Year: 2010

  • Fighting the Winter

    Bournemouth Tundra

  • Unwholesomeness

    Maybe it’s a result of over-exposure to kids’ TV due to my own son, or possibly it’s due to the fact half the Blue Peter presenters of my generation spent their spare time with coke up their noses, but I can’t help but feel everything wholesome and good on television is secretly not.

  • Behold, AutoMouse! [Product Announce]


  • Life Out of Rhythm

    With Joseph now spending a week and a half at his grandparents’ house, our lives are even more bereft of the enforced routine of being parents to a toddler. It’s not that I miss this routine – god knows, I hate routine more than most – but how strange it feels when it’s no longer present.

  • Semicolon Rage

    Yesterday, I had a simple if statement. It looked like this:

  • The Perils of Gas Supply

    So, I got home today to discover a nice polite letter put under our flat door. This enlightened us to the fact that representatives of the energy company E-on had tried to visit today “to discuss any problems [I] may have paying”, and that I should contact them as soon as possible, otherwise they would obtain a Warrant for Entry and return with Police and a locksmith if necessary.

  • Breaking Out of Twitter

    Earlier this evening, @HolyHaddock linked to an entry on Brian Hurt’s blog entitled “Why I Quit Twitter”. In it, he argues for his leaving Twitter on the grounds that it is not a good place for debate and extended discussion:

  • Multitasking, the new "Doing Things"

    I am beginning to wonder if it is possible for me to single-task anymore.

  • The Public Human

    One of the greatest trends in technology over the last decade seems to have been the erosion of privacy, and I don’t see this changing in the decade to come. Our greater dependence on the internet, social networking, blogging, sharing, status updates – they are all leading us towards a world where nothing is private anymore.

  • The Web’s Syntax Problem

    As @aefaradien notes, the web has a syntax problem. It’s this: A user wishes to post something complicated – text with links, formatting, even inline graphics. They go to a website and are faced with a text box and a flashing cursor. What do they type? What syntax will help them achieve their goal?

  • All Bugs Are Shallow… Except This One

    In his essay “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”, Eric S. Raymond coins the phrase “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” – meaning that with enough testers and enough programmers, it is possible to diagnose and fix any software bug.

  • Momentary Reminiscence

    Four years ago, what dominated my mind most was that I was running out of time. The end of my time at University loomed large in front of me. I didn’t have a job to go to, my final year project was dead in the water and my relationship was painfully long-distance, but those weren’t the most weighty issues. I was troubled far more by the fact that three months from then, I’d be leaving the city that defined my transition from childhood to adulthood, losing that constant contact with friends that defines University life.

  • E-mail to MP: Please Demand Debate on the Digital Economy Bill

    This e-mail was sent to Sir John Butterfill MP (Conservative, Bournemouth West) on 17th March 2010. Read his reply here.

  • Reply from MP to "Please Demand Debate on the Digital Economy Bill"

    This is my MP, Sir John Butterfill’s (Conservative, Bournemouth West), response to this e-mail.

  • An Ode to Sharepoint

    At a loss for other, more pleasant subjects to blog about, I will instead write about my nemesis, that being that has brought naught but pain to my life. I speak, of course, of Microsoft Sharepoint.

  • The In-Between Devices

    Saturday’s launch of the Apple iPad, and the ensuing fanboy circle-jerk, have thrown into the public eye yet another category of device to further muddy the gadget waters. It is by no means the first tablet, nor will it be the last by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s probably the device that’s most widely spread the idea that “hey, tablets exist”.

  • The Lib Dems and the Case of the Trident Missiles

  • Let’s Win it for Britain?

    At 5pm sharp, my phone dinged to let me know that a new joyous missive had been received unto my inbox, from a doubtless fine fellow by the name of “David Cameron”.

  • Welcome to the New Digital Economy

    Despite its sponsorship by a twice-disgraced and unelected politician, despite the fact that it was transparently lobbied for by companies representing the record labels, despite it carrying disproportionate punishments for file-sharers, despite it seeking to undermine the work of content creators, despite a promise to oppose it from the Lib Dems, still the Digital Economy Bill passed through the Houses of Parliament.

