Where magic lives

Monday, July 31, 2006


The latest stop on my Oxford people tour was Bath to spend a weekend with my friend Laura. Involving a night out with some engineering people, the tour of Bath, a visit to the cinema (The Breakup - I quite liked it) and a day trip to Weston-Super-Mare (I optimistically wore my swimming shorts but the sea was miles out) this was a fun weekend.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Programming C#

Programming C# was a reasonable introduction to the C# language.

At the beginning the book was very slow moving for someone coming from Java. Despite this the description of some important language features was very fluffy. For example in Chapter 4 the notion of properties were introduced; we are told that the set accessor is analogous to a void method but this contradicts the point made earlier in the book about the result of evaluating an assignment being the value that is assigned. I am assuming that this point still applies and the value as evaluated before executing the set accessor is used for the overall result (as in many cases it would be inefficient to call the get accessor directly afterwards to provide a value for the assignment expression). A another example from Chapter 4; readonly members are introduced but we are not given a clear description of the semantics. I suppose the containing class is the unit of protection here but we are not told.

The later chapters of the book whose content was more .NET specific were at a better pace. They allowed for a very easy going read to introduce yourself to the various features. Some of the code examples were unnecessary but these can be easily skipped over.

The coverage of ASP.NET was very brief and has left me intrigued enough to find a book that just covers that topic.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Germany Visit

I spent the last five days in Germany visiting my friend Moritz who lives in Baden-Baden.

We spent the first evening in the Casino and lost a small amount of money playing Roulette. The next day was the tour of Baden-Baden which involved a stop at a very nice restaurant where I ate a meal based on my German favorite: SpƤtzle. We also visited Frankfurt (where I went up the 200m Main Tower and got a few Starbucks fixes, drove over the border into France and then straight back again (where we played some crazy golf and I won by 1 point!), had some 125mph trips down the Autobahn listening to a now favorite band of mine: Silbermond and went to a theme park: Europa Park.

I had a great time.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bug in Solitaire

I just found a bug in Solitaire! Arguably one of the most tried and tested components of Windows.

I was playing in Vegas mode and had gone through my stack, in an effort to do some last minute rearranging I was placing cards from the Ace piles back onto the table. I pulled the 9 of diamonds down and accidentally dropped it on the 9 of spades and it stuck, bringing the 8 of diamonds with it. There must have been something else special about what I did though because I have tried to engineer similar situations and am not seeing the same behavior.

Yes, I know, I play too much Solitaire!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Eric Meyer on CSS

Eric Meyer on CSS provides a very easy going introduction to the capabilities and application of CSS. Each chapter walks you through a typical project and the creation of the appropriate CSS then ends with some extra features for you to add as exercises.

As a non-artistic web developer I found this approach very enjoyable to read, and I felt that it gave a sound description of how the various CSS properties relate to design principles. However the book is not sufficient as a CSS reference, it lacked a complete description of how cascading and precedence works and there is no consistent method for introducing new attributes to the reader. This book will make a good companion to a reference text for someone who is starting out with CSS.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Automated Word Speller [Update]

My Automated Word Speller is now capable of displaying codes/e-mail addresses as images as well as converting them to MP3 dictations.

Codes produced using the script look like this:

Visually impaired users click here

Try it out for yourself; use the form below to create a one-time link, or read my article on Public-Key Cryptography in PHP to create your own links on the fly.

Try it out; enter a word: (supports a-z, 0-9, @ and .)


Sunday, July 16, 2006

My New Car

Today I brought myself a car: A 1991 Ford Escort Ghia (i.e. with electric windows, central locking and electric mirrors!)

At £200 I think that it was an absolute steal (not so much the insurance premium which came at a cost exceeding £1000).

I have taken it for a drive and we are getting on well, just need to fit a computer now... (I'll look into it!) Oh, and I need to get a driving license.


Modaco Summer Event

The Modaco summer event last year was so good that I had to go back to this years event, even though it did mean a train ride from Evesham to London this time.

At the Orange UK offices in Paddington I mingled with about 50 other Windows Mobile enthusiasts. We listened to interesting talks from people in the know at Orange and Microsoft as well as some people from smaller companies such as Time Cole at TAO talking about his miniMIXA project which aims to bring multimedia blogging to portable devices.

Disappointment at not winning the raffle prize (an XBox 360 and a years subscription to Orange Broadband) was softened by one of the many freebies we received from the sponsors; a Modaco branded, white-on-white Orange SPV C600. Definitely worth the train ride and £10 donation to charity.


Friday, July 14, 2006

My Book Shelf

Last updated: 21 June 2007


Agile Web Development with Rails Review Dave Thomas

Programming C# Review Jesse Liberty

Eric Meyer on CSS Review Eric A. Meyer

Learning the vi Editor Lamb & Robbins

Java Cryptography Jonathan Knudsen

Java Security Scott Oaks

Linux Server Hacks Flickenger

Swing Robinson & Vorbiev

Introduction to Functional Programming using Haskell Richard Bird

Teach Yourself C++ Programming in 21 Days Liberty

Teah Yourself Visual Basic in 21 Days Gurewich & Gurewich


The Art of Deception Mitnick

Rootkits Hoglund & Butler

Modelling and Analysis of Security Protocols Ryan, Schneider, Goldsmith, Lowe and Roscoe


Boo Hoo Malmsten

Direct From Dell Dell

Bloomberg by Bloomberg Bloomberg


Mathematical Techniques Jordan & Smith

Discrete Mathematics Chetwynd & Diggle

Popular Science

Fermat's Last Theorem Review Simon Singh

Freakonomics Review Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

The Computer and the Brain Review John von Neumann

The Infinite Book Review Barrow

The Code Book Singh


The Spanish Game Review Charles Cumming

Casino Royale Review Ian Flemming

A Spy By Nature Review Charles Cumming

1984 Review George Orwell

Digital Fortress Dan Brown


The Trojan Files Review Roger Gray

Lima 3 Review Harry Ferguson

Kilo 17 Review Harry Ferguson

Living in the U.S.A. Lanier & Davis

Spy Catcher Peter Wright


Very Easy Blogger Categories [Internationalisation]

As can be seen in the comments to my previous posts, I have been under quite some pressure to support multiple character sets in my Very Easy Blogger Categories system.

I now try and automatically detect the character set that you are using when I crawl your page. This allows me to output correctly escaped characters in the category lists that I place on your page.

Aside: The PHP htmlentities function does not support many character sets at all. As a work around I use the following code to correctly escape text in (hopefully) any character set: htmlentities(mb_convert_encoding($text, 'UTF-8', $charset), $quotestyle, 'UTF-8').

This is an entirely server-side change and does not require any changes to your templates or blog posts. Please let me know how it works by adding comments to this post.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Infinite Book

I just enjoyed reading The Infinite Book by John D. Barrow.

It was overall an interesting read, I really enjoyed the beginning chapters that were more mathematically focused. The latter chapters related more to physical infinities and the Universe; In my opinion this stretched on a little too much but that may just be because it is not where my interest lies.

For anyone who wants an amusing introduction to the infinite I especially recommend Chapter 3: "Welcome to the Hotel Infinity". Unfortunately the book is not indexed by Google Print or Amazon Search Inside! though so this will involve a trip to your local book shop.