2004-07-28

Fahrenheit 911

If you live in the USA - you suck. "Bowling for Columbine", "Super Size Me" and now "Fahrenheit 911" have pointed the finger firmly on the USA sucking and sucking hard. You should also check out Ron Suskind's article in Time, a long read but adds to the flavour of the conversation here.

To start with, I read Dave Kopel's rebuff to the movie in question. If everything that Dave says is true about the problems in "Farenheight 911" then what is left of the movie is still very much troubling and still leads one to conclude that there exists extreme suckage in the USA. Dave includes assertions that the Democrats have been just as bad as Bush, which isn't any argument for Bush or against the movie. It simply means the USA sucks either way. The inconsistencies and mistruths that Dave claims he found in the movie are interesting, but they are so couched in Dave's opinion that it's like a small school boy name calling fight. In fact, after careful reading, I think Dave's only evidence is well crafted propaganda. You have to really read the lines hard and wonder at the source, the source's motives and how they can possibly know what Dave claims they are saying. Dave appears as petty and politically motivated as he alledges Michael Moore is. Dave's article is still well worth reading. I always like to gain a counter view for balance and Dave does provide this. Dave reminds me of the movie nitpickers that make quite good reading, despite missing the whole point of watching the movie.

Michael Moore tells a story in an interesting and humourous manner. I was entertained and felt better informed when I left the theatre. My opinions didn't change any but were slightly re-inforced. Dave tempered that slightly but not much. If Michael Moore can get even half of the community response with "Fahrenheit 911" that Morgan Spurlock got with "Super Size Me" then there will be BIG changes in the USA. I'm figuring that the Republicans will probably do the personality attack on Moore and possibly hand waving the issues aside.

I guess if I lived in the USA and couldn't emigrate then, then after watching this movie, I would be more likely to go out and vote to make sure that the tragedy of the idiot president was less likely. The world is judging the USA by George Bush the Second. Who gives a damn if you voted for him or not, he's the top guy in your country. Obnoxious, ignorant, corrupt, greedy, bullying. Yup, USA, you suck. Here's the kicker: the rest of the world has always seen you like this.

Does even Dave Kopel think George Bush the Second is really a top president? An excellent person? A truly honest person? Altruistic? If you rush to compare with the other side of politics then you've missed the point.

Homeland security, patriot act, loss of freedoms, Microsoft - will all become words of fear. We all know that the yanks love fear. How much more can a government push their populace before people snap and start using their right to arm themselves.

The USA should realise that the people of the middle east hold grudges for a very very long time.

Sleep safely USA, it was fun knowing you. I, for one, would like to welcome our soon to be sole super power - the Chinese.

2004-07-23

Pizza recipe

My girlfriend, Dragonfly, and I were cruising back to my place before we were to go out to the movies. We were going to have a quick dinner of whatever I might have about the place to avoid paying exhorbitant restaurant prices.

I usually can cook up something like rice and steamed vegetables and some lightly pan fried fish in less than 30minutes. Throw in some spices and nice sauce and you have really tasty healthy food. It is so easy - I don't know why "lean cuisine" sells at all.

A couple weeks ago, I had introduced Dragonfly to my specialty hors d'oeuvres of water biscuit, brie, smoked salmon and caviar (lumpfish roe). I don't make that many things, being a guy and all, but when you find something absolutely yummy as this, you find out how it is done and make it for yourself.

Well, as we were heading home, Dragonfly says that she would love some of the biscuits. In fact, she'd love one as large as a pizza.

Well now there was an idea. A pizza with brie, smoked salmon and caviar. Would it work? My mind was thinking about things that might go wrong but my taste buds and tummy were screaming out "YEAH BABY!"

So we stop at the local supplier of excellent but almost expensive things - Coles, and purchase about $20 worth of goodies. Get home and assemble the most delicious of pizza for about 25mins of baking.

Yes! This pizza is most excellent!!! We had it for the second time tonight, and I feel the need to share the discovery to the world because such yumminess must be shared. Be warned that it is salty and you will need plenty of beverage. If you are unsure about caviar - try the biscuit thing next time friends come over, there is bound to be a couple people who will *love* it so the biscuits won't go to waste if you don't like 'em.

At $20 for 2 largish pizzas - it's moderately good value too.

2004-07-20

Garfield

Disappointing barely begins to cover what high hopes had been dashed by this movie. I am a huge Garfield fan and watched this movie with great anticipation. I think I might have smiled once during the movie. I may have been thinking of something else. Like how nice the world outside the cinema is. I guess there must be someone who appreciates dancing dog movies.

