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Jun 28, 2006

Dawn of War

I'm a huge fan of the Homeworld series - Homeworld 2 is a work of godlike genius.

From the same creator (Relic) comes Dawn of War. If you fancy playing at armchair general in a futuristic setting then its definitely for you. The single player scenarios are pretty rudimentary - minimal tactics required. Most of the fun is tool-ing up your troops with heavy weaponry and then setting them on the opposition - then watch the sparks fly in glorious 3D.

Some additional information on Real Time Games head over to RTSC (Real Time Strategic Carnage).

[/tech/games] | [permalink] | [2006.06.28-21:14.00]

Jun 26, 2006

WinFS + More

One of the reasons the demise of WinFS is so depressing is that a number of people figured this would at least be an indication of some kind of desktop innovation from Microsoft. Robert Scoble points out that the web killed WinFS and people don't need the type of functionality a database enabled file system would bring. Robert also points out that the WinFS technologies will be folded into future versions of SQL Server so it isn't quite dead yet.

An interesting article - Designing High-Availability Windows Systems. Contained some links to some interesting technologies and products - Marathon EverRun FT (clusters applications), Stratus - The Availability Company (servers which duplicate everything for redundancy) and Steeleye (another cluster solution).

On a related note DRBC Planning for Mainframes. I believe there are other mainframes out there other than IBM Z series (as mentioned in the article) - Unisys ClearPath for one and surely VMS would count as a mainframe OS ?

AnandTech - Windows Vista: Beta 2 Preview. Looks like a promising upgrade but nothing hugely compelling over XP.

Proof positive that pre-Elmo Sesame Street was infinitely better than post-Elmo - Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street performing Superstition.

Interesting - Squeak is the Smalltalk of the 21st Centrury.

Provocative - Time to dump Microsoft and fire your IT Manager ?. Doesn't really work for anyone that values security (who else can read your gmail ?), interoperability (does your webmail talk to your web calander ? does it sync to a PDA or mobile ?), even basic future-proofing (if your web service provider closes up what happens to their clientele and their data ?) or disaster recovery (lose your network connection and lose access to your externally hosted web apps). Still there is a grain of truth in having a simple all in one solution for small organisations (eg. Microsofts Small Business Server or Cobalts simple Qube) - if someone made a simple to install Linux server distro which bundled basic groupware, collaboration and a dms they'd be onto a winner.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.06.26-20:57.00]

Five days off . . .

Five days until I start the new job. Lots to do around the house. Lots of Solaris to learn :-)

Made a concerted effort in the last couple of weeks to complete an online Fundamentals of ITIL course. You really cannot under-estimate how big ITIL is in NZ (and the UK I guess). Personally it seems similar to the TQM/Kaizen/ISO900x fad of the late 80's/90's but with a more practical IT focus. We'll see how long it lasts - I think most mature IT organisations already have aspects of ITIL in practise already but for a newbie working in the field the theory behind ITIL will get you up to speed and propel you beyond the mere Joy of Tech usually associated with people in this profession.

[/tech/jobhunt] | [permalink] | [2006.06.26-20:29.00]

This week I have mostly been listening to . . .

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.06.26-01:01.00]

Jun 25, 2006

24 Hour Party People + More

Rented three films this weekend -

* 24 Hour Party People - brilliant depiction of the rise and fall of Factory Records. Told through Tony Wilson (well played by Steve Coogan) the film chronicles Factorys ups and downs through Joy Division, The Happy Mondays and the Hacienda. Tagline - Genius. Poet. Twat. [Web banner with pictures of Ian Curtis, Shaun Ryder and Tony Wilson respectively]

* Howls Moving Castle - I'm a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki so I was looking forward to his latest film. The animation is spectacular (as you'd expect) and the storyline is simple but rewarding (suitable for almost all ages). Not quite as good as his earlier western releases - Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away though.

* Brokeback Mountain - The cinematography was amazing - the scenery was almost a third character. The storyline and acting were both well done but I did find the film dragged a little. The low-talking was also a little annoying - at one point we had to switch on the subtitles to see what was being said - I wonder if men mumbling is the root of all miscommunication :-)

[/film] | [permalink] | [2006.06.25-21:28.00]

Jun 20, 2006

Sunshine + More

David Young of Joyent extolls the benefits of using Sun over Dell or HP in - Sunshine. He'd written a previous article about how Dell had a superior sales model but it sounds like he had some problems with their product and in spite of the hassles dealing with Sun he switched.

Beautiful - Zoomorphic Calligraphy. Before the age of the PC we all had to make do with stencils and calligraphy books to add flair to our school projects. Kids these days don't know how easy they have it.

Interesting - System Security in SolarisTM 10: Privileges and Zones in Perspective - Part 1.

