12/3/00 | 21:02 GMT

The Fans of Mars from the Economist. A nice introductory piece to those uninitiated about the Mars advocacy movement.

Another long Mars article in MSNBC, only marred by the huge number of adverts they seem to have over there. Another reason to use BBC News, I suppose.

Hey - news break here! The Mars Society Launches Pressurized Rover Project

You think Sea Launch is good? How about Boeing's Air Launch?



God-damn Creationism
12/3/00 | 10:30 GMT

64% of Americans support teaching Creationism along with evolution. I remember there being a similar poll in the UK; I believe that only a vanishingly small percentage of us supported Creationism, probably much less than 10%. It's good to be cynical.

The Revolution Against Evolution - always a good site to read whenever you think you're not that smart.

Is it me, or is Aint-it-Cool-News getting increasingly full of irrelevant crap? Don't get me started on the TV Section (Coaxial), either.

Underground rivers revealed on Mars - although I don't think they're absolute proof for the existence of surface water on Mars. What would be interesting to know is where all that water went.

A British-based satellite communications effort? Using Sea Launch? I couldn't believe my eyes; I mean, after all, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert May) thinks human spaceflight is a waste of time. Since when did Britain lose all its sense of adventure?



GSV Ultimate Ship the Second
10/3/00 | 22:45 GMT

This must be the funniest post I've read for some time:

"Last week, the DoC's network came under a Distributed Denial of service attack from approximately 900 computers on the 'net. The crackers attacked through the 100Mbit/s link and attacked one of our internal routers. Unfortunately for them, they targetted Black Diamond, a rather large 128 Gb/s switch capable of routing 96 million packets per seond. Suffice to say the attackers didn't get very far...internal operations continued as normal."

This was from the Department of Computing at Imperial College, UK - don't mess with us.

Something my brother sent me - evidently a reviewer at the Guardian has been reading my reviews... Read my reviews of Time and The Naked God.

It seems that according to the World Book Day, our man Iain Banks is the 30th most popular writer ever - at least, that's what 40,000 people think. Not bad, huh? I mean, he beats people like Anne McCaffery (34) and Tom Clancy (40) hands down. Exactly who George Orwell (44) and William Shakespeare (50) are, I have no idea.

The Times ran an interesting article (don't know whether it's online or not) about 'Iranians buy Soviet 'killer' dolphins'. I quote:

In what must rank as one of the most bizarre sell-offs of the post-Cold War Soviet arsenal, 27 naval amphibians, including dolphins, Beluga whales, walruses and sea lions, were transported by air to an undisclosed Iranian base on the Gulf.

...Although dolphins have a popular image as clever and friendly, during the Cold War both the US and the Soviet Union developed secret training schools where the animals became skilled in detecting mines and carrying explosive charges which would explode on contact with enemy ships.

Soviet trainers even boasted that their animals were able to distinguish between the sound of a friendly or enemy submarine engine. The animals' highly developed sonar was also used to locate missing torpedoes and missiles. The Soviet Navy even experimented with dropping dolphins out of aircraft in specially designed parachute harnesses (Editor's note: Bloody hell!)

The animals were also trained to attack enemy divers with a harpoon attached to their backs. Once speared, the victim would be dragged to the surface.

...The mammals could be of great value to the Iranians who are in constant struggle for control of the Gulf and its entrance at the narrow Straits of Hormuz, through which much of the world's oil is exported.

The newly imported dolphins from the former Soviet Navy's Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol will not be the first naval dolphins to go into action in the region. The US Navy deployed five dolphins in the Gulf in 1987 to protect its warshiops from Iranian mines.

Looks as if dolphin uplift has already begun. ObLink: The Dolphin Institute



Maybe I should write a different title
10/3/00 | 18:02 GMT

God-damn Freeserve for not allowing people to access its FTP site if they haven't got the right IP! You do not realise how much something like Blogger would help me to do more updates here (for example, instead of playing Bomberman all day at school, I could play Bomberman nearly all day at school, and spend the rest of the time updating this weblog).

