Monday, 29 June 2009

Word of the day: Grassoline

"Grassoline": second-generation bio fuels made from the inedible parts of plants. Hat tip to Scientific American.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The sea "angel" — OF DEATH!

Hat tip: otoshimono the blog.

The most unnerving thing, to my mind, is not the sea angel itself, but the continued laughter of the watchers.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Things you can do in your Calvin's

I know this is hardly the time, but if Calvin Klein don't negotiate with to run an advert with this image then they are losers.

That Iranian election

It now seems clear that Ahmadi-Nejad, so far from having been weakened by the transparent illegitimacy of his reelection, has won some kind of power struggle in the only arena that counts, which is to say the upper layers of the Iranian elites. He is effectively daring the clerics to question the validity of the election, and it does not look like they are going to; indeed, they have already acquiesced.

The problem is that Ahmadi-Nejad is what we in the west would call a raving lunatic. From his previous utterances, he seems to think that he is the Hidden Imam of Shia belief, or possibly the Imam's herald. It looks to me like he has now decided that his mission is so important that he cannot allow it to be derailed by anything so irrelevant as the will of the people he ostensibly leads. This makes me wonder if perhaps the nuclear program is further advanced than we thought.

Iran's current religious leaders have previously been documented as saying that they care not if their country is reduced to a nuclear wasteland, so long as it hastens the eventual triumph of Islam over the rest of the world. That Ahmadi-Nejad makes such people look like moderates is clearly a cause for extreme alarm. In this context I quote a Slashdot posting where one worried Iranian says "People, we need your urgent help in Iran. We are under attack by the government. They stole the election. And now are arresting everybody... Please tell us what to do or we are going to die in a nuclear war between Iran and US".

If it does come down to Iran lobbing nuclear weapons around, then they will surely be spoilt for choice. Heretical Sunnis next door in Pakistan? Americans in Iraq? Israel? (In which case, look for an immediate flowering of mushroom clouds over capitals throughout the Middle East.) I wonder at what point those European elites who have done their best to sabotage sanctions over the years will realise that Europe is a lot closer to Iranian launch pads than America is?

Still, before that can happen, we can expect to see a rapid and brutal putting down of all opposition. I don't think this regime will be gentle, I think there will be a lot of blood.

Today's unfinished business

Friday, 12 June 2009

Today's unfinished business

It often happens that I have to reboot the PC (usually because of an over-insistent "important" upgrade, thank you Microsoft) while several tabs in the browser are still not fully explored, digested and/or commented upon. I've decided in cases like these that I'll return to the now seemingly prehistoric formula of a blog post full of links :))), just so that I can review them again if need be. Without further ado, here are today's candidates.

  • Processing: seemingly a language for doing visual work, graphics and so on. It seems to be very popular and has a large user community, many of them non-technical. This is the second time I've been led to this site; why don't I know anything about it?
  • Adobe Flash Player Support Center: the place to download a debug version of the Flash Player, for if I ever get serious about learning something about game development. Also the place to go for the lates released version of Flash.
  • SpriteLib GPL: a collection of graphics that can be used in games for free.

Microsoft Money

I am just taking a moment to mark the passing of Microsoft Money. It's not the first big name product that Microsoft has discontinued recently, but this was the product that, for me, really opened my eyes to the vicious and arrogant company that Microsoft had become.

I remember Microsoft working together with Intuit. I remember thinking that the embrace seemed rather too close for comfort, like those female spiders that eat their mates. I was not surprised then when Microsoft attempted to buy Intuit; after all, it was common practice at the time for Microsoft to work closely with a company for long enough to learn its business, learn its business model, and most importantly understand its software inside out. One always had the feeling that the relationship was not complete until Microsoft had a copy of the unfortunate "partner's" source code locked away in its vaults. Then Microsoft would either acquire the company — at a price of its own choosing — or it would bring out competitive software, usually much better integrated with Windows and often much better targetted at the mass market and much cheaper.

Such was to be the fate of Intuit. I can't remember now whether Intuit may have even agreed to be acquired, but at any rate the US Department of Justice stopped the acquisition in its tracks. Microsoft's anger was truly amazing to behold, and it brought out Microsoft Money suspiciously quickly, with the stated ambition of crushing Intuit completely and in double-quick time.

But left with no choice but to fight, the plucky little personal finance company did just that, improving its own product and bringing out new ones and always just staying that little bit ahead. And so, unlike countless other small firms who had partnered with the Redmond giant only to be betrayed, gutted and discarded, Intuit actually survived and prospered. And in this way Money was a kind of high water mark for Microsoft's ambitions.

And now it's gone, replaced by a link to one of Microsoft's many web sites: a faceless me-too in an ocean of competitive sites. The same thing has already happened to Encarts, Microsoft's encyclopedia me-too, but it's Money that really wakes me up to the slow strangulation of this corporate behemoth. I wonder how many more of its products will go the same way?