Monday 24 November 2008

How fast does my site load?

Try using Stopwatch to measure how fast your site load. It's a pretty cool little tool.

Monday 3 November 2008

Sony Ericsson Update Service Flash Error

This is a fix for those of you who don't use Internet Explorer. If the Sony Ericsson Update Service (SEUS) fails saying that you need Flash 8 or later then you must go into Internet Explorer, and download the latest version of Flash (doing it in Firefox won't work).

Once you have done this SEUS should work just fine.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Conservatives new Energy and Climate Change man

The Conservative party has appointed Greg Clark as their Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. This is a pretty un-enviable job, how to secure our energy supply and reduce carbon emissions is bad enough, but to push through useful measures with a nuclear-sceptic public is a real challenge.

Friday 3 October 2008

Close Remember The Milk Tab Firefox

When logging in to Remember The Milk for GMail (at least in Firefox with TabMix Plus) a rather annoying empty tab is left open, with no content. This page actually has a JavaScript close instruction, but by default a JavaScript is not allowed to close windows that it didn't open.

This can be overcome by entering about:config into the Firefox address bar, and double clicking the dom.allow_scripts_to_close_windows to set it to 'true'. A warning is in order: now JavaScripts can close windows (tabs) that they didn't open (I haven't had any problems with this however).

Microsoft Outlook Web Access in Firefox

Despite the fact that it may have spawned the wonder that is AJAX Outlook Web Access (OWA) has a lot to answer for. Fist of all it really is tightly bound to Microsoft Internet Explorer. IE is something that I avoid whenever possible: Firefox has been my browser of choice for a while now.

Unfortunately Microsoft prevent uses of non-IE web browsers from using the 'Premium' version of OWA - forcing them to use 'Basic'. I have to use OWA at home as the administrators of our Exchange server refuse to allow me to have my e-mail automatically forwarded to GMail. I also refuse to have two browser windows open when one would suffice. Thankfully by using the IEtab extension for Firefox it is possible, IEtab allows you to use the (rather poor) IE rendering engine in specified Firefox tabs.

Install it, restart Firefox and head to your OWA login page. Find the little Firefox logo on your status bar, and right click with the mouse. Click the 'Add' button to force Firefox to use the IE rendering engine for your OWA. Refresh your OWA login page and voila.

I really wish Microsoft would grow up and realise that not everybody wants to use IE!

Blogging Frequency

I seem to have burst of blogging. Periods of frantic activity penetrating larger, generally devoid times. It's not that I have nothing to write about, I have too much to write about! I have a folder of bookmarked web pages that I want to comment on - across three different blogs. I just don't get around to it all that often, and when I do start I tend to go on until I have emptied the folder.

I plan to empty the folder after lunch. So be prepared.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Heart Internet (again)

Well one of the performing monkeys tried to solve my problem by changing file permissions. The ones I had set myself correctly. These were changed without any indication of what files were changed, which makes checking them rather difficult.

How is this for an explanation? "Root permissions such as 777 would not be allowed as this is a root permission." Hmmm..... tautology?

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Heart Internet

I used to quite like heartinternet as a hosting company, they give you a lot for what you pay for. Especially when compared to 1and1 who I used before. However recently some issues have been cropping up.

First of all the server fairly regularly has its slow moments - not ideal by any means. Today it started giving Forbidden messages without registering them in the logs. Imagine the confusion that caused the trained monkeys in customer service.

I did once try to change my payment method to a debit card, which somehow their system managed to screw up. When I contacted customer services to explain that my card didn't work, that my bank said there is no problem with it, that I can afford it and I have checked the details I entered the monkey asked me for all of the details on my card so that he could try and enter them. Slightly wrong?

NHM Terracotta 2

A fix?

I'm starting to think that the Grands Prix are a fix. Will a black man really become president of the United States of Apathy before one wins the F1 Championship

Museum Coden Search

Museum codens are great - if you know what coden relates to what museum. However they can be a bit frustrating if you have no idea! The days of the Natural History Museum, London being the British Museum (Natural History) are long gone. However the BMNH coden still remains.

