking up the lingo already!) and in many cases a link to the online entry forms. One that I looked at even had the answer to the question there for you. That's what I call a useful service. Actually there is so much information here that at times it can be a bit overwhelming, but if you like trying in vain to win stuff you're gonna love it. Have a stumble around and try to win something; you never know your luck. Oh, and if you do win, I get ten percent finders fee, okay?

Now all I have to do is pack for my trip to Dublin while I wait for my nice new widescreen TV to be delivered. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I should have kept this one quiet . . .
posted by Mark 9:27 PM

In Colorado, a pet cat, if loose, must have a tail-light. Odd Laws.
posted by Mark 9:01 PM

The Atlantic Online (a magazine site I enjoy reading regularly) has a rather extensive archive online, going right back to the very early days of the paper publication. This article from 1922 about the trials, tribulations and motivations of an avid book lover is a wonderful read.

I find it reassuring to discover that some things haven't changed in the intervening years - many of the sentiments (and stratagems) described are things I have felt (and done) myself. If you're a bibliophile yourself, go and have a read - I'll bet you it all seems strangely familiar.

And while you are there, why not have a browse around the rest of the site, there is a lot of great writing on there.
posted by Mark 7:48 PM

Not all cutting edge interface hardware is a good idea, witness the Combination Keyboard and Mouse.
posted by Mark 7:34 PM

Another collection of strange things I stumbled across - The LSD Blotter Art Gallery. Pure nostalgia . . .
posted by Mark 7:31 PM

I really have no idea what could inspire someone to develop a product like this. Even more amazing is the fact that the site selling the stuff seems to be aimed at women! Surely this sort of humour is a guy thing?
posted by Mark 7:28 PM

As you are all no doubt aware, various government agencies, corporations and shadowy comittees of megalomaniacs use insidious mind-control techniques to influence us as we go about our drab little lives.

You probably also know that the traditional defence is the famous tinfoil hat, but the problem was always where to get these supressed items. I know I could never find one down the shops.

Well now, thanks to Lyle Zapato, we have a set of simple instructions on how to build your own, along with a fascinating history of their use and some intriguing background information. Thanks to Lyle we can reclaim our brains (although I suspect for me it may be too late).
posted by Mark 7:24 PM