  • Proxies and the Law

    In light of the passing of the Digital Economy Bill, and Ben Bradshaw’s intent to push for government power to force ISPs to block sites that are “likely” to be used for copyright infringement, the government could in a few months’ time demand that ISPs block access to the likes of Wikileaks, The Pirate Bay and Rapidshare, all sites that have perfectly legal uses. And I’m sure it can’t be long before the government and the IWF together have a go at 4chan.

  • Dating the Techno-Thriller

    There’s little greater testament to the incredible pace of technological progress than the rate at which books set in the present day become dated.

  • Sizing in Crisis!

    It’s always confused me a little how, in most take-away pizza joints, the smallest size is ‘Medium’. Surely, by definition, it is not? Maybe it’s some sort of cultural adversity to buying a ‘small’ anything, but then surely they would call the smallest one ‘small’ to coerce people into buying larger and more expensive pizzas?

  • Why is Che Guevara Cool?

    Here’s a question for the interwebs that the combined mental might of our car-pool couldn’t answer this afternoon: Why the heck is Che Guevara cool?

  • From Beneath the Ash Cloud’s Shadow

    The morning began with a blaze of contrails across the sky, traces of the early flights to far-off lands. With them came a sense that pent-up tension is being slowly released into the atmosphere, this time the tension of humanity and holidays and business, rather than that of rock and magma squeezed upwards by tectonic plates.

  • The World’s Best Heat-Sink

    The World's Best Heat-Sink

  • St George is Cross

    Tomorrow is St George’s Day, a day of… frankly nothing, in honour of England’s dubious patron saint. Whereas St Andrew’s Day is at least a holiday for the Scots, and the Irish St Patrick’s Day has been exported all over the world as a celebration of stout and silly hats, we’ve kept ours to ourselves, down-played it, almost as if we’re embarrassed by it.

  • An Experiment in Dynamic Democracy

    Dynamic Democracy

  • The Dilemma of the Young Socialist

    In case you aren’t aware, my political views are rather towards the Left end of the spectrum, to the extent that while I’m not sure I’d fully commit to the label ‘Socialist’, I’m certainly not far off.

  • Death by Electorate 2010

    For any of you wanting a reason to be in A&E; by 6am tomorrow, we proudly present: the Election Results Drinking Game!

  • The Best We Could Have Hoped For?

    I returned to my hotel at half past ten last night, having drunk just enough Kräuser to make Labskaus palatable, to find a Giant Smug Cameron Face grinning at me from a lectern outside 10 Downing Street. “The Queen has asked me to form a new government,” he began, and I started to wonder if I should have had more beer after all.

  • Keeping in Touch

    I guess it’s funny who you do and who you don’t stay in touch with. After all this time I’m still partying with people whose time at Uni didn’t even intersect with mine, but yet I see my best friends maybe once a year at most. And of the three people I spent my time at Uni developing crushes on? I haven’t spoken to two of them since 2006.

  • RABIES, Six Years On

    Somehow, against all odds, a party we threw in June of 2005 to celebrate the graduation of Racheet and Andy turned into a regular yearly event. This, for spaffy self-indulgent reasons, is its history.

  • Tiring of Lock-In

    My main argument against owning an iPhone, despite their shininess, has been one of vendor lock-in. Once you have an iPhone, you are virtually compelled to also use iTunes, as it won’t sync with anything else. And that dictates your choice of operating system and primary media player, both of them towards software that I’d not otherwise pick (Windows or Mac over Linux, and iTunes over virtually anything else).

  • Calling All Soton Kiddies!

    My attendance at the latest RABIES event, and the ensuing “oh god I’m old” melancholy, have set me off really, really missing my own generation of Southampton geeks. And since Twitter seems generally in agreement, I propose: Some Sort of Event! (Fanfare please.)

  • Society isn’t Broken!

    From Tory plans for communities to create their own schools to Guardian hacks begging for alternative currencies, ex-Soviet strategies for social collapse to alarmist talk of counter-insurgency on American soil, there has been a lot of talk lately about the advantages of small, self-sufficient communities over the single one-size-fits-all approach of the nation state. Half the world seems to think that, due to the economic downturn or by deliberate policy decision, the governments of the world won’t be effective at ruling their nations anymore.

