December 2004

An ongoing need

by Suw on December 31, 2004

I haven't blogged about the Asian tsunami disaster, primarily because I couldn't think of what to say. Emotions range from sadness to incomprehension to helplessness. I want to do something, but what can I do? I have made a small donation, but I feel bad because I can't afford to give a lot.
But then it dawned on me – the need for support will be ongoing for some considerable time yet. I can give a bit every time I get paid and help a little to provide for not just the immediate disaster relief but all the rebuilding work that will need to be done. It's important to give now, even if like me you're skint after Christmas and can only manage a small amount, but it will be just as important to keep the generosity going.
I'm also going to have a ferret round for stuff that I don't need which I can put on eBay – I've a whole bunch of stuff in the loft I don't use which I am sure someone else can get the benefit of and I won't miss money I've never had, so to speak. I'll post here when I have something up for auction.

Starting again with the Polish

by Suw on December 30, 2004

It's been a long whilst since I've done any work learning Polish. I've been so busy that it's been months since I last looked at my books. That does, unfortunately, mean I've forgotten much of what I learnt earlier in the year. Not so useful.
Part of this lapse has been technology related. I had been working in notebooks, writing everything out by hand, but that was slow and I wanted to get my work on to the computer. The problem was that my desktop runs Win2K and therefore is not particularly good at dealing with diacritics such as ę or ł. Although I had located the alt-codes for the various Polish letters I now required, half of them didn't print out properly and I gave up.
Of course, Macs have great language support, but by the time I'd got my PowerBook I simply didn't have the wherewithal to play with Polish anymore. In the last week, though, I have had the pleasure of talking to Marek on IRC and between us we have managed to sort out Polish language support on both our Macs, (thanks to Kevin for helping!), and we can now talk in Polish in IRC with the correct diacritics.
Setting up the language support itself was easy, but it took Kevin to point out the existence of the keyboard viewer before Marek and I figured out how to actually get at all the letters we need (the alt key provides most of them). We then struggled for a while with IRC, our clients alternately displaying the correct diacritics then showing ?s instead, but eventually we got that fixed too.
So I started faffing about with the various text editors I have installed on the Mac, and it was then that I discovered that iText doesn't support Polish, so that went straight in the trash. I'm trying Tex-Edit Plus now instead, which supports Polish, but not Welsh. Gah. Can't win 'em all. (For more details of my quest for a decent text editor, see Strange Attractor.)
Anyway, rewind a bit. A month or so ago I was talking to crw about outlining and note-taking, which is a whole post in its own right, and he suggested that I use a note-taking app called Notational Velocity. So I downloaded it, installed it and sat looking at it in a puzzled manner, knowing it should be useful, but not really quite sure precisely how.
Having now sorted out the whole typing in Polish thing, I wanted a way to create a record of words and phrases as I learn them. With crw being my one stop shop for all geek advice these days, I asked him how he would do something like that on a Mac and he immediately told me to use Notational Velocity.
As Merlin says on 43 Folders, 'All Notational Velocity does is record little notes, but it does that in a way that is completely elegant, intuitive, and incrementally searchable'. All you do is type in the beginning of a word, and NV immediately starts to search for that strong of characters. If you keep typing beyond the point where NV can match the string, then you go from searching to creating a new entry. All you need do is hit return and your new entry is saved. You can also add extended notes to each entry which are similarly searchable.
For example, if I type in 'mo' then it returns 'matka – mother', 'mogę – I can' and 'potrzebuję pomocy – I need help'. It doesn't matter where the 'mo' is, it will find it. If I keep on typing 'może' then it realises that it can't match that string and I have a new entry ('może – perhaps'). I then clear the search box and start again. In practice, this means that amongst its other uses, Notational Velocity is perfect for the creation of an ad hoc Polish/English dictionary which is very easily and instantaneously searchable.
I am hoping that this will help motivate me to spend even a little bit of time working on my Polish each week. Of course, having Marek and James around on IRC helps enormously too, as would finding the time to actually read the emails that come in from the Polish Language Study Group. And it will still take me forever to get my head round Polish grammar, but maybe I can get at least a wee bit beyond 'hello, how are you?'.


by Suw on December 30, 2004

Just to prove that people really do use my IRC channel, #suwcharman on, and freely admit doing so.
marekj on IRC #suwcharman channel
Marekj, mid-chat.

