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June 13, 2005

Groupwise Getting The Boot

Screenshot of Warwick Insite front page. 'Groupwise Instability - Take Precautions: IT Services are working hard to identify the underlying cause of the GroupWise failures which occurred on Friday and Saturday.  However as a precautionary measure you are advised to print out a copy of important emails you may need over the next day or two (particularly travel documents such as itineraries, e-tickets, etc), and print a copy of your appointments for the next week. Staff members can try out the proposed replacement email systems at the roadshow sites in University House, the Science Concourse and the Ramphal Building.'

Groupwise failed over the weekend, just before the main leg of the E-Mail Replacement Roadshow this week.

Who knows whether more university staff are taking the opportunity to trail the systems proposed to replace Groupwise today than over the past two weeks is because of better location – University House among others – or because of the, dare I say, sabotage to make Groupwise seem even worse than it is.

In any case, Groupwise deserves to be let go. Microsoft Exchange/Outlook is so much easier to use and maintain, both from a user and IT Services perspective. Lotus Notes' staggering features are even more convoluted than Groupwise's, but at least it's stable and scalable.

What I can see students not being happy with is being pushed off to one side to a Sendmail -based system with web frontends - either SquirrelMail or MailMan.

As far as I can see Sendmail comes free with any Unix/Linux distribution. SquirrelMail, the more appropriate frontend, is free as well. MailMan, you guessed it, is free, too, but it is meant for managing electronic mail discussion and e-newsletter lists and as such too basic for personal e-mail.

The flipside of the issue is that money – and MS Exchange costs a lot – is better spent on the library when the majority of students sent up forwarding rules to their existing e-mail accounts anyway and never use the university e-mail system.

The student roadshow was last week, but if in doubt vote for SquirrelMail. MailMan looks like my 3 year old nephew designed the look and someone from 1996 decided on the features and user interface. MailMan is so bad, it seems like SquirrelMail has already been decided on and IT Services want to at least appear to be giving students a choice.

The staff roadshow is still on this week, so go and have a play.

June 09, 2005

Ballroom Lessons with Michael and Martina Burton

Writing about Shall we dance? from Natalia's blog

I loved 'Shall we dance'. Now that exams are over I'll watch it again.

So, you exeeded expectations already by not waiting till next year get back into ballroom :-) How was your lesson with Michael and Martina?

I had 4 hours over two days… waltz and a little foxtrot. The posture is an absolute killer, my shoulders and back still ache, not to mention the legs. But it feels soooo much better with the right posture, so much more fun if you know how to move!

i don't understand how Betty can jump straight from having taught a fairly basic routine to teaching a double reverse spin… the single reverse spin took me about three quarters of an hour to learn how to do, nevermind to do well.

Most surprising of all I found that once I had figured how to move I started leading naturally. When I partnered up with Martina, just by concentrating on the details of my movement, she explaimed afterwards, "Wow, he actually started leading all of a sudden!".

I never took private lessons with Betty, because I never felt she was a good teacher in group lessons – doing the same thing over and over again and me still not learning some things -, so I can't really compare. But my feeling is that Betty is not doing the club any favours. I did take a Latin lesson with Russel and all he did was show us the steps of a routine. Not a hint of how to move, just where to move. The styling with the arms I see other universities' couples do amounts to "Just stick your arm out and keep it there" with Russel.

At the Northern and National competitions it transpired that the entire club has three couples that are any good by any sort of reasonable standard, first of all the standard set by other universities. Just because they are called Oxford and Cambridge doesn't mean we should hang our heads. As far as I have heard the Sheffield club has Darren and Lilia coaching… why can't we get someone like that to drag our club out of it's pitiful condition.

Our club puts together teams for team matches on the fly on the day of the competition. There are no proper teams, like in more traditional team sports clubs, that receive more intensive coaching so they stand a chance in competitions.

The Latin and Ballroom Club does not treat dancing enough as a sport, but instead caters mostly to people who want to pick up the bare basics in an airy-fairy kind of way. I don't think people should have to pay for private lessons just to go beyond the routines that stay the same not only throughout the year, but even year on year, as one of my mates – Steph – can attest to, being a 4th year. In fact let me briefly tell Stephs story.

Steph and I danced together for a while when I first started Latin & Ballroom last fall. Most of what I learned in that time was from her. She started in her first year and by the third year she found a partner, a finalist, who danced very well, so they become one of Warwick's best couples. Once he left, however, Steph was left on the wayside by the club. The club put no effort into preserving and nurturing her talent. In fact, a beginner like me was the best she found and eventually she gave up and concentrated more on Classical Modern and Horse Riding.