Another tool get get some extra use from your Frontrow Remote.

Interesting - BumpTop is an alternative desktop concept. Heres a good critique. Theres a pointer to a similar prototype File Piles.

Looks interesting if a little to similar to the super duper Windows Vista Start menu - New Gnome Main Menu.

Is Apple looking at a new Kernel to repalce Mach ? Rumours are rife(ish).

Interesting - Why Apple doesn't open source its apps. I find the points John makes to be a little misguided - the open source alternatives on OS X are almost (the media apps are tough to beat - iTunes, iMovie, iDVD etc) all better than the built in applications (Camino and Firefox are better than Safari, Adium is better than iChat, Thunderbird is better than Mail etc) so what does Apple have to lose by open sourcing them - at least they could publish the file formats or use a standard format (I didn't even realise Apple switched from mbx to their own format between 10.3 and 10.4) ?

Mildly distracting - Watch Wikipedia Edits Live.

A true beer fanatic - A thousand ways to open a bottle of beer. I have my doubts about some of these . . .

Packaged Win32 Evolution. Replace Outlook on your Windows PC's.

Impressively complicated - How Exchange Works.

Great collection - Pitchforks 100 Most Awesome Music Videos. Some great videos here.

It looks like Adobe has plans for Acrobat and Flash coming together as Apollo. I wonder if it'll be transparent and searchable - a big failing for flash ?

Some nice features going into Notes 7. The Mac client doesn't look to have changed much since version 6 though.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.06.20-18:39.00]

Jun 14, 2006

Winventory + More

Open Source Windows hardware & software inventory tool - Winventory. Looks promising. Commercial solutions are pretty pricey (and overly complicated) so if a free package can achieve even 80% of the functionality they're on to a winner.

Knowing what to look for when the client asks the eternal question 'this box seems to be slow' - Troubleshooting a slow Unix box.

Joel Spolsky shares an anecdote to mark Bills stepdown from Microsoft - My first Bill Gates Code Review.

John Gruber discusses why people might switch from OS X to Linux - And Oranges.

I'm a sucker for cutesy pictures of kittens - I'm so sleepy.

Interesting - The Scariest Terror Threat of All. A competition to devise the most fiendish terror attack - 782 comments / entries so far. I think trains offer the most scope for simple mayhem, particularly the tracks. The chosen winner targeted a key hydro dam.

Cool satellite image of last weeks South Island Snow Dump.

Share a single screen to multiple PC's - TiffanyScreens for OS X and Windows. Useful for training and demos.

Novell actually seems to be getting a lot of enterprise stuff these days - Novell gets into Identity Management. The project is called Bandit. I've recently been involved in scoping the AD side of a Novell Metadirectory scheme to feed AD and eDirectory in addition to providing Corporate Directory functionality. Hopefully Bandit works out - centralised ID management will be a key IT driver in large organisations.

Interesting - How to break notepad.

Useful - Nifty OSX apps.

Handy - Ultimate Free Windows Toolkit. Mine would also include filemon, procexplorer, notepad2, truecrypt, event log explorer, perfmon wizard, putty, robocopy and a few others . . .

Over at Linkmachine - 100 Reasons I Love Comics - 1 - 25, 26 - 50, 51 - 75, 76 - 100. Nice to see a number of authors from the UK and particularly 2000AD making an appearance in the top 25 (Alan More, Grant Morrison, Dave Gibbons, Brendan McCarthy, Kevin O'Neill).

Handy - Guide to SQL.

Because I have an appreciation for stupid trivia - How pencil grading works. My favourite general purpose writing instument used to be a 2HB before computers came along and I forgot how to write :-)

Interesting and amusing - Mathematical references abound on The Simpsons.

Flashbacks - Mac Software from the mid to late 80's.

Useful tip - Howto securely erase hard-drives via shred.

Another cutesy picture - Psychotic cat trees a bear (twice).

This almost needs to go under the Spleen section - the Academy of Linguistic Awareness points out how Saying 'Like' makes you sound stupid, and again. These look to be an amusing piss-take rather than an official ad campaign.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.06.14-18:17.00]

Jun 11, 2006

Glom + More

GUI Database Tool - Glom. Has the admirably goal of trying to provide an open source FileMaker Pro type tool that makes it easy to harness the power of a SQL backend.

Useful - Designing small Windows networks.

Analysing logs is such a chore - Log Parser for Exchange/IIS. Someone would make a killing if they wrote a good log parser / analyser.

Awesome - Powers of Ten. Exponential photography - starts with a picnic and goes in both directions - subatomic and astronomical.

Network analyser changes name and moves on - Ethereal is now Wireshark.

These guys inspired the movie - The Mountains of Pi.