A while ago I was searching through documents for codens. I needed a comprehensive list so I scraped the Bishop Museum's list into a MySQL database. Thankfully they have a logical HTML structure and besides one small error (corrected in a matter of hours) the list was easily parsed.

Creating a local copy saved having to repeatedly hit their site and eat their bandwidth.

I made a slightly improved search engine for the list that automatically searches for redirects (AHCC is apaprently a museum coden synonym of ARHC).

I have made this available here for anybody who is interested.

This will hopefully link in (at some point) with some phasmid related projects that I have tiime to work on occassionally.

Friday 19 September 2008

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day


Perhaps the most holy of days for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Thursday 18 September 2008

NHM Terracotta 1

Terracotta wall decoration at the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

How to NOT use powerpoint

I came across this on GrrlScientist's blog.

Not sure whether it's meant to be a comedy but says very clearly and effectively what it took a lecturer the best part of 30 minutes to explain to me when I was at university.

Time Management

It's been months since I posted a comment here.

I've been recently re-examining my time management strategies, which despite creating an increased delivery in useful things, seems to have bypassed creating time to write here.

Incidentally I recently discovered that I seem to have rediscovered the vast majority of what Randy Pausch has already said.

I have a folder full of things to put here - so I will endeavour to work through the backlog and make this a little more interesting! Feel free to also check out my other blogs, In Defence of Reason and Invertebrate Diaries.

Friday 9 May 2008

Explaining things to friends

It seemed that not a day would go past last week without something to do with Jays turning up. I guess it started on Sunday morning in Battersea Park when a good friend of mine said they'd seen a couple, then continued through a BBQ Sunday afternoon and so on.

I can't remember the last time I saw one, I'm not really a huge fan of birds, and don't go out of my way to look for them. But to round off a Jay-infested week I did see one today, and unusually I was quite pleased to see it. Now I only need to find my quetzal....

Anyway, that wasn't the point. I did try to explain what a Jay looked like to one friend, feeling pretty certain that they'd seen them many times. All my descriptions of feather colours, posture, etc. failed. As a last shot I said "imagine a crow that's been paintballing", and suddenly the picture clicked. Perhaps we should rewrite the keys...

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Stupid American of the Week

I do gently tease some of my American friends about their massacre of the English language. But sometimes you really do have to laugh...

Friday 2 May 2008

Open Mindedness Can Go Too Far?

I like to think I'm pretty open minded, but this seems a little bit odd to me!

Morbid Anatomy

I have always found dead people fascinating. That sounds slightly wrong, I know, but if you look here you may do too...: Morbid Anatomy.

Monday 14 April 2008

Computer Setup

Since a few friends have been going around posting rather long lists of applications that they seem to find essential, I have decided to list the majority of things on my system (the Windows part of it for now, the rest is just for scientific work).

OS: Windows XP (also Debian and Solaris)
Mozilla Firefox
7-Zip (seems to compresspress just about anything I ever need)
GIMP (for image editing)
Microsoft Office
Adobe Acrobat
Google Earth

and a few plug-ins, such as AudioScrobbler

Can't imagine having left anything major out?.....

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Bizarre Technology

Modern technology has some bizarre behaviour. Consider for example my old (and old) mobile phone. The battery is dying, so it has two things to do:
  1. Notify me
  2. Make the remaining charge last as long as possible.
So perhaps it would beep or vibrate once or twice, dim the screen, not beep so loudly on messages, etc?

Well, no. The mighty people at Samsung instead decided it should beep and vibrate every couple of minutes, to further waste the battery life. And, by vibrate, I mean it caused a mini earthquake and sent the phone spinning on its axis on anything resembling a smooth surface.

Poor design!

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Some Blogs That I Read

I spent some time today tidying up my Google Reader so that it was slightly more easy to use than previously. I thought I'd share with you fine people a selection of these. Some are my friends' blogs, others I just find interesting, I hope you enjoy them too.

