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2004 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…

Include RSS news in your website!

Monday 12 January 2004

At last, an easy way to stick RSS feeds into your web pages. Feedroll is great, and it works.

Woo. Yay. The best of b3ta.

Tuesday 20 January 2004

b3ta is good at any time, but the best of b3ta 2003 is its greatest hits (or at least its Now That’s What I Call Music Vol.700). Links to loads of those sites you’d heard about but never actually seen, such as How Many People Share Your Name? and those False Perspective Photos.

iPod: cool but where’s the crossfade ability?

Sunday 8 February 2004

OK, I’ve got myself an iPod at last. Lovely bit of technology, and the way it hoovers up everything from iTunes on your Mac is quite astonishing. OK, I’ve made Dawn into a bit of an iPod Widow for the past fortnight, frantically organising all my iTunes library on the iMac. But I’m sure she understands. However, there’s one major disappointment with the iPod: it can’t handle iTunes’ crossfades between tracks! They don’t tell you about that in the publicity, do they? And surprisingly, it’s a topic which seems to have been very sparingly discussed in the forums. If you’re playing your iTunes library in random mode (and who doesn’t?), the one downer is the jarring cuts into tracks which are part of a continuous piece, such as live tracks. With crossfading, the tracks fade in and out much more smoothly. I get the impression that from a hardware point of view the iPod probably could handle crossfades, so we just wait in eager anticipation for a software upgrade on that front.

The Wheels On The Bus Cost £86 million

Monday 15 March 2004

You don’t have to be a music fan to find this a work of genius. Someone’s cut up the ravings of the councillor trying to push through the insane “guided bus” scheme and made a dance version of “The Wheels on the Bus” out of it. While you’re at it, if you’re a Cambridge resident, you have until the end of March to write to the Department of Transport to add your voice to the huge numbers of people objecting to this farcical waste of taxpayers’ money.

The iTunes Music Store is good but…

Thursday 24 June 2004

The iTunes Music Store is good but it’s a worldwide market and whether is legal or not outside Russia, it’s certainly offering Russian-style prices to the masses. Buy now before Bush bombs Russia on the orders of the US record industry.

Top attractions for Toddlers at Disneyland Paris

Friday 25 June 2004

Alex at Disneyland Paris, with his Daddy!
(by Alex Rand, aged 3 and a bit)
1. Casey Jnr. Train ride (Fantasyland)
2. It’s a Small World ride (Fantasyland)
3. Alice’s Curious Labyrinth maze (Fantasyland)
4. Le Pays des Contes de Fees boat ride (Fantasyland)
5. Peter Pan show (Adventureland)
6. Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride (Fantasyland)
7. Tarzan show (Frontierland)
8. watching Big Thunder Mountain (Frontierland)
9. eating at the Rainforest Cafe (Disney Village)
10. Animagique show (Walt Disney Studios)

Launch of

Friday 25 June 2004 is a new venture which my long-term colleague Colin Mathews and I will be rolling out over the next few weeks. Please feel free to take a look, and let us know what you think! It’s basically a resource of all the CAD software reviews (and some hardware too) which Colin has done over the past few years.

Astonishing service

Monday 28 June 2004

A massive word of praise for Photobox, the online print processing service. I uploaded a couple of photos to them on Friday teatime, one to be made into a big enlargement, and incredibly the prints arrived in the post on Saturday morning. Quality was superb, prices reasonable. Why would anyone want to buy inkjet printers and expensive photographic paper to print their own photos when you can get it done so quickly, and professionally, at lower cost? Insanity, if you ask me, but great marketing by the computer industry, convincing people that printing out your own photos is a good idea. Er, I don’t think so.

Throwing out the CDs? Maybe

Thursday 1 July 2004

I read an article today about how quickly hard-disk-based music had changed the author’s outlook on his music collection, and I realised I was in complete agreement. Six months ago I’d have been of the school which said “downloadable music has its place, but unless it has a massive cost advantage or something, I’ll always want proper CDs”. After all, it was a wrench to go from nice big vinyl album sleeves to pokey little CDs; I’m hardly going to give them up completely, am I?
Well, I’m beginning to wonder. The author of the article said that since he got his iPod and started using his computer as a music source, his CDs had begun to gather dust. And I have to say, so have mine. Do we really appreciate all that cover artwork so much that we’re prepared to forfeit a living room wall to house it? Do we really want a physical CD so much that we’ll wait for our next trip to town (or wait a couple of days for delivery), rather than having the album right now via a download?
Don’t tell Mrs R, but I think if she now suggested that I pack up the 500 CDs on our living room wall, and dismantle the display shelves, I’d probably do so. Even our living room music source is now a combined DVD/CD player, and since I put my entire 500-CD collection on six DVDs as pretty reasonable quality MP3s, I tend to use those when I want to play an album anyway.
Oh, it’s all a bit confusing. I’ll read this and laugh one day though.