Party trick!

by Suw on December 27, 2004

Ok, so this is not a party trick you can do at home, but it's still worth pointing out. Given the right equipment, you can shrink coins. Unfortunately, shrinking the coins also means blowing up the gear, but hell, it's a price worth paying! If only they'd done this sort of thing at school…
(Via Maciej, from ages ago. Ok, so I'm slow sometimes.)

Nadolig Llawen! Merry Christmas

by Suw on December 25, 2004

I'm useless at sending out Christmas cards, and like Joi I don't like sending mass emailings, so here are my season's greetings for all of you. Cards, having been bought at least, may follow in due course for those friends I have addresses for. I'll try to get them done by the end of January, at least. ;-)
Hope you all have a lovely Christmas!

Asimov's three Laws of Robotics are frequently quoted thusly:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

I think, however, you will find a Fourth Law (and no, I don't mean the 'Zeroth' one), which categorically states that a robot, when going about its normal every day existence, must not be cute, or do cute things.
Honda's Asimo breaks the Fourth Law of Robotics by running in a cute manner.
(Thanks crw.)
PS. Green line still here.

The green line of death

by Suw on December 23, 2004

I was gutted earlier this evening when a bright green line appeared on my PowerBook's screen, about a fifth of the way over from the left, top to bottom, one pixel wide. I've done a number of restarts, advised by the Mac types in #joiito to hold down certain keys whilst doing so, but no dice. The line remains when I move the screen back and forth, but if I push on it just so, on the top left of the screen downwards towards the hinge, it vanishes temporarily, which makes me believe that the problem may actually be in the left-hand hinge. (This model, a G4 TiBook, has two hinges on either side, each with two screws in the back.)
Does anyone have any advice? Can anyone recommend a good Mac place in London that could look at this and won't charge me a small fortune to do so or take my Mac away for days? My life is on this Mac. I can't work without it, (not metaphorically but literally), and I can't afford not to be working right now. Because this Mac is both pretty old and second-hand – I was given it by a friend and have added a new battery, memory and an Airport card – I don't have AppleCare, so there's no chance of getting this fixed for free.
I am so sad, so disappointed. I mean, the thing's usable, but I can't really afford to get it mended, and I can't afford to buy a new one. If everyone who visited Chocolate and Vodka donated a single pound, then I could get a new PowerBook, but people don't. Someone once told me that it's easier to get one person to give you a million pounds than to get a million people to give you one pound. Scale that right back to two grand, and the principle is the same. A big thanks to those who have given me money for this, but if you have any spare right now, please give it to the Asian quake relief efforts instead.
I suppose I will get used to the line in due course and filter it out, but it's not nice and I worry that it'll just get worse and then the whole screen will go.
UPDATE: I plugged the laptop into my desktop monitor this morning to see if the green line is still there, and it's not. I presume this means that the problem lies between the video card and the screen and not with the video card itself, which may or may not be a good thing. I still think it's a connector. I just need to find someone to look at it and tell me for sure.

