April 05, 2007

What about a British Identity?

Good that software has been added to Warwick blogs to provide spelling checking. Bad that it only understands North American.
Red lines appear under

It’s bad enough having to cope with muddled dates – 1 April 2007 being
shown as 04/01/07 – which to my mind means
4 Jan 2007 for the general public
2004 Jan 7 for those who like the consistency of the most significant number being at the left.

March 15, 2007

Retro Vista

I was silly enough to buy a new computer just as Microsoft was launching a new operating system – Windows Vista.

One of its annoyances is the removal of XP’s ability to easily associate more than one program with a single file extension. I found this feature, which Windows 98 had as well, rather useful. With htm, jpg and gif files, I think the best program for editing is not the best for viewing.

It is possible to get Vista to associate more than one program with a single file extension, but you must be prepared to either delve into the registry or buy third party software. A work-around, which reminds me of that days before Graphical User Interfaces, is to start with the program and then select the file rather than the other way around.


March 07, 2007

An Invisible Font

I spent six and a half hours yesterday finding and fixing a corrupted Windows/Fonts file.
One effect of the problem was that nothing appeared on my screen when I typed characters into Amazon’s search box. Nevertheless, what I had typed was used as a search criterion when I clicked on GO.
After about two hours of examining the page’s html I concluded that when the Style attribute of an element included “font-family: fixed;” blanks were rendered rather than visible characters.
You might have a similar problem if you can’t see one of these words fixed proportional serif sans-serif cursiv fantasy monospace in the following list:

    • fixed

    • proportional

    • serif

    • sans-serif

    • cursiv

    • fantasy

    • monospace

    I then spent another hour trying to find what was wrong with Mozilla as there was no problem with IE. I concluded it wasn’t Mozilla/Firefox’s fault – the culprit was a duff Windows/Fonts file.
    There are a mere 457 files in my version of Windows/Fonts. And deleting one often doesn’t have an impact until after a restart. Hence it took me three hours to isolate the culprit: a corrupted version of phonetic.fon

    February 09, 2007

    Road Pricing or Road Building?

    What can be done about traffic congestion?

    Some take the laid back approach. “Do nothing” is their answer. Traffic won’t increase indefinitely, some people just won’t bother making some journeys simply because they will take too long. The pace of life is too hectic anyway, they say, we need to slow down and focus on the important things in life. Take time to reflect. Relax. zzzzzzzzz

    Unfortunately traffic congestion not only delays people and puts up the price of goods and services but also causes more pollution and more crashes. Pollution from standing or stop-start traffic. Crashes due to impatient drivers taking risks when trying to make up time lost in jams. People pay with their lives for such behaviour.

    The traditional answer is to build more roads. Of course not too close to where people live, close enough for speedy access to the motorway network but far enough to keep the noise and smell away from homes. As for objectors, they will shut up if you pay them enough. Property prices and the other costs of road building may have sky-rocketed over the past few years, the government always has enough money to build more roads. After all, who would want taxes spent on health, education or pensions if they could be spent on expanding the road network instead?

    A slight variant on this idea is to build more railways. Or bus expressways. As if building these were much cheaper or less disruptive than building new roads.

    The alternative is to use the existing roads more efficiently. The capacity of the motorway network would increase fivefold if single occupancy cars were replaced by full coaches. In cities thirty cyclists take the same space as five cars. All very well in theory, but not many people are willing to switch. High fares & infrequent services are a block to greater public transport use. For buses there’s also the issue of anti-social behaviour. As for cycling, people tire of the harassment they get from drivers, while the traffic free routes are few in number and inconvenient to use.

    The more efficient and environmentally friendly modes of transport are locked in a vicious circle. The fewer travellers on public transport, the more infrequent the services. The fewer cyclists the less account drivers take of them. Hence many a “Sorry mate I didn’t see you” crash. The small number of people cycling means a weak lobby for better cycle routes.

