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2003 Notebook

From the late 90s I blogged frequently with various random observations and things I wanted to record. Pre-2003 material seems to have been lost on various early web platforms, and this sort of stuff went over to Twitter eventually, but I’ve gathered together the shorter WordPress blog posts in these annual roundups…


Ordinary start to the season

Saturday 9 August 2003

Not the best of starts to the new season for Ipswich Town, a one-all draw with Reading at home. Read my report for the full story.

Take the train from Cambridge to St. Ives!

Friday 15 August 2003

Well, not yet. Met Tim Phillips today, guiding light behind CAST.IRON (The Cambridge And St. Ives Railway Organisation). The completely unwanted and unworkable Guided Bus system proposed for north of Cambridge will, as most residents know, either take years to happen and be a great white elephant, or will quietly die. What CAST.IRON plans to do is to restore regular, timetabled rail services to the Cambridge-St Ives Line, which hasn’t been in operation for years but which has only been officially closed this summer. It’s a terrific initiative, based on a successful project along similar lines at the Wensleydale Railway in Yorkshire. The plan is simply for the community to buy the line, restore it, and run it themselves, privately. I wish them well.

Boot out the Bus

Saturday 16 August 2003

Whilst the CAST.IRON people are planning to provide an alternative to the daft guided bus system north of Cambridge, plenty of people are campaigning hard to ensure everyone knows how ridiculous the bus plans are. The Hunts Post newspaper seems to be at the forefront with its Boot out the Bus campaign. Good for them.

Laundry Guide for men

Sunday 17 August 2003

The Laundry Guide to Common Care Symbols: “a Man’s Lexicon of the symbols on care labels”. This made me laugh like a drain today Thanks B3ta

Cheapest directory enquiries calls

Thursday 21 August 2003

Yet another example at the moment of the “all competition is good” mantra which our sadly-deluded successive governments have fallen for. This weekend the telephone directory enquiries service gets opened up to commercial alternatives. They’ve made the new numbers as unmemorable as possible (118 xxx, what’s that all about?) so inevitably people are going to the one which advertises the most, and guess who pays for that? The price differentials are frightening and all I can say is, visit the brilliant Money Saving Expert website, where the guy who runs it, Martin Lewis, has gone through everything. He recommends: [1] Use the internet (like 192.com, which is free); [2] Sign up to One-Tel, which has a free directory enquiries service; or [3] use the cheapest services, 118 888 or 118 800, which will save a fortune on normal calls which he’s tested. And never call connect which is hugely expensive.

The Case for re-opening the Cambridge to Huntingdon Railway Line

Friday 22 August 2003

Visit Henry Tribe’s The Case for re-opening the Cambridge to Huntingdon Railway Line if you want good, regular updates on what’s happening on all aspects of this subject. Also, the Milton Railway Station Campaign is campaigning for access to rail services in Milton village north of Cambridge “preferably by building our own Railway Station”, and to improve rail in the region, including the reopening of the Cambridge to St.Ives railway line. Just like us in Cherry Hinton, they have a railway line running right through the village, but no station (D’oh!).

A Postcode Finder which works!

Friday 29 August 2003

Here’s a good find: an easy-to-use version of the the Royal Mail Postcode Finder, the normal version being one of those websites which has long been criticised as an overelaborate nightmare (takes ages to load, requires pointless logging-on, etc etc). The nice version is on the Royal Mail Access Website which it has kindly designed “so that people with disabilities, including visual impairments can access it easily”. You have to wonder: what about the rest of us? Thanks NTK
UPDATE (2007): I can no longer find a separate version for people with disabilities, but the “normal” version has been made somewhat easier to use.

Usable UK Railways Live Departure Boards!

Friday 29 August 2003

And while we’re on an accessibility tip (see below), big respect to Matthew Somerville for creating an easy-to-use version of the UK Railways Live Departure Boards. Straight to Favo(u)rites.

Too promising to be true?

Monday 1 September 2003

QI is a new TV series starting next week on BBC Two: “With Stephen Fry as host, guests including Alan Davies, Rich Hall and Jimmy Carr are quizzed on bizarre facts and unusual information, and points are awarded for interesting answers rather than correct ones.” It sounds too good to be true. And it gets even better: Bill Bailey was shown as a guest on the trailer.

RSS – A Primer for Publishers and Content Providers

Wednesday 3 September 2003

If you’re thinking of publishing your website’s content in RSS format (or if you don’t know what RSS is), check out RSS – A Primer for Publishers and Content Providers which has been written by the good folks at EEVL alongside a project where they used and helped develop RSS feeds from the Pro-Talk websites I work for. Very well written stuff.

