Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Google Talk

Google recently jumped into the Instant-Messaging fray with their Google-Talk service. It's based on Jabber, an open protocol that's been around for a while and works pretty well (I've been using it for at least a year) that has implementations around for every operating system you can think of (and in plenty of programming languages too so I'm sure you can use it no matter how obscure your requirements). It's also secure (encrypted messages), allows files to be sent to and fro, and planned to be extensible. Google already have their own ways of adding more functionality.

The easiest way for Windows users is to download their google-talk client for it, but anyone with a jabber client and a gmail email address can use it to chat and keep their online status available to friends.

Note: announced a few days ago, I've just been late publishing this.

Browser speed

An interesting (well, ok, for me...), reasonably scientific comparison of browser speed on all the main platforms and for all the main browsers. Opera claims to be the fastest, and, whaddaya know?

Browser Speed Wars

I've always loved Opera ever since I came across it and with v8 it's become even better, and quicker to startup. You do have a while from cold start, but once it's loaded everything runs very nicely, and it's stupidly customisable (I love this) although you do have to be a bit of a techy to mess around in depth. I read all my rss feeds in it now and the only thing left is for it to catch my podcasts too then I'll be sorted. Read the next post.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Renault Clio Cup182

I had a test drive last weekend (20th Aug) in a Renault 182 Cup - the next one on from the 172 of a year or two ago?

Nice effective and gradual brakes but not a lot of feel. Nice steering feedback, quite light too, but I do prefer my Scooby which does have very nice steering.

Seating position isn't that great - it requires a slight reach for the gearstick (and with me being 6' with long arms what about anyone else?); the seat's a fair bit higher than I'm used to, I felt too high but it could just have been my Subaru conditioning. Needs quite a few revs before it feels powerful. I only really experienced the full pull once, accelerating up onto a dual carriageway and it felt like I was pushing it too far as the revs got to 6k rpm. My Scooby's redline is 7k, and the turbo-boost is limited at 6.5 when there's a very noticable and fairly sudden drop in power if you've got your foot down so I always change up before then even if I'm really going for it. But that's what it took for it to feel a fast car. Mind you, the red line is at 7.4k I think. It was quite a gradual step up from feeling like an ordinary capable little supermini to the power surge, which I almost disliked - the turbo kick may have it's downside (ugh.. lag..) but you certainly know when you're on boost! It involves you more as you're thinking about the revs, and just generally, from being pretty manic (scary if you're not used to it) acceleration at full pelt). Is this Clio a VVT-type engine (or Renault's equivalent)?

It was fun anyway, and another car to add to my experience


Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Damn puncture. Might have got it pinched against a kerb or something Saturday night when parking up/leaving, but it went flat as a pancake and was instantly noticable as I drove away - but I dropped off the kerb immediately as I moved away so I didn't have any gap between moving or steering and noticing it to be able to say.

Still, I needed the car for Sunday so I couldn't leave it there and come back in the morning (early-ish start) to sort it out at leisure; besides, my mate was going out Sunday too. I'd had a good evening at his just hanging out with a few friends and playing games, so to be changing a tyre for my space-saver spare at 12.30am was not fun. Thankyou very much again for your help though, Jim. Half an hour later I drove home carefully and noticing the difference in grip; lighter steering; and tendency for the ABS to come on without anywhere near the normal amount of provocation. Not going to dare to push it's performance envelope like this.

I made it down to Lewes-way-ish and back again - 5hr drive there and back via picking a friend up without a problem luckily. Not an ideal trip to make on a spare tyre but it had been arranged weeks ago and I didn't want to let everyone down at the last minute. Gotta see if they can repair the tyre now, or if it's another £44 into that bottomless pit they call car maintenance (glad it was a cheap tyre).

PS: more posts coming soon, got a few lined up in draft.