    The vicious cycles need to be broken, people need a greater incentive to use the more efficient forms of transport. The London congestion charge shows that the world doesn’t come to an end when road charges are introduced. Buses and bicycles are taking the strain. But in a number of ways it isn’t the example to follow. The monitoring of every vehicle is sinister and must go. Vehicles don’t need to be tracked, there are other ways. Drivers could feed cards containing credits to equipment in their cars which removed the credits as the car travelled along the roads.

    The London scheme is too inflexible as well. Motorists pay the same whether they drive for two minutes or two hours. Roads only need to have a charge when they are congested. High demand, high price, low demand free. London’s scheme is not equitable either. Rich drivers don’t use the roads more than poor ones, but a pound means more to someone on the minimum wage than someone on £100,000 pa. So some way of directing the revenues to benefit low income people must be devised. Perhaps car tax could be abolished, pensions increased or taxes cut on low incomes.

    Of course there’s a massive resistance to road pricing. People love the the idea of low taxes but they also want a good health service, high pensions and free education. They want more roads which don’t cost much to provide and don’t take up any land. They want to drive as fast as they like and never crash. That’s the stuff of dreams, it’s about time people faced up to reality.

    February 01, 2007

    Cycle safely – always wear a helmet!

    Coast to Coast?

    White Line

    One wheel cycling

    White Line

    A few months ago a friend of mine caught a kerb whilst turning, came off his bicycle and broke his collar bone. He, of course, opinioned that he was wise in wearing a helmet. Exhibiting wild lateral thinking I asked why he hadn’t seen the kerb. The crash occured in the dark while cycling on an unlit country road with a feeble front light.

    January 24, 2007

    Myths people build racism on

    Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6293333.stm

    This is much more interesting than all that Big Brother Jade Goody stuff.

    It’s an example illustrating that skin colour doesn’t indicate much about people’s genetic inheritance.

    It demonstrates that where ever you stand in the nature verses nurture debate, it’s wrong to suppose that a few superficial indicators of a person’s genes say much about the rest of their genetic inheritance.

    Of course any Sociologist will tell you that what actually exists often has less impact on society than what people think exists.

    November 23, 2006

    Careers for Computer Science Graduates

    The British Computer Society opinions that the UK isn’t producing enough computer science graduates. In response many people from the information systems side of computing complain that skills are being wasted due to ageism.

    After 20 years in the systems/network side of computing the following notions float around my head:

    • Do most people in graduate level computer jobs really need to know more about computers, or is poor inter-personal and communication skills a bigger problem?
    • Feminists complain that a job history of career followed by being a primary child carer followed by career just isn’t available in our society. Is this a similar issue to the non-availability of career, slow decay into a technological dead-end followed by a new career as a job narrative?
    • My tip to computer science graduates: get into labour only subcontracting, save a load of dosh, don’t worry about being on the scrap-heap at 40, just retire.
    • If the retirement age is pushed up to 68, won’t there be a flood of shelf stackers and lollypop people in their 60’s?

    November 04, 2006

    Wheelchair access

    I thought it’s a silly place to put this sign:
    White Line
    Wheelchair access

    Wheelchair access cycles will be removed

    Until I saw

    October 29, 2006

    SP 448 753

    Where I was this morning:
    SP 448 753

    October 25, 2006

    Three ways to detect a phisherman

    There are plenty of forged emails about.
    Are the explanations of how to detect them clear enough for the average user?
    Of do they just increase fear uncertainly & doubt?

    Three ways I use to detect a forgery

    1. (a bit obvious) do you have an account with the organisation concerned?
    2. is the English rather crap (hackers aren’t very literate, even in their mother tongue)?
    3. (a dead give away) is the real address of the link nothing like the one it looks like? E.g https://www.halifax-online.co.uk/_mem_bin/formslogins.asp
      is nothing like

    (use left right-click on a link to find the “properties” and thus the real address)

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