To pick up the thread, it would make more sense to teach routines in group class and extend them, change them every 2–3 weeks. I find that by doing the same routine for months I have become inflexible and have a hard time improvising. The whole rountine just becomes one huge entity, not a combination of little chunks of steps that can be mixed up and re-combined to new routines at will. This also makes learning how to lead nigh on impossible. Not only does Betty not teach how to lead beyond the mantra "don't let the girls tell you what to do", but because this one routine is hammered into all of us, there is not really a need to lead: the girl knows before hand what is going to happen.

Paul, of the brand-new Salsa Society, teaches how to lead in great detail to complete beginners in the first lesson. First he teaches the rhythm and some basic mambo and side steps, then he goes on to leading, with some very simple, yet effective, exercises.

Private lessons should then take the class routines and work on the styling, posture and movement. A New Yorker, for example, actually consists of a quarter turn with legs together, leg forward, rock onto it, rock back and a quarter turn back while pulling the leg back in (roughly, for the foot/legwork) – instead of turning stepping and transferring weight all in one step.

There just seems to be no desire and passion to get anywhere whatsoever with this club. Where are the role models? Rugby players have Johnny, footballers have Beckham, rowers have Redgrave. What about Latin & Ballroom? Dancesport Info is a good place to start. Most Warwick L&B people haven't even heard of Blackpool, except maybe as a "broken dream of a Las Vegas that never quite made it ", so the choice to have the UK University National Competition take place in the Empress Ballroom might have seemed completely random – just like those links.

Thus ends the rant.

May 19, 2005

Places I have visited

Writing about web page http://www.world66.com

As you can see, there is still lots of work to be done!

April 15, 2005

Exam Time Tables 2005

So peeps, exam timetables are up at the Arts Centre. Looks like our Education Officer and Deputy President Kamiar Mohaddes plan worked! Apparently thousands of us sent complaint e-mails to the Administration Office and they were furious enough to post them without telling anyone…

Still, there was a crowd outside the Arts Centre when I went to see when my exam will be. Six exams: first one May 16th, last one June 4th. 4 weeks of revision for my hardest module. Why can't I motivate myself until the wall I'll run into head-first is clearly visible? Vacation was such a waste of time yet again…

It's not like it had not been crunch time since lectures finished last term, but it undeniably is now…nevertheless: don't panic!

April 08, 2005

WordPress 1.5

Writing about web page http://www.sdpacheco.de

With a new version of WordPress, the blog engine I have used for a while now, comes an re-design of my site. I'll surely continue making minor changes, but for now I'm putting this baby on the air :)

I hope you like the new look and feel. Thanks to Ioannis for his thoughts.

The latest WordPress version impresses all around. The new pages feature, essentially posts outside the blog chronology, along with a few plug-ins, allows me, to run my entire website off WordPress – still with the exception of my photo galleries.

The new theme system, while being rather spophisticated in it's own right, has made adapting my old design a bit of a pain, and I have ended up modifying the default theme, which is based on Kubrick.

The WordPress Wiki has also received a major upgrade and has helped me a great deal with getting to grips with the new features and changes.

April 07, 2005

Slaves on E–Bay

Writing about web page http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=slave

Now how about that? I fear we are already trusting our automatic systems far too much. At this point still a hearty good laugh though!

Also, search for day trips warwickshire at the moment yields as first result BBC - Coventry and Warwickshire Features - Day out in Coventry. Go figure.

On that note, does anyone have any suggestions for a pleasant day trip in Warwickshire? We will have access to a car and everything. Stratford, Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle are too obvious…

August 29, 2004

Superhero politics

4 out of 5 stars

A friend of mine, Kaoru, recently voiced her concerns about the political messages behind Hollywood movies:

I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 this weekend. Remember when I went to see Bowling for Columbine I felt really uncomfortable and I didn't really like it? I tried to explain to you why I didn't like it but I myself didn't really know what exactly the reason is. Now, I know.

I hated the idea of having political thing behind a movie. And when I was watching F911, in the beginning I felt the same way. But in the end I noticed that Michael Moore is just straight out in making his movies.

I noticed that all the rest of the Hollywood movies are just the same. They are all political propaganda. I went to see Spiderman 2 last month and I really enjoyed it. But now, when I come to think about it, Spiderman's red and blue costume just reminds me of the American flag. The villain who looks a lot like Iraqi gives a great terror to the city of Manhattan. And the final message that the audience gets from the movie is "It hurts to become a hero but you need to sacrifice something for the world." Doesn't that sound a lot like somebody that we know??