2004-07-19

Too wordy?

Do you think my posts are too big? Well I have two words for you but this post is probably already too large for you.

2004-07-18

Digital photo printing

Megapixels
This is a big hobby horse of mine. Well, photography is a hobby of mine, but the horse I ride is about people insisting that they have a huge number of megapixels. I looked carefully at the pros and cons before purchasing and have been ever so happy with my decision to stay with the lower megapixel camera but better optics and better reviews. The same sort of reasoning would apply today although you'd be looking at the other features on offer.

I have a 1.3 Megapixel camera. I have printed A4 size with excellent results, far better than I thought, and recently I printed A3, I really didn't think I would get as good a result as I did. The resolution of the image is 1280x960 and printing on 42cmx30cm which is about 80dpi once you allow for border ... and the print looks great. Only cost $6 too. I had a 4 Megapixel image printed up too, I was just as pleased. I have yet to go over it with a magnifying glass, but nobody I have shown so far can pick which has the higher resolution source image.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The 4 Megapixel image was 1.3MB, the 1.3Megapixel image was 0.3MB. My 256Meg card can store 700 images (1.3MP) at fine resolution. The 128Meg MMC card for the 4MP camera could only store around 90. When I go away on holidays I take about 8-10 rolls of 36 exposure film on average. So the 4Megapixel camera wouldn't cut it. I would have to buy one of those external hard drive downloaders, or take a laptop. Plus my hard drive would fill up 4x as fast.

The obvious solution is to set your 4MP camera to low resolution, which is exactly what I do. You have the advantage of setting to higher resolution whenever you really want / need it. Most cameras behave better at lower resolution settings too, they have more light per pixel to play with. And light *is* the image.

Most of my images are for screen viewing or web or emailing. My screen is only 1280x960, the highest resolution on my 1.3MP camera. Any bigger and the viewing programs would just resize it anyways. For web, the best I want is usaully 640x480, so some scaling down there, and the same for emailing, I would NOT make friends by sending 4MP files and gumming up email accounts. Like some of them do to me. Bastards.

There are other way more important numbers that you want to look at in a camera. You can't get 1.3MP cameras anymore (unless they are built into a mobile phone ... in which case they are probably CMOS and have a horde of other lense related problems), but if you want to save money then the easiest way is to reject the "supersize me" mentality on megapixels. YOU DON'T NEED IT!

Once you get an idea of the things you are looking for then check DPReview (www.dpreview.com) for an excellent guide on the various numbers. You should also check eBay if you're game, plenty of bargains - just make sure you are getting the full pack - because sometimes they leave things out to make it cheaper (Like the lense on the Canon Digital Rebel). Also Google around for online camera stores for the make model camera you want.

Video
Still image digital cameras have video, and if you're going to go that route, and damnit - I would, then you had better get one with sound - or what is the point? People gripe about cameras only being able to take 20 seconds at a time. Me - I think this is a great idea. You want to make a real video then get a video recorder. But for most people - nobody wants to see you pan around for 5 minutes occasionally zooming in and out. Think about the scene, take the clip and move on. Nobody wants to watch your stuff anyway.

Start up time
Start up time is kind of important. Some cameras just take way too long and if you are after a snap of an incident in progress ... long start up times can ruin you.

Delay to shoot
The time taken from your press down on the button to the actual image being captured is VERY important. Many cameras out there just don't cut it. You want a car going across your view, you see the car, press the button ... wait ... click - car long gone.

Zoom
Yeah, optical zoom is the best, BUT the amount of zoom out (wide angle) is absolutely critical. This is usually measured in the 35mm equivalent, but some stores / ads don't use that. Forget all them, check DPReview. Digital cameras usually can only zoom out to 35, the best ones go to 28. The lower the number the better. Any camera with it's widest zoom > 35 is complete rubbish and should be avoided.

Why don't I worry about "zoom in"? 3x is plenty good enough. I don't even like going that far. The more you zoom in the more you are prone to movement blur from shaking the camera, less light is getting onto your CCD making it darker or lengthening the exposure (even more prone to shake blur), the more issues there are with lense aberations. Forget it. Just walk closer to the subject. Walking back is the hard bit, regularly cannot be done because of walls, cliffs, gardens, roads!