Monday, August 22, 2005


One good thing about IE (yep, I found one!)- it works with pages that need IE. That's usually bad though (doh..) cos it means it's using some kind of insecure scripting or ActiveX (argh help!). Ok, there are exceptions. One other: I suppose that it's the default browser used by an awful lot of people just cos they've never considered there might be another option. No, hang on, that's a bad thing (again) - you need to make sure it looks ok in IE even if your code doesn't look good/right.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Charlie's Chocs

Another film review! God, I'll be turning this site into a movie blog! I did say I had a few to catch up on.

Our usual gang went to go see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Wednesday evening. We were all quite interested to see it, but only one of us had seen the first film version; I went with a clear mind and almost no expectations. Well, ok, I expected Johnny Depp to be at least 'ok' as Willy Wonka. He was. I don't know how much more than that I can posit though.

So what did I think of it? Really, I'm not quite sure. It's been two days and I still don't quite know how much I liked it. I can quantify it by saying it'd score somewhere between 6 and 8 out of 10 (as per IMDB's voting system), but I can't be any more precise than that. Sorry.

Should you go see it? Maybe. It's got the Oompa Loompas, not the same as the first movie at all according to my esteemed mate though. It's got Depp as a little-bit-crazy Willy Wonka who almost breaks into dance with the Oompas (or should I call them Loompas???), then remembers one of his guests has gone and has to look disapproving. It's got lavishly designed and almost Tim-Burton-esque-in-ways sets in the chocolate factory and rather a good effect for the elevator. Very colourful, realistic chocolate rivers and scenery. The other children are indeed despicable and it's easy to hate them and empathise with Charlie (very well cast). And... And... I'm running out of things to say.

I very much enjoyed the two books (choc. factory and great glass elevator) when I was growing up, and I hope Roald Dahl would be happy with this rendering of his story; he wouldn't turn in his grave but I don't know how excited he'd get. If you're keen to see it by all means go, if you've got kids they might enjoy it more than you if they're not looking for anything deeper; but don't put it top of your schedule. That's my opinion anyway.


Batman Begins : Sin City

Ok, no the caped crusader didn't really begin there. But it was a good title for the post; and Frank Miller is involved in some way in the creation of both. So it's appropriate I saw them within a few days of each other. The mainly black-and-white, and heavily film-noir Sin City is based on Frank's (not so comic) comics of a city so twisted, corrupted and lawless that you can get away with anything given the right friends or deals. Now we come onto Batman, who in this movie has to protect a corrupt, twisted.. Gotham from destruction. Coincidental?

It's not Frank's first time with Mr. Wayne as I mentioned earlier - he did a superb job redefining the Batman character in perhaps his most acclaimed work as a dark vigilante-style hero. This was animated, dark, film-noir-like stuff (although a lot more cheerful than Sin City) and brilliantly done. The drawings were spot on, the stories were good if I remember correctly, and I heartily recommend you check it out if you've not come across them before and it's your thing (if you can find it anywhere). One of my favourite cartoons of that style. Although calling it a cartoon doesn't do it justice.

Batman is one of those films you don't want to end when it's building up the tension and action, and the flashbacks to his youth are linked in very well to explain Batman's back-story. Ok, I knew the basics and some of you may have known more detail; but I certainly got a good insight and a real believable link between Bruce as a child and the dual personality of the business-man and the hero now.

They're both very well made, dark, gritty, and entertaining films. I think I liked Batman more; Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are great in their supporting roles (Michael Caine really makes a great butler to Christian Bale's tormented child and later, man-in-kevlar-black avenger).

Oh, and Katie Holmes is gorgeous (as usual); but it says enough about the movie that she wasn't one of the main reasons I went to see it.


Parties and Power Sockets

A party on both of the last 2 weekends left me a bit exhausted and low on motivation to do much when I got back home in the evenings, so I'm glad this weekend's a bit more relaxed. Just two things to do: one involves a regular favour for my mate's mum looking after their house while they're away, the other is more fun - finding out who I'll still recognise at the car meets I used to go to when my Scooby was on the road. I haven't been to one since it's been road-taxed again and I missed the last 2 months events due to being too busy, so I'm looking forward to some fun driving and catching up with the bunch.