Maybe BT Internet will be different.

I know I could move this lock, stock and barrel to pitas (at least, I think) but that'd be too much hassle (read as: I can't be bothered).

I have noticed an alarming tendency for many Webloggers to recycle links from other sites and merely add incisive comments of their own. I can't criticise - they can do want they want - but I try to make a point of not reading that many other weblogs so I don't get into the deadly cycle myself. I do, of course, read some other weblogs. In fact, I plan to link to some of them myself; there's no better way of increasing your hits by cross-pollinating.

Don't even get me started on weblogs that seem to just consist of other people's lives, and no links...

(BTW, I'll be posting some proper links later tonight, so check back again later)



Shiny expensive electrical things with buttons on
9/3/00 | 19:23 GMT

Finally, Dreamweaver 3 can do CSS properly! No more messing about with the source code just to put a measly <class> tag in. Although I'm sure someone is going to tell me that I could've just altered Dreamweaver 2 to do that for me...

When I got back home, I saw an ominous looking letter from PriceWaterhouseCoopers addressed to me - my initial fears of them asking for the four-pack of beer I nicked were allayed when i found the photos of the awards dinner inside, so they'll be online soon.

As it happens, contrary to what I said two days ago, the X-Box is indeed being released in Autumn 2001. Since when did Bill Gates become suicidal?

About unmetered Internet access, by Guy Kewney - you go, girl!

What the hell is a hypernova supposed to be? It ain't going off, Not In My Back Yard.

I don't know what ZDnet is playing at. The 'Free e-ZDNet' margin tabbed onto the side, like an afterthought, is not appreciated.

Here's an essay I am most definitely going to do, even if it risks offending a friend. It's about why we shouldn't need to be told what we're supposed to enjoy reading - I've had it up to here with all this lit-crit shit. If I like reading science fiction, I shouldn't have to take any flak over it not being 'real writing'.

There is hope - the Babylon 5: Into the Fire game may be saved yet.



Ash Wednesday
8/3/00 | 19:23 GMT

When I read this post on the Culture list, I knew, in honour of the UK's Non-smoking day, I had to put it on my weblog. Smokers aren't just hurting themselves, and they aren't just hurting us by passive smoking. They're hurting us where it matters - in the wallet.

It's official. The UK is going ker-azey over unmetered Internet access. BT, in an astonishing display of speed, has updated its Surftime package to a tariff that I have to (grudgingly) admit isn't bad at all.

I'm sure this has already done the rounds on the Internet, but the Flash Stardudes Starwars tribute is excellent stuff.

At the moment, I feel like I'm just entering the first stages of flu; I'm trying to pre-empt the virus by loading up on Panadol (no stinking nucleic acid is gonna make a fool of me) but I'm not sure whether it'll be enough. I suppose I'll just have to put 'Cure all ills' on my 'Things to be done' list today then.



Hope and Fear
7/3/00 | 19:23 GMT

It's the end of an era. The Official Babylon 5 magazine is to end on its 24th issue, and the Babylon 5: Into the Fire flight simulator game is effectively dead in the water, having been cancelled by both Sierra and Codemasters. It's sad that the one time someone tries to make an intelligent science-fiction programme, we aren't interested.

Here's an interesting article about the Killer B's (Brin, Bear and Benford) speaking at an Internet conference. Speaking of David Brin, here's a semi-interesting (and semi-irritating) critique of Brin's own critique on Star Wars (check under the Rants section).

If you don't live in the UK, or have been living in a cave for the past few days, you'll have noticed that the entire free-Internet telecoms debate has just gone nuclear; not only Altavista but also NTL are going to offer unmetered connection to the Internet. Myself, I'll stick with BT Internet until the newcomers can prove their worth.

The latest on Microsoft's X-Box console. Somehow, though, I don't think that Microsoft are going to wait until September 2001 until releasing it - by then the PS2 won't have just taken over the entire console market, but also the entire home entertainment market.