Fat Man on a Bicycle

Tuesday 9 September 2003

And as the sound of the overture to Wagner’s Tannhauser fades into the background, I’m indebted to Mudd Radio for its archive of four episodes of the long-lost “Saturday Night Fry” radio series, available as MP3 downloads. Let’s hope BBC Radio Seven gets around to broadcasting the whole of Stephen Fry’s 1988 gem*. Now let’s talk Strom…
*Edit: it did!

Internet Vulnerability Profiling

Friday 12 September 2003

Without your knowledge or explicit permission, the Windows networking technology which connects your computer to the Internet may be offering some or all of your computer’s data to the entire world at this very moment! Shields Up! is a great site which quickly checks the security of your computer’s connection to the Internet. Cool.

Cinema at the end of our road

Monday 15 September 2003

The new “Cambridge Leisure” park at the corner of Cherry Hinton Road and Hills Road is coming on well. It’ll be fun to have cinemas and a bowling alley within walking distance. Looking at the site plans however, I don’t see any sign of the bridge over to the railway station which was mentioned at one stage. I could do with that.

Good work, Councillor fella

Wednesday 1 October 2003

Big respect to Councillor Geoff Heathcock who replied (unprompted) to me by post following a letter I put in the local paper about the accountability of local councillors. Very impressive. And yes, he will have my vote next time.

Wuuuergh! Alien Invasion!

Thursday 9 October 2003

The “Alien Invasion” Movie from Greenpeace with Jim Broadbent and Eddie Izzard is fan-blinkin-tastic* and you should watch it online now.
* That’s called a Tmesis. I knew watching QI was going to be worth it.

New iMac, same old lack of customer care

Monday 17 November 2003

Just got a new iMac. Very nice. But disappointing service from local dealer Cancom (although I suspect it’ll be the same elsewhere). Only in response to a casual query as I left the shop (“everything’s all the latest version etc is it?”) did the sales assistant point out that the iMac didn’t have the latest Panther OS on it. Apparently I have to call Apple to get it, and pay more than ten quid shipping charge for the privilege of waiting several days for them to send it to me. The Panther OS has been available for two weeks or more. Even if the machine was built before it was available, surely they should be including the new OS in the box? Compare and contrast: I bought a Dell laptop last month, and it came with MS Office 2003 installed, three days before MS Office 2003 was officially launched. Sometimes I think we love Apple despite themselves.
Postscript: It got worse. There was a faulty drive on the iMac, so I asked the dealer to replace the machine. “Oh no Sir”, they replied, “it doesn’t work like that. You have to send the machine back to Apple, who will test it and certify it as dead on arrival, then we can get it replaced”. Er, I don’t think so. Ever heard of my consumer rights? Of course you have, you’re a shop. So don’t pretend that if I got a bad lettuce at Tesco, they’d tell me to get it checked out with the farmer before they’d replace it. Good grief. What I worry about is how many other people get told this nonsense and then go along with it. Just say no. If someone sells you a faulty product, demand they replace it immediately; do NOT take any crap about the manufacturer having to get involved. This web page spells it out.

Woo, and indeed, hoo!

Tuesday 25 November 2003

That Jonny Wilkinson, eh? I don’t know if this is a good thing, but never have I been hugged by so many strangers in a pub.

Missing iDVD in Panther? No, actually

Saturday 6 December 2003

So my new iMac didn’t come with the Panther OS (see below) and I had to wait for a copy, but it eventually came and I did a nice clean install. All the groovy Apple iLife apps appeared …except iDVD. How odd. A trawl of the newsgroups unearthed a lot of people asking the same question. But they also showed how to get it from the original system software DVD which comes with the iMac. It’s on the DVD in a hidden folder called .images, which you access by using Go->Go to Folder and entering /Volumes/iMac Software/.images …revealing an icon called iDVD1.dmg, which is a disk image. Double click it, DiskCopy will mount it, and just drag the (huge) iDVD application to your Applications folder.

Time to Smile

Monday 22 December 2003

The Human Clock – A Photo for Every Minute of the Day is just the nicest thing on the internet, ever. If you need to smile, take a look.

Let them sing it for you

Monday 22 December 2003

And this is utter genius. Type in some words and they get sung back at you (as long as they’re fairly common words, that is) in the form of samples from songs. Wow.

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