Brilliant - Lemonade Economy as a metaphor for Tax Cuts. The tax rate really bites - watching 30% of you wage disappear every month for little obvious reward is tough. In NZ the single biggest employer is the government which is a little ironic - our taxes go back into paying most of our wages. You are left wondering why we need such bureaucracy. Then again we're a tiny country and the taxes and money saved by the government are a hedge against an aging population and a volatile global economy so its perfectly good fiscal policy to save while we can.

Not about guns - How to shoot. I find it really hard to shoot anything other than scenery which kind of makes all my pictures look touristy and generic. Maybe I feel its to much of an imposition to shoot people without their consent.

Excellent - Reverse Snobbery. Wonderful domain name too :-)

Hopefully this project will make a real difference - More on the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC).

An alternative use for Apples Frontrow remote control - Sofa Control.

Useful - Shaving Tips. I don't have the patience for this however I can vouch for a hot shave with a good lather (coconut soap works really well) and a dab of moisturiser.

Interesting - Five Star Rolling Stone Music Reviews. The amazing thing is the number of Miles Davis records featured in the list.

Why does Microsoft make this so painful - Swing Migration for Exchange.

Some nice movie reviews - Movie Martyr.

Useful - Scripting AD.

Handy - Learn Python Tutorial for OSX.

Procrastination - webcomics - 'Hold my life', 'Nine planets without intelligent life', 'Gunnerkrigg Court', 'Secret Friend Society', 'Dicebox'.

Looks good - Wired looks at Google Spreadsheet. Although Microsoft Office has a degree of application stability that a web-browser hasn't got (all it takes is one tab in Firefox to crash . . .). Also with all this web-hosted application goodness you have to wonder what protects your data from prying eyes ?

Guy Kawasaki previews iWoz - Steve Woznaiks biography.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.06.11-03:53.00]

Jun 08, 2006

Criminally Underrated Bands Part the First

OK so its probably not criminally under-rated, theres an element of 'obscurity' in some of the following artists. Um, possibly 'unlistenability' too depending on how you like your music.

Still hopefully there something that will appeal to the occassional reader and stimulate a purchase (especially for the Kiwi stuff).

This isn't in any particular order - maybe just easy-listening through to not-easy-listening.

I've put a downsampled (using razorlame) 48kbs mp3 linked to a song title for each artist (in the hope that the RIAA lawyers don't pounce) - the quality may be crap but if you like the tune you should buy the album :-)

* Nick Drake - so Nick may fall into the over-rated category due to the occassional misuse of his songs in angsty american teen drama but that shouldn't detract from his beautiful songs. If you're a fan of world-weary country or folk you'll fall for songs like 'Black Eyed Dog'.

* The Clean - Three Kiwis + 4 track recorder + the eary 80's = Genius. Their early stuff is better than their newer stuff - 'Compilitely' is probably their definitive compilation of early singles and EP's. I dare anyone to listen to 'Beatnik' or 'Tally Ho' and not come away smiling.

* Bailter Space - Spawned from the ashes of The Clean and The Gordons this Kiwi trio perfect the art of the monolithic droning groove. The NME reviewed them live once and said they were louder and better than My Bloody Valentine which is a pretty stellar endorsement. Again their earlier stuff is better than their later stuff - after 'Vortura' they started going downhill (might have had something to do with moving to the US). That still leaves four albums of Bailter Space stuff of which 'X' is a fairly typical sonic-pop gem.

* The Skeptics - Unlike almost all the other guitar based Flying Nun (seminal Kiwi label) bands of the 80's and 90's The Skeptics were more sample / electronic based with Joy Division atmospherics. Their god-like genius was sadly cut short when their singer (David D'ath) died of cancer. Still we can revel in the beauty of songs such as 'And We Bake'.

* Palace - Will Oldham is pretty much Palace, Palace Brothers, Palace Songs and Bonnie Prince Billy among others. As well as being a rather brilliant singer/songwriter he has also acted and took the cover photo for Slints 'Spiderland' album. Don't you have talented people ? His earlier albums are the best IMHO as they capture a certain twisted apalachian country atmosphere as featured on 'New Partner'.

* Don Cabellero - another American guitar trio - primarily instrumental alternative rock. They slowly evolved into a bit of a jazz beast which I can't say I enjoyed as much as their straight-out rock as is ably demonstrated on 'Stupid Puma'. I think the thing I appreciate the most about this type of music is it foregoes the usual lyrical cliches for a dynamic song structure - after all - if you have nothing new to say whats the point in spouting something people have heard a million times over already.

* Dirty Three - Aussie instrumental trio. Featuring a slightly odd line-up of guitar, drums and violin these guys rip through everything from pulsing rock to mournful ballads like - 'Everythings Fucked'. Warren Ellis, the violinist, also plays and tours with Nick Caves Bad Seeds.