The reason I was so busy at the weekends is that I was in Nottingham two weeks ago for a big party, took the train up with my reduced fair on the railcard; the weekend before that I was in London and visited a Health Spa for the first time ever; and the one after it I was catching up on film-watching (which made me really busy :-) and doing some bellringing (for a wedding).

Now, there's not so much I can really tell you (and keep this respectable) about the party in Notts, except that I had a great time, was up til 5am-ish (was all a haze by then, so not sure!) on Saturday night - or Sunday morning to be more accurate, and had 3hrs sleep. Does it seem sad that the 'revelation' I want to blog about more is that the train up from Kings Cross had power sockets by the seats? I've never come across this before. Only intended for mobile phone/laptop chargers but very handy for keeping your device topped up. Particularly if, like me, you use your phone as your iPod-alike mp3 player - the media player does suck up battery life like a hoover. Caught up with a few podcasts on that trip and did some more reading of Douglas Adams' biography (which I've now just finished).

Unfortunately the train coming back sucked - low seat backs, half the number of carriages and from rather old stock (apparently the original one had problems and that was all they could get their hands on for that service).

I've now seen Sin City, Batman Begins (good film, recommended - way better than the last couple of cheesy attempts), and Van Helsing + School of Rock on satellite. Made up for not watching any (well, only one) since I'd started work. Reviews may be forthcoming for the two I saw at the cinema (and both have Frank Miller connections so very appropriate I saw them so conjointly).

School of Rock / Van Helsing aren't worth raving about (although I missed some of the start of V.Helsing), but they're ok films to pass the time with and School of Rock is kinda fun. VH is blah blah with a few nice SFX. I've always liked Jack Black since I saw him in Hi-Fidelity (worth renting) but he was a little too much at times in SoR. Very charismatic, just a little more than I was ready for at times. Not as bad as Jim Carrey in some of his but I hope you get my point.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


So, the new job.

Having allowed myself time after my trip to Barcelona, I was rested for my first day commuting up to London. I needed to be, cos at least an hour and a half each way of travelling (if I walk to the station) can take it out of you, even if you are sitting for most of it. But I'm getting used to it. Actually, it means I now get time to read, listen to podcasts again or my music - which I haven't done much of for quite a while. Particularly reading.

This is a good thing (tm) because while exploring London in the first week I found the official Douglas Adams biography, and being a fan of Hitch-Hikers Guide I had to get it - for the £4 I didn't care if I could have got it cheaper online. It's proving a good insight into the man, and well enough written that I'm getting into it although the flow could have been improved: I think Mark (Webb, the author) has tried to put too much into it as part of the text. Don't get me wrong, some of the snippets are fascinating; but it felt like there were too many or they were more deeply explored sometimes than I cared about. Maybe it depends how big a fan you are for the more trivial items. Good use has been made of footnotes for some of them so it's not as bad as it could be (very occasionally footnotes fill half the page!). I always loved the books and radio series and the TV version was cult sci-fi although nowhere near as well made or as funny. Very much looking forward to movie no.2 though, "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe".

So, I'm getting through the book, catching up with Adam Curry / Reel Reviews / others and making use of my Travelcard with free zone 1-6 travel in London (ouch.. £285 a month to commute). The job's going fine, I'm settling in and getting to know the project and the people I'm working with a little better, and looking forward to the increased socialising opportunities. Not quite sure whether anyone from work hangs out with anyone else in the evenings ever, but I did come across a few having a drink in the pub right next door to us last Friday noon. I've been busy every weekend since (parties! - but that's another blog post) so I haven't really considered asking them if they want to go for a drink, but I'm sure I'll get to know them better in due time.

One other sidenote I had to mention was being able to add one more shirt back into my arsenal as a direct result of the new job. I had a light purple one two years ago that I kind of had to retire to the back of the wardrobe purely because it was too like my work uniform at the Post Office. Now I don't work there anymore, I don't feel like I'm at the P.O. everytime I wear it. Hurrah!