Where magic lives

Thursday, November 30, 2006

New Monitors and PSU

It was about time for a monitor upgrade.

I now have three Samsung 203Bs and an LG L203WT. Both are 20" TFT screens but the LG has a widescreen aspect ratio and a much higher contrast ratio, I will be using it mainly to watch videos. The Samsung screens can be rotated through 90° which I am experimenting with at the moment on one of the screens, it is a bit unusual at first but I think it is better for word processing and reading articles on web pages.

I also took this opportunity to change my PSU to a near-silent model. The one that came with the computer was a bit noisy but now all that can be heard is the gentle whirring from the water cooling radiator.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Casino Royale

After being so impressed with the film I decided to read the original novel by Ian Flemming.

The book was good. It was also interesting to see how the 1953 story had been expanded and adapted to make a film; I think the filmmakers did a very good job.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

RSS Ticker Screensaver

I've been playing about doing some C# programming. I started out by making myself a screensaver. In the configuration window you enter a list of your favourite RSS feeds, then when your computer is idle it shrinks your primary display and surrounds it by a ticker interface not dissimilar to those seen on 24 hour news channels. If you want to have a look download this file, then right click on it and click 'Install'.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

The Guardian does it again

Exclusive: We can Read! - Why did Steve Boggan and a friendly computer expert find it so exctiting to state the obvious?

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Blogger Beta Label Cloud

I have just upgraded to Blogger Beta. I love that they have finally added support for labels, however I cannot get a list of my labels to appear in my template. In fact I am not even getting the new WYSIWYG template editor that they are bragging about. I think it may be because I publish to my own server via FTP.

Anyway, I created a quick solution for the time being and am posting it hear in case anyone else has the same problem and wants to steal it:

This PHP code creates a label cloud (put it anywhere on the server you publish to via FTP and change the obvious constants):

Update 30 April 2007 to remove duplicate entries added by Blogger.

Now setup some mechanism whereby this file is included in your sidebar. A naive way would be to use an include() statement in your template and make your server parse .html files as PHP (e.g. by adding

AddType application/x-httpd-php .html
to a .htaccess file) but you are relying on Blogger correctly escaping any comments so malicious users cannot run arbitrary PHP code on your server. A better way is to introduce some keyword to your template and have code on your server scan for this keyword and overwrite the correct content. That is all beyond the scope of this post though.

You will notice that my code caches the cloud so that the labels directly does not get scanned on every single page view (just once per hour). For this to work your SEARCH_DIR must be writable by your web server. Also I am hoping that Blogger do not paginate label pages, if they do this will break my code, none of mine seem to be paginated though.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Trojan Files

The Trojan Files is about mobile armed police units in London. Most of the book consists of individual stories involving these armed police (the remainder is history about both armed police and the author presented in quite a dull way). The real life stories were gripping at times, but overall they are quite uneventful: You could probably count on one hand the amount of non-training rounds fired during the entire book.

Overall, it was not the action book that I expected but I was probably expecting to much -- we are talking about regular armed police officers in England here!

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Pass Plus

I have now completed a Pass Plus course. This means that I have had special training in motorway, dual carriageway, all weather, night, country and town driving. Spread over a minimum of six hours of practical lessons this course is apparently proven to reduce accidents amongst new drivers. So much so that many insurers offer a significant reduction in your first year policy after taking the course. Well... that's a joke! I crammed the six hours into three 2-hour sessions all in one week, wrote of most modules as "theory" and didn't really cover anything that I hadn't already done myself. The insurance discount was significantly more than the cost of the course though and does make up for the six hours of my time that the course took.

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