  • When Mark met David

    After the recent visit of Mark “I’m the CEO… bitch” Zuckerberg to No. 10 Downing Street, Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for culture and media, tweeted:

  • Game Recommendations Please!

    A job for bored lazywebbers:

  • Preying on the Mantis

    In Douglas Carswell MP’s blog post “Is Mantis going to fly?”, he bemoans the amount of money the Ministry of Defence have spent funding BAE’s Mantis unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), suggesting instead that we should not have invested in it and should instead have bought existing off-the-shelf UAVs, by which he presumably means the MQ-9 Reaper. He goes on to presume that a Mantis procurement contract must no longer be on the cards, based on the response he received to his question to the Secretary of State for Defence.

  • Revenge of the Mosquito

    The “Mosquito” anti-loitering system apparently still exists (shows how much I visit shopping centres), and somehow is still up for discussion in the House of Commons. I don’t believe I’ve publicly vented my spleen on this subject before, so here goes.

  • This is your Brain on Electrodes

    Two interesting articles surfaced on the internet today that have resulted in rampant frothing from my location. The first, linked by @CampaignReboot, is this: “A Pacemaker for your Brain”.

  • Farewell, Dynamic Democracy

    Back in April, the Digital Economy Bill was rushed through the wash-up procedure of the outgoing government without the due debate and consideration that I and others believe such a far-reaching bill deserved. My disillusionment with the government decision-making process over the following week led me to set up and announce a new site, called “Dynamic Democracy”. It was an experiment to see what would be discussed if everyone was involved – on an anonymous basis – rather than just our elected representatives that often do not do a good job of representing us anyway.

  • The Open Government we Campaigned For?

    This morning, Liberal Democrat supporters and others unfortunate enough to have made it onto Nick Clegg’s mailing list received an e-mail from the Deputy Prime Minister announcing the Your Freedom website.  Which is great, although a good 24 hours late.

  • Announcing: Westminster Hubble!

    Ladies and gentlemen of the blogosphere, I am proud to announce the release of a new website. This is what I have been winding up most of my Twitter followers for the last two months by referring to it only as “Super Secret Project #1”. Its name is Westminster Hubble.

  • The Technology of Westminster Hubble

    For anyone interested (yes this is mostly for you, @HolyHaddock), Westminster Hubble is written in a combination of PHP and JavaScript, with a MySQL database as its backend.

  • Raoul Moat and the Facebook of Lulz

    For some unimaginable reason, two weeks and counting after the whole Raoul Moat business kicked off, it’s still plastered across the papers. Why? Because someone created a Facebook tribute page. Facebook refused to take it down. Then the owner removed it. Then someone made another one. Then the Prime Minister waded in. And one of Moat’s victims.

  • Cherry Blossom and Reminiscence

    Last night I ended up watching the last few episodes of an anime series called Cardcaptor Sakura, which by my reckoning is at least ten years since I watched it all the way through as a kid.

  • My Contribution to Big Society

    Today, Prime Minister David Cameron launched his ‘Big Society’ initiative, aimed at empowering local communities to fix their own problems. On the surface it sounds to me like a nice idea, getting neighbours to work together to save their post office or whatever.

  • The Cautionary Tale of Sultan Hamnvik

    That the car park was eerily futuristic, with automated sensors telling you how many spaces remained in each lane, should have been your first warning. No, yet earlier than that. You should have realised when it took you four attempts to leave the dual carriageway at the right junction. No amount of poor navigation skill could have led you to fail that many times. You should have realised, then, that the place distorted reality around it. Whether it was just unusually massive, or unusually evil, you couldn’t tell from the outside. All you could tell was that it twisted your perceptions, made your mind and your car run in circles. But these circles were concentric, spiralling ever inwards, towards the core. Once you saw the sign and the inviting arrow beside that junction, all hope was already lost. You were caught in its net.

  • A Farewell to Summer

    The day began with mist rolling in over the sea, but before long it turned to morning drizzle and on into a rainy afternoon; big, lazy raindrops falling in patches from the sky. Then as evening came the mist rolled in once more, cloaking everything in dampness and white. Here by the shores of the English Channel, this is how autumn begins.

  • Politics, meet Videogames. Everybody Loses.