And then there were… not enough, actually

Tuesday 6 July 2004

As the new Chelsea manager decides he wants to trim his squad down to a core couple of dozen players, I look at the Ipswich squad and realise we have about twenty players in total, of which half a dozen are youngsters who have virtually no first-team experience. We’ll be struggling to fill the bench some weeks if we’re unlucky with injuries and suspensions. And this is a team which finished 5th in the Premiership (and was one miss away from a Champions League place) in 2002…

Fahrenheit 9/11: scary

Thursday 15 July 2004

Went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 last night, and well worth the effort. Film critics don’t like it because they think its lack of objectivity damages the documentary genre, and because the publicity it’s generating overshadows more worthy films, but this stuff needs to get to the widest possible audience, and who cares how it’s done? One of the most frightening things for me was the suggestion – not really followed through in the film – that the invasion of Iraq was because the Saudis wanted it. The Saudis’ investment in the USA is so huge that if they pulled the plug, it could cause economic disaster. So when your biggest shareholder says jump, you jump. Scary.

Ooooh I’ve joined a health club

Tuesday 20 July 2004

Fat BlokeNeed a good laugh? Ask the receptionist at our new local health club to alert you when I finally give the gym a try, then pull up a chair and giggle uncontrollably for the whole five minutes I manage to keep up the exercise.

Health Club update

Friday 23 July 2004

I got shown all the machines at the Health Club today. They’re very scary.

Enter the googleDork

Monday 26 July 2004

Big respect to “professional hacker” called “Johnny” who’s put a great page up showing how Google alone can find examples of “inept or foolish” people on the web. Files containing “juicy info”. Files containing usernames! Files containing passwords!!! It’s all here. Amazing. Or perhaps not so amazing, I guess.

Visiting websites without typing

Thursday 5 August 2004

I like this. How do you get web URLs from paper (or other physical media) into people’s PCs, phones, TVs or whatever, when they just won’t type them in? Enter the 2D barcode. It’s easy to represent web URLs in this format. And guess what? Every self-respecting teenager is now walking around with their own barcode scanner (a very sophisticated one, it’s true!) in the form of their camera phone. Put the two together and you can get the public to visit websites without them already being on the web to follow links. If this takes off, expect to see lower-tech applications follow. For example, I’d have thought a 2D barcode scanner could be added inexpensively to your PC mouse, so you just wave it over a 2D barcode representing a web URL and up it pops on your screen. Just remember me when you make your first billion pounds.

Solidworks 2005 review

Tuesday 10 August 2004

Colin’s done a great Solidworks 2005 review at, and he likes it a lot. Enough said.

HR-V: top marks from me

Tuesday 10 August 2004

Honda HRV Got a new car today. But the picture above is the old one, for posterity. Alex was heartbroken. Three-year-olds don’t realise that people change cars. And they hate change. He’s never known another one. I took a tip from a colleague and hid “a present from the new car” in the back seat when he first saw it. Now he likes the new car, because it gives him chocolate. But I’m sure he’d still like the old car back. It was pretty striking …and strikingly pretty, in my opinion. I remember my neighbour, on first seeing it, commenting: “Honda HR-V? Looks like an Allegro Estate to me”. And do you know? The more I looked at it, the more I realised he had a point. But in four years it never so much as squeaked, never mind went wrong. Good work, Honda fellas.

One Thousand Reasons

Monday 16 August 2004

Let’s face it, not many of us have much of an interest in politics outside our own country, but it’s astonishing how the forthcoming US election has galvanised the world’s attention. I doubt if any US president in history has made his country so disliked by the rest of the world, enemies and (reluctant) friends alike. If the whole world could vote in this election, Bush wouldn’t pick up 5% of the vote. But we can’t. Even in so-called friendly countries, like here in the UK, the only people who have any respect or admiration for Bush are opportunistic politicians like Blair. Here are a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t vote for Bush. I’ll admit I’m now regretting voting for Blair in our last election. In November, the world will be watching, and hoping, that enough Americans who voted for Bush last time are big enough to realise what a mistake they made too.

Crappy Chicken

Thursday 26 August 2004

My former flatmate and I, many years ago, loved spotting risible uses of “n” as a substitute for “and”, especially in shop signs. So much so that we started taking photos of them (“Duckin’n’divin” was a favourite). If we’d had the internet in those days, we’d have put our photo gallery online and become an inexplicably popular cult site. On another theme altogether, but with us in spirit, is this site, which made me laugh like a drain*. Yep, it’s photos of really crap fast-food chicken restaurants, mainly in the UK. You’d have to be very, very drunk at the time… * They do, you know!

We’re always top of the league, Dad

Monday 13 September 2004

Portman Road So Cherry Hinton Blue Jnr goes to his first football match, and Ipswich go top of the Championship. Of course he thinks it’s always like this, doesn’t he?

Bouncebackability …what else?

