Saturday, April 03, 2004

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck

My laptop's screen has died. Rather than showing anything useful, it is showing a screen full of vertical lines of various colours. Thus I am unable to use my laptop right now. My old laptop has a perfectly good screen, but will only boot if the temperature / humidity / day of the week / phase of the moon / gravitational status of the universe is right, so it is highly questionable whether I will be able to use it. This means that I am rather lacking in computer resources right now, and blogging (and indeed almost everything else - we are far too dependent on our computers these days) will be highly variable until it is fixed.

As it is the weekend, Dell's telephone helpline is not operational. The recorded voice suggested that I send them an e-mail instead. Upon going to an internet cafe to send such an e-mail, their electronic support system insisted that I enter my "service code" - a set of letters and numbers attached to the bottom of the computer - before I would be allowed to send such an e-mail. I have the invoice for the purchase of the computer, which gives my customer number, my order number and my invoice number, but none of these are the number that Dell wants now.

I really could have done without this right now.


Update: At least I am in good company. Laptops are wonderful things, but they can be finicky and temperamental. Desktops are more reliable. I actually have a motherboard in my possession with a CPU and 512Mb of RAM on it. I just need a screen, keyboard, case, power supply and hard drive (plus an operating system - do I want a Linux box?) to have a desktop machine. I must either buy or wrangle these parts so I have some backup. Actually if I even had a screen right now things would be better. My laptop has VGA out. (This is assuming I don't have to switch the external monitor output on while looking at the primary screen, in which case I remain completely screwed).

Can I add a "bugger" to the "fuck" I said already?

Further Update: My old laptop is alive. It's a bit slow, but I can at least get stuff done. Apologies for all the profanities, too.

Even further Update: No, actually my old laptop isn't alive. As I said, it is highly temperamental. I may get it to work at times over the next few days and I may not. Using a public terminal in a library right now.

Friday, April 02, 2004


I have a piece on day two of the England v West Indies test over at ubersportingpundit.

I have a piece on "voltage rustling" over at Samizdata.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Studies in nerdiness

Yesterday evening, I was in central London. I was expecting a call from a friend of mine, who I was planning on meeting with for coffee. As it happened, she called me just as I was walking through Soho Square. She asked me where I was, and I said that I was in Soho Square. As it was a beautiful spring evening, she suggested that we in fact get take away coffees, and drink them while sitting on the grass of Soho square. As I was waiting for her to arrive, I made a quick run to Oxford Street, where I purchased a couple of take away lattes and went back to the square. I sat down, and as I was waiting I got my laptop out and looked for WiFi coverage.

There was a wireless network with the SSID "Base Station". This is always a good sign. If wireless network has a name like "Base Station" or "Default" or the name of a manufacturer like "eTec" or "Belkin demo" or something like that, there is a good change that the owner is using the access point with its default settings, which means that security is likely turned off any anyone can connect to it. (Whether or not they intend to allow anyone to connect to it, I have no idea. In some instances it is no doubt deliberate, and in some instances it isn't). In any event, I had a perfectly good internet connection in the middle of Soho Square. This is perhaps not surprising given that Soho Square is about ground zero in the British media universe. Lots of people are using all sorts of technology in the area. But it was still kind of surreal. (LCD screens do not do especially well in environments that are bright and/or have lots of scattered light. Bring on OLEDs. But I digress).

My friend arrived, and we sat down and had our coffee and surfed the net for a little bit. It was kind of surreal. The Dell Inspiron 8600 is a little big and clunky, and I quickly looked up the Sony TR2 and showed her how cool that would be. Then for some reason the conversation got round to iPod accessories and then the car she wanted to buy, in the way that subjects which you talk about and browse do change. In any event, we had a very pleasant evening before going our own ways. She told me that she had had a fun evening, and that she would remember the time she sat in Soho Square and surfed the net with me.

Actually, I doubt it. We are in a transitional period with respect to communications. I think it is unlikely that we will be telling our grandchildren about this, other than in the context of "Thinks were once so primitive that this was a novelty". It isn't going to be long before every electronic device that we own is going to automatically connect to global communications networks as a matter of course.

But it is fun for now.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004


I have some photos of the world's first railway station over at Transport Blog, and a rather funny correction from The Australian over at Samizdata.

I have a piece giving an overview of the recently completed test series between Australia and Sri Lanka over at ubersportingpundit.

Monday, March 29, 2004

The best thing about becoming a libertarian......

is that you can abandon the left without having to embrace the right.

Of course, people on the left generally think you have embraced the right, and people on the right think you are still on the left. (I was actually getting this dual reaction for several years before I figured out precisely what it meant).
And did I mention?

The Grey Album is fantastic.
The machine stops

I am in a comfy chair in a Starbucks in Oxford Street in London. My laptop is plugged into a power outlet that Starbucks have conveniently provided near many of the tables and chairs. Although Starbucks have ridiculous overpriced wireless internet access, there is internet access from some other source nearby allowing me to connect for free, so this doesn't appear to be an obstacle. I have a nice cup of coffee, my laptop has my entire music collection on its hard disk, it has an inbuilt DVD player and a high resolution wide screen allowing me to watch movies if I want to. I have a mobile phone in my pocket.

I have tremendous entertainment options, I am fully connected to the global communications network. I have just been chatting in real time with a friend in Australia. I do have an expensive piece of hardware on my lap, but (apart from the cost of the odd cup of coffee) the total ongoing charge for this connectedness is zero. At least it is until I start using my telephone. Before too long, our telephones will no doubt be automatically patched into the internet data service on such occasions to save money, but we are not quite there yet.

However, the technology is simply mindblowing. Compared to the unconnected world we had when I was fifteen, it simply blows the mind.

I suspect the next step is for me to remain plugged into the global communications network when I get up and walk down the street. In practice, I think that what needs to happen is for my laptop to then reverse the situation from when I am stationary. The laptop needs to patch into the telephone, and get its connectivity via cellular networks. Of course, this is going to cost in a way that statying stationary isn't going to cost. That said, flat charges of at most tens of dollars a month for this are not far off. And as for entertainment, the full music collection when working down the street option is with us already. I just need an iPod. And I am not quite sure that I want to watch movies as I walk down the street. Still, there are probably semi-transparent video shades coming.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Obligatory cheese posting

Regular readers of this blog will know that I enjoy a good cheese platter, and I usually have a selection of cheeses in the house for emergencies. This evening, I went to get myself some cheese and crackers as a late snack. I had three. Firstly, a decent sized block of ordinary but tasty and good quality mature cheddar from Tescos, which is what I use for my bulk cheese needs, but which none the less is fine on a water cricket. Secondly, a smaller piece of oak smoked cheddar from the splendid Sainsbury's in Pimlico. Thirdly, a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano, purchased mainly for grating and serving with pasta, but once again a small slice of this on a cracker is very pleasant.

However, all three are hard cheeses. Nothing wrong with that, but when I started to contemplate this, I came to the realisation that hard cheeses on their own aren't nearly as good as a mixture of hard and soft. I normally have some brie, or some Danish blue, or some gorgonzola, or some camembert, or some dolcelatte, or something like that. And today I missed it.

Of course, it is all the fault of that big Sainsbury's for not having any of that stupendously good unpasteurised brie that they often do have. This led me to buy a piece of another hard cheese, and sent my cheese balance completely out of whack.

Update: I meant "water cracker". What is it with me and cricket, anyway?

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