A is for…

by Suw on December 23, 2004

Euan picks up on a meme from Liz Lawley where you type each letter of the alphabet into the address bar of your browser and see what it suggests. It creates a nice little snapshot of recent browsing history, and illustrates just how right Hugh MacLeod was when he called me 'probably the most blog-obsessed female in the UK' (most of the links that aren't actual blogs I found or use because of blogs).
a is for
b is for the Blogware admin page for Chocolate and Vodka
c is for Chocolate and Vodka, a deeply unsurprising revelation
d is for Darren Barefoot
e is for Ensight
f is for Flickr
g is for Gmail
h is for Horst, although that's because his URI starts with an 'h' for 'homepage'
i is for the #suwcharman IRC channel stats which were prepared by Imajes and which no one should look at, particularly if they are clients of mine
j is for Just a Gwai Lo
k is for Kombinat
l is for AKMA's page, which surprised me by including quite a few bands I rather like. Never thought I'd share musical taste with AKMA, but that just goes to show you should never judge an album by its cover
m is for My StatCounter page, which provides traffic stats for Strange Attractor
n is for Ninjafish, and oh, would I have been in trouble with crw if it had been any other page! (Even if he hasn't blogged much lately, hint hint.)
o is for oh god, not Orkut
p is for Plasticbag
q is for Qjump, for train timetables
r is for Richard Conolly, a new blogger whom I helped mentor the other day
s is for Why on earth is S for I don't remember visiting this site? Must have been after Robert Scoble instead.
t is for Technorati
u is for a page which used to link to a searchable version of the Oxford English Dictionary until the University of Oxford got snarky and started threatening people with legal action, the selfish gets
v is for VersionTracker (for Mac OS X, obviously)
w is for Webs and Wings, Ninjafish's mum (oh, gosh, that gives a lot away, doesn't it?)
x is for nothing at all. I have no sites in my recent history that begin with x
y is for Yahoo. Yawn
z is for Zoetrope
And just to extend the meme:
1 is for a Nominet whois query
2 is for the True Voice 20 Questions blog
3 is for Signal vs Noise
4 and 5 are for nothing
6 is for a client's webmail
7 is for nothing
8 is for Blogaholix
and finally, 9 is for nothing

Thank you ScaryDuck!

by Suw on December 22, 2004

My Secret Santa this year was ScaryDuck, and I'd like to say a big thank you to him for his generosity. I got a copy of Ben Schott's Original Miscellany and Joseph Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces, both books I've been wanting for a while. I look forward to finding the time to read them!

If you haven't joined up for Secret Santa this year, then get yourself on the mailing list for next. It's lots of fun buying presents for complete (or sometimes not-so-complete) strangers and you get an extra present to go under the tree!

Ooh! Duran! Squee!

by Suw on December 22, 2004

My friend Kate has just won tickets to see Duran Duran at a “special concert for Radio 2 at the Hammersmith Palais, London on Thursday the 13th of January”. Kate and I have been pals in Duranniedom for years, going to see them whenever we could, but it has invariably been at huge venues like the Cardiff International Arena or Wembley. To see them up close and personal at the Hammersmith Palais will be swoonworthy perfection. I mean… John Taylor in close quarters… Oh my…

Happy Winter Solstice

December 21, 2004

So now the nights are drawing out again. Yay! The ascent into Spring may be slow, but at least now it has started. Merry Midwinter!

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Welcome to the blogosphere

December 21, 2004

Welcome to Richard Conolly! (if you're wondering, if this was a post used to demonstrate trackbacks to Richard during a Big Blog Company Blog Boot Camp.)

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Northern Voice

December 19, 2004

I'm delighted to say that I am going to be at the NorthernVoice blogging conference in Vancouver on 19 Feb. I'll be sitting on the panel Promoting Your Blog and Building Traffic with Jeremy Wright, Derek K. Miller and Darren Barefoot (moderator). There are going to be some really interesting people speaking at NorthernVoice, including [...]

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Trying to catch up

December 18, 2004

The number of unread posts in my feed reader has got to the point now where I am tempted very much to mark them all as read and start over. Thing is, for some obscure and unarticulable reason, I don't want to ditch the data regarding which blogs I am out of date with, and [...]

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True Voice: The Business of Blogging

December 17, 2004

You might have been wondering what I've been up to lately that's kept me so busy that my blog has had to take such a back seat. Well, there have been a few bits and pieces happening, not all related to certain cute east coast geeks. One of the projects that I'm involved is the [...]

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