I also read many more, but these are some excellent blogs that are 'off the beaten track'.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Hillwalking Equipment

Something I wrote for a friend who is putting together an anthology of peoples' ideas and experiences related to hillwalking.

People who enjoy spending time in the mountains will often, after a day on the hills, get back and discuss, or even argue about, equipment. I have spent many evenings in pubs, around campfires and huddled inside a small tent to avoid the weather with fellow hill walking friends, and you know that the conversation will eventually turn to equipment. Now everyone has a different opinion about the best gear to carry up with you. Personally I prefer to carry equipment that is the lightest possible that will do the job. A lightweight waterproof is just as waterproof as a heavier one in all but the very worst of conditions, and is a lot smaller to stuff into your day-sac if the weather turns out to be good. Similarly, with waterproof trousers, the lighter the better, and in this case they need not be anywhere near as expensive as the jacket.

Then we come onto boots, for the past few years I have been using a pair of Meindl boots in all but the best of conditions. They may be a bit heavy for summer use, but then again the extra strength from lugging them around in the summer will pay dividends in the winter when I have no choice.

So here I am, having been asked to write about some of my favourite items of gear. Well I think that mountain clothing is a bit of a no-go zone, as whatever I say will cause most people to disagree. So instead I will settle for what will only cause some people to disagree: some items from the rest of my kit.

One piece of kit that I always take on trips, even if it is left at base camp for day walks, is my Trangia stove. It is one of the best designs to come from Scandinavia, and unlike Ikea, has the build quality to match. Consisting of a two part stand, one part of which supports the methylated spirits burner, the other supporting either the frying pan, kettle (optional) or either of the two pans. The whole thing fits into itself to make it easy to carry and the spare space inside is filled with a variety of useful things. After much experimentation, I now pack inside the kettle the burner, pot handle, a small bottle of washing up liquid, scouring pads, and a few small items of cutlery. A recent addition is an entomological pin (which is quite flexible) inserted into a cork handle. This makes it easy to clear the holes on the burner if they should become blocked (this recently happened to me in Snowdonia and drastically slowed the cooking time). If you are thinking of buying one, buy the larger model. If weight is an issue later you can always jettison one of the pans, the larger pans make all the difference. The kettle is not strictly necessary, but is quicker than using the pans for boiling water.

So what is the attraction of this piece of kit? Well, it is very versatile, for instance by cooking pasta in one of the pans and placing the frying pan on top it is possible to cook bacon while you boil the pasta. Once you have lit the meths, the stove is virtually windproof, unlike some of the cheaper gas powered stoves that are available. The whole thing is also capable of taking quite a bashing, certainly useful in terms of reliability in the hills. If anything does break you can replace that particular item, instead of the whole thing too, which certainly keeps the wallet happier. Buying spares separately also allows you to mix and match the Trangia for your own needs: fancy aluminium pans and a non-stick frying pan? Well you can have it!

Of course, I still use the old-fashioned silver Sigg fuel bottles. They just seem more robust than the new plastic Trangia ones!

Speaking of Sigg bottles, I also have a Sigg water bottle. It is now looking a bit worse for wear, the plastic outer is pealing of the metal body in one or two places, and it’s covered in dents, but this is why I got it in the first place: it’s built to last. Alongside the Platypus (essentially a water reservoir that goes in your backpack, with a tube and mouthpiece that you clip onto the shoulder strap) this provides adequate water for most days walking.

Another item that I always consider worth carrying is my Petzl head torch, now the model doesn’t really matter. Petzl make good equipment, but I find the ones that take the large square 4.5v batteries to be useful. These batteries give a very good lifetime, and can be replaced with an AA adaptor kit. Having it in your bag makes things that bit easier if you get stuck on the hills overnight, or if you end up coming down the last stretch a bit later than you planned.

I could go on, but I will save some stories for the next time somebody brings up the subject of equipment over dinner. In the end what matters more than equipment is skill and experience, or, for you first few attempts, the skill and experience of those around you.