Macro
Lesser importance, but one that I use moderately often is the macro zoom. You should be able to change the camera into a macro mode and get extremely close to what you want to capture. Some cameras only get you 40cm to the subject, some will let you get 1cm! This is awesome for taking shots of flowers, bugs, and small items for insurance / eBay.

Battery life
Oh yeah, if you get the wrong camera, say from Minolta, then you can be really chewing through the batteries - like a set every 10 shots. You get the right camera and put it in the right mode, you can get > 200 shots without needing a change your precious power mechanism. The only way I have seen to find this information out is to check the user feedback on DPReview or talk to someone who has one. Don't trust salesmen unless you get them to write down what they say on paper and sign it.

Memory card type
Compact Flash is everywhere and really popular but the SD/MMC is newer smaller and fast gaining acceptance. Whatever you do, avoid like the plague anything that takes proprietary memory, like MEMORY STICK (evil evil evil) meaning that you are stuck with one company for memory supply and they will charge what they want, and they always want more than you want to pay.

Also check out:
Buying a camera
Photo printing
Camera Comparison
DPReview
Lunar photography

2004-07-17

Presidential power

A long time ago I used a speech given by George Bush the Second (President of United States) in a parody. It was an extract from one of his really dumb speeches. Hmmm, that doesn't narrow it down any. I used a speech that GBII made just after the collapse of the world trade centre. We were having some problems with network hackers because the bozos who were configuring the machines had left the administrator password blank. The computers were being taken over and used as ftp servers. Didn't take long to spot and correct but there was concern amongst the general populace. So I sent out this email which was every bit as bad as George Bush II but with "hacker" replacing terrorist, and "our network" replacing "our country". Worked really well.

Well I wanted to parody the speech again, using different keywords. However, trying to find the speech was incredibly difficult. Our lord and master "google" failed to come up with the goods. I sat and stared at the screen for a number of seconds, checking the keywords I had used. I was sure they were correct, no spelling mistakes. But they were returning nothing at all. I checked Alta Vista and finally MetaCrawler with the same results.

After I ruled out the WTC collapse as being a figment of my imagination, and the speech as being a poorly written sit com script that my fevered brain had merged into this little nightmare ... I started thinking "Conspiracy!" The bot at google was recording my searches and I was being marked as a left wing unamerican hippy, homeland security would already have my picture and satellites were turning their lenses my way. Hey, it was late.

Well, of course, I decide to go to the whitehouse website and use the search there. Sure enough, up it came. So no news organisation archived the speech, nobody had the few key words of a particularly stupid paragraph that I was searching for. I found out about the speech from a news site, I read it there, I copied it from there - I don't hang around the whitehouse speech site, that's not a healthy thing to do. So news sites dump their archives. Hard drives are cheap guys!

Actually I think the US government pulls speeches. The power to control information is too great, and I am sure that all people going to the whitehouse, using particular search keywords or going to particular speeches ... will all be getting the homeland rectal exams. But who can prove it?

Why doesn't the us government allow indexing of their information?

Why doesn't anyone else have a copy of this particular speech?

The obvious answer is that George Bush the second is an idiot ruler and the government is seriously embarrassed. I actually think the reason for the lack of searching the government sites is much more sinister. But I would.

George Bush the second sitting at the centre of the axis of evil.

Google ... have you sold out?

King Arthur

I managed to get a chance to view this film. I love fantasy, myth and the whole arthurian legend. Don't bother with this one.

2004-07-13

Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver sucks and rocks. I hate how it crashes and hangs, and changes templates. I love how it find all sorts of different things wrong with your code and can optimise the complete rubbish that comes out of Microsoft products. Dreamweaver is also excellent for site wide updates, using libraries, templates, search and replace with REGULAR EXPRESSIONS (wooohooo!)

I had our IT support install DreamWeaver MX to do some major editing about our site (11,000 html pages, 20,000+ objects all up). I found the patch and applied it. I found that I had not got the latest version so I put in a request for an upgrade.