    On Sunday, Britain’s Defence Secretary Liam Fox called for the upcoming Medal of Honor game to be banned by retailers (BBC). Apparently he finds it “hard to believe any citizen of our country would wish to buy such a thoroughly un-British game”, which shows quite a remarkable lack of understanding of the people he is supposed to represent. And since when has there been an expectation that American games should be “British” anyway?

  • Adrift in Time

    As Mark pointed out to me, it’s probably rather strange to pick for your Best Man someone who you’ve seen only three times in as many years. But although some small part of my brain insists that some time has passed since I left university, it’s easily overruled by the rest.

  • a thousand words: A New Timesink has Arrived!

    Somehow unable to cope with actually having free time of an evening, I have taken on yet another project which will doubtless push me deeper into the dark, untamed wilds of the internet, the land stalked only by the mysterious beast known as the “web developer”.

  • a thousand words: First Sketches

    With the main browsing UI for a thousand words up and running, it’s time to bore the world with more pointless trivia before moving on. Today: design sketches!

  • a thousand words: GETting and POSTing

    Another day, another bunch of functionality added to a thousand words. With the main public-facing interfaces largely complete, I have moved on to the guts of the site’s user interaction. The site now has working, but ugly, implementations of:

  • Failure to Organise

    My parents were, if nothing else, organised at all times. I don’t recall at any point realising that they had no idea what was going on, or that they weren’t absolutely in charge of what we did. In contrast, Eric and I muddle through day-to-day, just about keeping it together – sometimes we forget to brush Joseph’s teeth, or can’t be bothered to wash up, or leave the laundry sitting in the washing machine for a bit too long.

  • a thousand words: Hot Profilin’ Action

    A few days’ laziness (by which I mean a few days’ Starcraft) have passed with not much work being done on “a thousand words”. That came to an end tonight, with a productive evening resulting in a working profile system so that users can now add and display personal information, change their registered e-mail address and password, etc.

  • a thousand words: Alpha, Beta

    “a thousand words” has now reached a stage where every feature that I give a damn about is implemented. Thus, we’re opening it up to a limited beta test to iron out the wrinkles and get a list of any features potential users would like to see us launch with. If you’re bored or simply have a love of breaking other people’s shit, head along to and see what hell you can raise. As the Big Red Box Text warns you, really don’t submit any work of fiction you care about, just in case some kind soul finds an SQL injection vulnerability and trashes the database.

  • a thousand words: Finishing Touches

    The vast majority of user-reported bugs and requested features on “a thousand words” have now been sorted out. As requested by my co-conspirator Eric, we now have an ‘adult content’ filter based on a date of birth field in users’ profiles, and a ‘report’ button to bring problematic stories and pictures to the attention of the moderators. There’s also a DeviantArt-style “request critique” option to let users know what kind of comments you’re looking for.

  • Engineering and Enterprise

    I stoop low over the table, squinting in the flickering light of an incandescent bulb not long for this world. My fingers clutch and twist wires, forming tiny twigs of copper into shapes that would join and hold fast. I am Making Ethernet Happen. Without benefit of crimping tools or solder, or even sellotape to separate each contact from its kin, I have zero technology, and with it I bring our species’ greatest technology to this place.

  • Cyberpunk Cities in the Making

    (”]Bahrain Financial Harbour

  • New Labour: Gone, but not Forgotten

    “The era of New Labour has passed,” said Ed Miliband on Sunday, and boy was I happy to hear that.

  • The Meh Society

    Today, Ed Miliband gave his acceptance speech to the Labour party conference, and having watched it, I caught myself accidentally feeling cautiously optimistic. Have no fear, that feeling was quickly despatched and I remain my normal cynical self.

  • The Curious Case of the Disappearing Child Benefit

    This morning, the Prime Minister used his BBC interview to let us know why, exactly, his proposed changes to the Child Benefit system take into account the income of a single family member rather than the household overall.

  • In Which I Bemoan the Tech Level in the Navy

    My job, in the main, is to produce HMIs (human-machine interfaces) for equipment that’s mostly sold to the world’s Navies. Which is great – it’s a job I love, and appear to be reasonably good at. We toil away for months or years, producing a nice GUI with lots of clicky buttons, and usually, customers love it. Often the reason they like it so much is because the interface it replaces, the interface of their old gear, is a bunch of giant battleship-grey painted cabinets adorned with half the world’s supply of little flicky toggle switches. In a lot of situations, just being able to replace dedicated hardware with a general-purpose computer is great.