Saturday 25 September 2004

In a shameless attempt to get to No.1 on the search engines and get an invite to wear my Town shirt on Soccer AM, let’s gratuitously use the word bouncebackability a lot. Is that enough? Stop Press: Seems like it was. Straight in at No.3 on the world’s favourite search engine within 24 hours. Perhaps I should sell my services in search engine optimisation. Or perhaps not. Oooh, did I mention bouncebackability?

No need to show Bouncebackability yet

Tuesday 28 September 2004

…because when you’re number one for the term, well, there’s nothing to bounce back from, is there? I thank you. Thanks for the nice link from this bouncebackability-related site which is running me a close second. I’m still waiting for the call, Helsbells

Deep Joy

Sunday 10 October 2004

Palace got a win at last, so now the Canaries are the only Premiership side without a victory. No side which has failed to win in its first five games of a Premiership season has ever managed to avoid relegation, so with eight winless games under their belt, Naarij may be heading for certain doom. And how we will laugh at their hopeless one-season adventure. Only because they’d do the same to us, naturally. And the way things are going, that may be in a year’s time.

Naughty naughty Charlie Brooker

Friday 29 October 2004

It was one of the most wild pieces of invective against George W Bush I’ve yet read, but Charlie Brooker’s “Screen Burn” column in The Guardian last week apparently went over the top at the end when it said: “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr – where are you now that we need you?” Now the column seems to have been removed from the newspaper’s website. It’s a shame really, whether you agree with Brooker or not, because it was one of those pieces which – if nothing else – should be read by any American who doesn’t realise the contempt with which their President seems to be held by most of the rest of the world. Still, once on the net, always on the net, and here is one of the places you can still read the piece. Or try Google for various mentions.

Time to go, Tony

Thursday 4 November 2004

Naturally, like any European I don’t give a stuff about whether Americans want to ban gay marriages, make various tax cuts, etc …it’s entirely their affair, and doesn’t affect me. Good luck to them, whatever. The reason I’m depressed about their election result is that as far as I can see, this damned illegal occupation of Iraq (which we in the UK should never have been involved in) is going to continue, and the only way we can get out of it now is to get rid of Tony Blair. And that’s what I find depressing. After all the hope and excitement of 1997, I’m sitting here wanting to get rid of a Labour Prime Minister. It’s very, very sad.

Top Three Least Favourite Footballers

Monday 8 November 2004

Just a random thought which went through my head which should be committed to print: my Top Three Least Favourite Footballers. No surprises really. At number three, the disgraceful Dennis Wise: even my three-year-old, at his first football match the other week, said: “Daddy, will the policeman come round and catch the yellow one-nine who keeps shouting and kicking?”. At number two, the most arrogant, whining, spoilt piece of work in English football, Ryan Giggs: that permanent look of “it’s just not fair” on his face reminds you of people like George Bush, who clearly haven’t had anyone say anything to them other than “yes you’re right Sir” for years. (And when will someone – anyone – in the media point out what everyone who watches football can see so clearly, that Giggs may have sublime dribbling skill, but he’s the worst finisher in the Premiership?).
Finally, and inevitably, at number one, the execrable Robbie Savage, who just delights in being hated so much. Who can ever forget seeing mild-mannered Ipswich manager George Burley on TV screaming “**** off” in Savage’s face a few seasons back after he’d blatantly got the opposition keeper sent off? In the Leicester programme the season before there was an “at home with Robbie Savage” photo-feature which you just couldn’t make up: “Here’s Robbie out walking his [disgusting-looking] fighting dogs”, “Here’s Robbie with his sports car – he’s had the exhausts modified to make them louder, hope the neighbours don’t mind, heh-heh!” and “Here’s Robbie relaxing with his ‘artist’ girlfriend on their unusual zebra-print furniture”. He doesn’t ask for it, really, he doesn’t. Then comes September 8th, 2004: Savage is finally sent off. A nation rejoices. And what made it even funnier was that it was such a borderline decision. There is someone up there having a laugh after all.

Steve Satan is back

Thursday 11 November 2004

The great Steve Satan is making one of his sporadic appearances on the airwaves during November 2004 on 87.7 Commonwealth FM …bringing the world to Bristol, it says here. Presumably through the medium of Super Sounds. Listen in on Thursday nights from 10PM online.


Thursday 11 November 2004

The map of Jesusland and the United States of Canada which has been doing the rounds is absolute genius. I can’t even track down who did the original to give them credit. It just says so much, in such a simple graphic.

Things to make the world a better place

Saturday 4 December 2004

…part 45,308: teach women how to turn a mobile phone on. Look, the power is (virtually) free, why DO they all switch their phones off when they take them out with them? “Er hi, just replying to your message earlier today, sorry, I had my phone switched off”. Why? WHY?

Blobs? Cosmic Blobs!

Monday 20 December 2004

Colin’s done another great piece, a Cosmic Blobs review. This wild and wacky piece of software could actually turn out to play a great role in education.

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