DreamWeaver MX (6.1)
* Indented my source code even when I had specifically unchecked the switch in Edit/Pref/CodeFmt/Indent. Either the option is just being ignored or some config file is broken.
* The last setting for my "Show Code and Design view" always minimises the Design view on startup
* Library items! I *love* the idea, but my incomplete tables in library items are automatically being completed! Makes it useless for most of my requirements can't find anywhere to turn this completion off.
* When I drag a library item from the Assets to the Code, it indents and wraps the library item. And then completes the code (as above)
---
Dream Weaver MX 2004 7.0.1
I had DreamWeaver MX 2004 7.0 installed and applied the patch to 7.0.1. It converted my site over, but unfortunately I ran DreamWeaver 6.1 again which did something to the cache that stopped 7.0.1 working. I found the cache file and deleted it, 7.0.1 rebuilt it and worked from that point on.
* The LibraryItems don't automatically force close tags! But
(a) the design view does not render the page correctly - the rendering behaves as if there was a close table at the end of the library item. View in external browser shows the page properly rendered. The HTML validation shows no errors.
(b) Sometimes "<!-- #EndLibraryItem -->" is displayed in design view, highlighted with a yellow bg; incorrectly stating that the tag is unclosed or overlapping. The HTML validation shows no errors.

Otherwise I love DreamWeaver. Despite the occasional crashes.

Lunch time

Finalised a web site that I have been working on intensively for the past couple weeks. The site owners are extremely happy and relieved that all the information is finally out. I am the second web monkey to work on the site, the first guy had to go overseas and was given an out of date set of source material to construct the site from. Basically, the content had to be rewritten, but the site template needed little change. The menuing system used is an excellent java script from milonic, highly recommended if you don't mind editing code - only basic editing as the script is really well done.

Boss is away sick and I really would like to get her feedback on another web contract that I have won. Need to get some water tight specifications and costings to them. Aparently we were $40,000 cheaper than the other guy, they told us this and I could not see where the problem is. I have done something similar before, in fact, if their specifications had not included some extra features then I would have been able to use my old code and done the complete product for one tenth of the cost I quoted. Well they have already changed the specifications and they know I am going to charge more because of it.

Lunch over. More work.

C#

Started to develop a tiny application in C#, a console program. I did this because Delphi Personal edition doesn't seem to have any databased connectivity. Such is life. My experience with C# is ... null. C++ is also null. C however, I have programmed in extensively, both at University and then on one or two projects afterwards. Toxic. Everyone has been talking about .NET and C# and how much better it is.

I created a "Hello World" console app in nearly 0 time, so far so good.

And then I wanted to query an SQL database. Yes, I know this is not usually a task that people who are learning a new programming language would want to start out with but I had a specific task I wanted to do. Reading through the help was hit and miss, but if you hold the frustration and cursing of Microsoft you can uncover some excellent examples. I had some various SQL querying methods copy and pasted rather quickly.

What slowed me significantly was the structure of the language itself. Classes, methods, public private protected friend shadows ansi unicode auto static void lib alias ... what the ... fine. Once I had the function going I wanted to extract a single field from a table one row. It didn't help that the table designer told me it would either be 1 or 0 and I thought "int" when it was actually boolean/bit. So once I figured that out and wrapped my head around the poor type conversion of C#, I finally got the console program working. I am guessing you have to know to the binary level of the structure of each type from the various sources.

Nice little .exe file created down in the bowels of the "my documents" file structure which doesn't sound right - probably a better way of creating and locating the exe file.

I am then told it is to run on every machine in the login script. *sigh*. I don't think everyone will have the right .NET bits installed. I test on running on my machine, fine. I test running on the server, fine. I test running the copy on the server using a UNC path from my machine - FAIL! What!? Test all three again just to confirm this. So builds from C# aren't operable everywhere - just some weird error given and absolutely no explaination on how to fix the problem.

Screw that, I will use a combination of osql.exe and pipe the output to a console delphi program. 5 minutes - done, works on every computer. What is .NET good for then? Back end web page processing?

Not overly happy with C#. Expected better from the main guy on the Delphi team (who was the chief something or other in the whole .NET thing).

2004-07-12

Weblog open for reading

I was driving home listening to Radio National. They were talking about "Blogging" which always seemed like a great idea to me, allows you to vent your ideas and views to the world as well as record your life in some detail for others to ignore in the future. I had something like that going on my work machine, and on a personal web page that I scrapped. I wrote an ASP script for POP1 but the host site went bust and we couldn't get the data back off them because they had all left the country or something. I had a backup a couple months old so I wrote a script to pump out the main pages over at geocities, then Atomic Armageddon and of course POP1 is still going in some form or other.

I find writing fun, when I can get the time. Yes, it is very cathartic if you have to vent your spleen. It also helps to crystallise your thoughts.

I was browsing the Google menu system to see if they offered their image search engine for your own site (if they do - I can't find it) and I stumbled across Blogger (which Google has bought). OK. Let's give that a go then. I will blend this blogger site in with my personal page by playing with templates.

But in the meantime you should all go read Brown=Terrorist