  • i-Dosing is a Thing Now?

    So, not only does October’s edition of Wired UK suggest 4chan in its list of unusual places to make friends online – yup, that would indeed be an unusual place to look – but it seems to have decided to enlighten its readers on the wonders of i-Dosing too.

  • The Next Step for Ambient Data

    In one of my previous posts, “In Which I Bemoan the Tech Level in the Navy”, I discussed the possibility of layering radar and targeting data as a heads-up display (HUD) over a ship’s Bridge windows – not necessarily to speed up reaction time as a fighter pilot requires, but just to remove the layer of separation between data and reality.

  • Cold War II: Once More with Botnets

    In a press conference at the RSA Conference yesterday, Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, suggested that the principles of “cyber-war” could be influenced by those of nuclear deterrence.

  • Game Idea Spam Time!

    One of the games I remember liking from what I was shocked to discover was 11 years ago was Warzone 2100. It’s actually one of the rare examples of an Abandonware game that’s been taken and updated on by a loyal community – over a decade since it was first released, they’re working on version 3.0. (You can download it from here, completely free.)

  • For the Discerning Lady or Gentleman, SuccessWhale version 1.1

    The sudden proliferation of peoples’ syndicated tweets from sources such as Foursquare and Fallen London annoys me far more than it should. Any more sensible old grouch would pick up his pipe, don slippers and write a strongly-worded letter to the local newspaper about how this ‘checking in’ business is corrupting society.

  • Alright Government, Hands Off Our Internet

    And that is an ‘our’ that does not extend to those inside Westminster, because with a few notable exceptions, MPs have shown an almost complete lack of understanding of the internet and how it works.

  • Alarm Apps, and the Lulz that can be had

    I am in the middle of creating an Android app that’s a kind of super alarm clock. (God forbid I should have less than six projects on the go at once.) In the run-up to your chosen alarm time, it pulls down various feeds from the internet so that it can wake you with news, weather and traffic information. A typical wake-up message might be:

  • October’s End

    How quickly this October has come and gone! Barely a memory ago, it was summer, and we took the train home along the beach in the sunshine. But before long jumpers came out of the cupboard, then coats, then hats. Suddenly the ground is frosty of a morning, I wake up in darkness, and I return home in darkness. The house is empty and cold, and Hallowe’en looms.

  • The Atheist’s Sense of Wonder

    I’ve no idea why this thought should crop up now, but I recall being asked several times by religious folk why I would choose not to believe in a god. Often their question is something like “Why believe that everything you see around you was created by random chance, when it would be so much more wonderful to think that someone created it all just for us?”

  • A Farewell to Marmablues

    May 1998, half a lifetime ago. It was my 13th birthday, and my parents – no doubt annoyed by four years of me messing with the family computer – bought me my own. It had a 333MHz processor, 32 glorious megabytes of RAM, and most exciting of all, a 56k dial-up modem.

  • Waning Technological Desire

    What seems like a long time ago, I blogged about the unrelenting pace of technology and Internet-borne social interaction, and how much I loved it. But that was a February day with the promise of Spring in the near future. Now it is Autumn, and I am not altogether sure I feel the same way.

  • Windy Morning Mechanics: How Big a Sail do I Need to Fly Away?

    I recall walking to school in a hurricane in what must have been 1989 or 1990, grabbing onto a nearby fence to hold myself steady, wondering how strong the wind would have to be to pick me up off the ground. In the intervening 20 years I never did work it out. It’s a windy day today, so, to the Classical-mechanics-mobile!

  • Sea Battle, now with more Processing

    Nearly a month ago now, I blogged some sketches and ideas for a game I felt like writing. masterofwalri made a passing reference to Processing in his comment, and having heard people mention it in the past, I figured I should check it out.

  • Sea Battle: That’s what Guns are for!

    Another day – or three, in this case – brings another ton of functionality for Sea Battle. (Previous posts: 1, 2)

  • Sea Battle: Here Comes the Science Bit

    Another day down, and somehow Sea Battle is remarkably close to the finish line. (No idea what I’m talking about? See previous blog entries 1, 2 & 3.)