6/3/00 | 20:01 GMT

An absolutely wonderful website, Public Agenda, was brought to my attention today. It covers some of the most important and controversial issues facing voters (not just Americans, either) today, with hard figures and facts. There are also some relevant well-researched articles there as well. In my unprofessional-but-very-opinionated opinion, voters should be made to study the facts before they vote, and this is just the site we need.

Nothing on gun control, unfortunately, which is something I'm discussing on the Culture list.

An interesting article about a new type of navigation system based around 3D solar systems representing nested bookmarks. It has just the right combination of VC money, ingenuity and good graphics to work.

That's about it for today. I'm planning to do a drastic update to one of my essays, The Automated Society, sometime soon, but you can read the original now. Another thing I'd like to write about is based on the entire concept of privacy; it's all very well having 4096 bit PGP encryption that will take 100 years to crack, Moore's Law withstanding, but it's completely another thing to go and plant a camera in your house and simply watch your computer screen.



5/3/00 | 20:26 GMT

Does anyone out there apart from me and the writers of Edge actually remember, or even like, the classic game Ramparts? You know, the three player game where you shoot cannon balls at each others' castles and then rebuild them in a Tetris-like fashion?

Anyway, a while back I had a sudden pang for Ramparts, and swore to myself that I'd go and get a new copy - one of my friends used to have a PC copy, sadly gone now. Eventually, I went to the pains of downloading the MAME Arcade Machine Emulator, and getting a pirated Ramparts ROM. How far have I sunk, I ask you?

Of course, the game of choice at the moment is still Puzzle Bobble. After having honed my skills on the ridiculously difficult 'Beehive Bedlam' game on Sky Digital (which, incidentally, has been made much easier recently; a crime against humanity, if you ask me), I wasted no time in utterly destroying my so-called expert Puzzle Bobble friends at a recent party. Even the debilitating effects of alcohol couldn't stop my avalanche of bubble-popping. Let those who doubt my Puzzle Bobble skills beware!

Which reminds me; does anyone recall the obscure SNES game 'Bombtris'? Now there was a classic Tetris clone that was different.

Although when it comes to multiplayer games, the most awaited one I'm looking forward to is the Babylon 5 Flight Simulator, the chances of which being released are pretty much nil since Sierra was cruelly broken up by Havas.

I'm not asking for much; I could do without Babylon 5. But to have a space-combat game that uses real-world physics (you know, like things called 'inertia'?) would be wonderful.

And in case you think I'm a shallow computer-games loving guy, well, I ask you, would a shallow computer-games loving spend ten hours (yes, ten hours!) drawing this?



Atto-Slashdot effect
5/3/00 | 12:02 GMT

I learnt a very cool new word from Nature today; I'd previously thought that femtoseconds were the smallest division of time, but it seems like an 'attosecond' (sp?) goes one further.

It's also applicable to my site. After a review of Iain Banks' book Inversions was posted on Slashdot, I decided that posting a message with my Culture reviews URL would be a good way of getting some more hits. And - yes - it did get me a few dozen more hits, so I'll dub it the Atto-Slashdot effect.

Same thing happened when I posted a pointer to my Mars essay.

I myself am quite sceptical about Altavista's new Free Internet plan for the UK. I honestly can't see how they can fund it without either showing adverts, or losing a lot of money.

I was quite busy yesterday trying to find some plans for a cheap and cheerful rocket to build for my school's Science Fair (I was told 'You are building a rocket, aren't you?' in a threatening tone of voice). After trawling through sources like Rocketry.Org (pretty good, but still too advanced for me) and Rocketry Online (pretty crap and very non-intuitive) I came across what I was looking for:

The Incredible 5-cent Sugar Rocket

The only problem is that I have no idea what all these American terms mean - what the hell is a 'dowel'? Some kind of rod?