And I'm really frightened when I imagine small children watching that movie without knowing this message being imprinted in them. It is exactly the same technique Hitler and the Japanese government used during the WW II.

Tell me I'm wrong cause I really hope so.

Hmmm. I felt she was definitely on to something, so I did some research:

The Rhethoric of Superheroes lecture notes

  • The superhero, by virtue of might and intelligence, is in many ways above the law. He or she cooperates with the law because he or she chooses to, not because he or she is compelled to.
  • Superheroes fight supervillains and stop natural disasters, but they rarely if ever involve themselves in political struggles. Superheroes usually follow a moral or physical authority without question.
  • Their moral world (with some important exceptions) rarely allows for ambiguity.
  • Problems are resolved not through dialogue but through battle or warfare.

Religious angle

Lots of voices

"With great power comes great responsibility."

"I believe there is a hero in all of us: gives us strength, makes us noble, eventhough sometimes we have to give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams."

"No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try: it's the ones I love who will always be the ones who pay."

Peter Parker wants "life of my own". He "is Spider-Man no more".

Doc Ock: dangers of technology. Dürenmatt, Die Physiker!

"Why loylaty to Spider-Man and not your best friend?"

"There are bigger things happening here than me and you."

All things considered, I'm too lazy to properly congeal everything into a well-shaped argument, so I shall content myself with an image of the relationship between Hollywood – and indeed media in general – and government similar to that of research at MIT and the Pentagon.

Apart from the larger issues, Spiderman 2 was thoroughly entertaining.

May 23, 2004


Writing about web page http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/rick/10-29pdc03.asp

Wallop is Microsofts latest blog technology that will tie in with MSN Messanger and focus on relationships between bloggers, improving on the Friendster idea.

The link I am writing about will send you to a keynote speech by Rick Rashid, featuring Microsoft social computing group researcher Lili Cheng. It's quite long, so you best do a page search for "Lili Cheng".

I also found two articles on Wired and Microsoft-Watch .

Quite interesting, have a nosey…

May 17, 2004

Why the exclusivity?

Writing about web page http://www.sdpacheco.de/wp-blog/archives/2004/05/17/university-of-warwick-blogs/

I have just published and subsequently deleted a test post that was meant to test the pingback and trackback facility to external blogs.

While at least trackback works internally, neither do with external blogs, neither inbound nor outbound.

I find that's a shame as it seperates the Warwick blogs from those in the rest of the world and thus goes against what the blog community is all about.

Embrace blogs

Follow-up to Speaker's Corner from Shared Psychosis

Kieran was right about my post being tongue-in-cheek. So what if blogs mean the americanisation of the soul? It's an aspect of the soul I would not mind being American…

Why else am I here, blogging?

Speaker's Corner

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

Hugh says: "unfree: is the blog the americanisation of the soul? discuss."

What are you saying? That the blog frees or shackles the soul? Your post's title is "unfree", yet America is supposed to be the symbol of personal freedom.

OK, so the blog is American in origin, starting from NCSA'S What's New and Dave Winer's Scripting News , the longest running blog on the net. But what else could be said is American about it?

The Fast-Food nation has a culture whose mantra is instant gratification. You can easily buy, eat watch anything, anytime. Similarly the blog has given anyone the power to easily publish anything, anytime. As the former trivialises shopping and food, the latter degrades the quality of content. It is no longer edited, it is published as soon as it is written. Jon Garfunkel for example does not maintain a blog, he says: it's edited.

Another characteristic of America could be said to be it's arrogance and vanity. They are so self-important that they think they can boss everyone around on the world stage and expect their standards to be universal. Similarly, bloggers could be said to be arrogant in the sense that they think anyone would actually be intersested in what they have to say. I mean who in the wider world cares if I got up at noon today, or that my exam went well?

As we become bloggers, is our soul assimilated into the American culture? Even if what we blog is wholly unamerican, does the very act of blogging betray us?

Whether a blogger has any of the characteristics outlined above depends, I feel, on the person and not on the way he chooses to express himself. I do not want to miss reading the opinions of respected people in their fields, like Joel Spolsky .

At the end of the day is not the blog just an electronic version of the British institution Speaker's Corner at Hyde Park?


4 out of 5 stars

Dan Brown is on to a winner here. IF The DaVinci Code is taken to be a work of fiction all around. The first page is misleading: taking any of the historical and art historical background used in this book for real is absurd.

The plot itself could not be more suspenseful, a sure page-turner. The nagging question "What historical nonsense will Brown come up next?" only adds to that.

As long as the reader remains critical, this book can do no harm and is sheer fun!