  • The Sticker Economy

    I find it remarkable how much my 3-year-old son – and presumably by extension most kids his age – go crazy for stickers. They don’t do anything, besides stick to a wall-chart. They don’t even necessarily have to lead to any better reward (10 stickers and we buy you a toy, etc.). It’s a completely false economy, and yet kids will modify their behaviour just to obtain stickers from their parents.

  • Sea Battle: Of Ships and Submarines

    The distinction between surface ships and submarines in Sea Battle has turned out to be a more thorny issue than I originally imagined.

  • Daily Promise: Design Sketches

    Current flavour of the month of some of the geek crowd, “Health Month”, is a social network of sorts on which users compete to achieve certain health-related goals. Each month, each member sets a number of goals for themselves to achieve. Its core mechanic is health points – you start with 10, lose one every time you fail to meet a goal, and players who perform well can heal you.

  • Stuxnet is in the hands of Bad Guys?!

    Hey! Do you like fear? Do you like bullshit headlines? Well, has Sky got an news for you! “Super virus a target for cyber terrorists”, which bears the even more fascinating <title> tag of “Stuxnet Worm: Virus Targeted At Iran’s Nuclear Plant Is In Hands Of ‘Bad Guys’, Sky News Sources Say”, is their latest fantastical fearmongering piece. Let’s butcher it together.

  • Daily Promise: Coming Together

    Despite the lack of response to my earlier post, in which I floated my design concepts for “Daily Promise”, boredom won out in the end and I started coding anyway.

  • Daily Promise: Avatars Everywhere!

    After a couple of days and one frantic family-free morning, Daily Promise is getting near completion. Here’s what’s new since last time.

  • Announcing: Daily Promise!

    After a couple of weeks of development – documented here, here and here – I think I’m ready to call Daily Promise version 1.0.

  • Dystopia Fetishism and the Fall of #Solidarity

    Two weeks ago, I sat in this same warm office, looking out at the cold world outside. And this is what I saw. I saw Laurie Penny’s Spider Jerusalem-esque piece for the New Statesman, covering the student riots, and I saw Wikileaks preparing to dump 250,000 classified US Embassy cables on the world. It all felt like a sudden rush towards the horrid, glorious dystopia that as a British citizen I am required to fetishise. (c.f. H.G. Wells, George Orwell, John Wyndham et al.)

  • Adventures in the Diaspora Ghost Town

    Diaspora*, for those unaware, is a distributed and privacy-conscious social network currently in development by students at New York University. It raised $200,000 of funding via Kickstarter back in June, and is currently in alpha testing state. By virtue of my pseudowife’s donation, we have been sent both the developer preview software itself, and invites for the Disapora “pod” at

  • Dear America, Your Missile Defence is not Broken

    @CampaignReboot, making a good point as always, earlier linked to this CNN article which bemoans the state of the United States’ missile defence programme after the failure of a Ground-Based Interceptor test.

  • "Dreaming Awake": Time to Stop Pretending

    A little over ten years ago, my friends and I began a collaborative fiction project that we named “The Fanfic”, though it bore little resemblance to fanfiction as it is commonly known. Rather, it was something like a ‘fanfic’ of our own invented characters, thrown together in a neutral setting.

  • A Day Snowbound

    The weather, like the best of muses, is capricious and arbitrary.

  • So This is Christmas

    Our Christmas TreeI am sitting at home on my own, briefly resting between bouts of frenzied tidying, waiting for Eric to finish work so that we can go to her parents’, pick up Joseph and come back here again on Christmas day. Our usual flustered, panicked holiday season awaits us, every glorious insane minute of it.

  • New Year, Parent Style

    If there is one important lesson that Eric and I have learned this year, it is that the ‘Terrible Twos’ do not stop when a child reaches the age of three. If anything, Joseph has gotten worse – his age-two stubbornness and refusal to listen to reason remain, compounded now with a refusal to apologise for anything, and a bedtime stubbornness that sometimes means it takes hours to get him to sleep. Naturally, if he wakes up at any point during the night, he storms into our bed kicking and screaming, and shouts “I want daddy out!” if I should dare to remain sleeping in my own bed rather than moving to his.