Anyhow, I'm not entirely sure whether I'll have enough time to even do the simple rocket above; I might opt for one of the other designs on the page. Then again, I might just take the easy way out and not even use solid fuel, but the good old 'methane/oxygen in coke bottle' effort.



3/3/00 | 22:42 GMT

Well, I'm finally back from purgatory. Been very busy lately, sorry for the lack of updates. A-Level revision, exams and all that guff. And debating competitions.

Can't say there's much to tell you, apart from this snippet from something I posted to a mailing list:

As many of you will be aware, McDonalds are giving away Toy Story 2 toys with Happy Meals. Cue about 10 18 year olds from my sixth form rushing in their cars to the nearest McDonalds, desperately crying 'Have you got any Buzz Lightyears?'

It's not as funny, though, as when someone got Emperor Zorg. We were initially disappointed as to the only apparent 'fiddly bit' on it - you can push a level to rotate his gun. But after extensive testing, we realised that Emperor Zorg in fact had *WHEELS*! Yes, you could actually 'rev him up', and then let go, and he'd zoom around the place. Cue ecstatic shouts of 'And it even makes sparks as well!'

BT have been updating their website recently - still looks crap, mind. And the BT shop thing doesn't work properly. Well, I suppose at least they're starting to offer semi-free Internet access.



28/2/00 | 20:22 GMT

An interesting thing I picked up from a mailing list I'm subscribed to: the Contact Conference, convening in a few days.

CONTACT is a unique interdisciplinary conference which brings together some of the foremost international social and space scientists, science fiction writers and artists to exchange ideas, stimulate new perspectives and encourage serious, creative speculation about humanity's future ... onworld and offworld.

I'm looking forward to TED11 myself though - I managed to get myself invited to speak there. Can you say 'networking'? Or possibly 'lucky bastard'?

Original Content Warning: Finally, here's a very rough draft of what I'm going to say at a debate arguing the motion 'Public figures deserve their private lives.' We're arguing against the motion.

Just don't tell the other side about it, eh?



27/2/00 | 18:26 GMT

Successfully installed Windows 2000 Professional today; it suspiciously ran without hitch, which needless to say is not a phrase you attribute to Microsoft. I'm lying in wait for something to go wrong.

In case the rest of the world doesn't know about MK3 (from Aint it Cool News), it's a Yank adaptation of the Three Musketeers. With - get this - a female d'Artagnan. I couldn't believe it when I read it.

Sigh. Makes me long for the days of Dogtanian on British Children's TV...



Free DVD
26/2/00 | 22:38 GMT

Not many updates recently since the time I would have spent on the weblog was wasted on trying to figure out (unsuccessfully) the intricacies of CSS from scratch. It's only now that I've realised I should just go and read an online guide...

I'm involved in an interesting email game where the point of the game is to win, but the method of winning is rather different. You see, the whole game revolves around the submission and amending of the rules of the game, so you win the game by changing the rules. Clever, huh?

Yeah, I haven't figured it out either...



Free everything!
25/2/00 | 18:00 GMT

Have a look at the w4t weblog. He's got a very impressive web portfolio, when you take into account his age. Kids these days, eh? Although I'm not so sure about his 'working on a possible portal site using XML'. I think we already have, let's see, five million of those already.

Of course, it only goes to show that the Britain's excellent e-commerce policy must be working amazingly well to produce such talented programmers. Or it could just be a stroke of a luck. Take your pick.

Oodles and oodles (that means 'lots') of great science-fiction short stories to be found at While they're not strictly free, that doesn't make much of a difference. You see, you have to pay to read the ending. You can either do this by:

a) Paying or

b) Having to look at an ad banner for every three or four hundred words you read.

Needless to say, as long as you're not too worried about staying online that long and looking at ad banners, then you've just found yourself enough entertainment to tide you over until you've got enough money to go out and actually buy a real book.

It's got terrible site design, but you'll find that I can put up with a lot for free, high-quality science fiction.