* Slint - Often imitated but never better'd. Hard to describe but from a novices perspective they could sound a little like an American take on late period Roadiohead (but Slint came first) - subdued softly spoken lyrics and crystaline atmospherics. Their Spiderland album is considered one of the finest of the 90's (see # 12) and this is one of their best songs from it - Good Morning Captain - I love the way the intensity builds slowly like a compressing spring through a variety of volume and tempo changes.

* Dead C/Gate - Kiwi avante-garde lo-fi noise-makers - the Dead C are a trio and Gate is the Dead C's guitarist (Mike Morley) solo. If you're partial to a bit of fuzzy droning noise then wrap your ears around the zen like mantra of 'Have Not' - if you have the patience wait for the cats meow about half-way through :-)

* Skullflower - On the extreme end of my musical spectrum (topped only by the occassional masochistic bout of Merzbow or Total) - this English trio take noise to entirely different places. Their early recordings were super fuzzed out retardo rock excursions relying on massive volume and repitition to pummel the listener into submission. Their later stuff eschews noise rock for straight out improvised feedback, distortion and psychedlic skree as per 'Metallurgical King' from their 'Carved Into Roses' album. Oh and a word of warning, avoid the 'Argon' LP - its crap.

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.06.08-21:42.00]

Brain Dead Bottle Stores

The Kiwi palette has moved on slightly since the bad old days when you were either a Lion drinker or a DB drinker and if you had enough money and were a little bit fancy you'd drink Steinlager.

Now most liquor outlets have a decent variety of beers - imported and domestic. In fact theres even a good Belgian bar in Wellington now. A number of the micro-breweries have really really really tasty stuff. Even my favourite general consumption brand (Monteiths) is from one of the big two companies (DB). Monteiths have just released a rather fantastic seasonal Tripel beer which at 8% really packs a punch and makes a pleasant change to my usual Winter ale fix.

The one catch to all this newly discovered beery goodness is that idiot bottle-store owners and outlets insist on putting almost all beer into a walk-in fridge thereby chilling the hell out of it.

Why the f%@k would you chill anything other than a drought, pilsner, wheat beer or lager ?

If they can keep red wine on the shelf and chill white then why is it so hard to treat beer properly ?

Nothing worse than returning from the super-market with a stash of stout or ale and having to wait for it to warm up . . . .

I know I know I'm just a beer snob.

[/spleen] | [permalink] | [2006.06.08-04:10.00]

Jun 06, 2006

Mac as Mailbox + More

Recycle - great use for an old Mac chassis.

Looks like an interesting book - appears to walk the thin line between bullshit and management-speak though - Peopleware. Nice quote - "A few very characteristic signs indicate that a jelled team has occurred. The most important of these is low turnover during projects and in the middle of well-defined tasks. The team members aren't going anywhere till the work is done."

Handy - Extensive Collection of Firefox Extensions.

Useful - Linux Authentication against Active Directory.

Network monitoring - Useful win32 ports of network tools.

Neat - try Splatter for your Pollack fix.

Business Continuity - Ed Brill discusses the degree to which you must balance paranioa with BC/DR planning. What some of the comments fail to realise is that having an effective BC/DR plan can help in a whole range of situations not just in a major emergency. We once had half the business grind to a halt for half a day because a key file server rebooted and took 3 hours to checkdisk one morning - if there had been a secondary file server with a nightly robocopy it may have been possible to give people read only access to data so they could at least carry on working then copy back their changes when the main file server came back up.

Cool - I want a castle.

Kiwi Avant Garde artist - Len Lye. His 'waterwhirler' creation was installed as part of the 2006 Wellington Arts Festival on the waterfront. Very cool it is too.

Network discovery - Netdisco. Looks a little complicated but very useful.

Radio Enthusiasts - GNU Radio - Universal Software Radio Peripheral. Awesome.

I could barely solve one side of the originaly Rubiks cube let alone a Five Dimensional Rubiks Cube.

Interesting - What are Numbers Stations. Related Slashdot story - Numbers Stations move to VOIP.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.06.06-02:59.00]

Jun 01, 2006

ArsTechnica Looks @ Windows Vista Beta 2

A nice overview of Vista Beta 2 over at ArsTechnica - looks promising but not particularly compelling.

Paul Thurrott also looks at Vista 2 in more detail - part 4 focuses on compatibility. Lots more information concerning Vista, the new Office 2007 and Longhorn Server is also available on his Windows Supersite.

See also Twenty things you won't like about Vista. I had no idea they'd shuffled around so many of the controls. This looks like a release that will confuse a lot of people.

[/tech/windows] | [permalink] | [2006.06.01-20:07.00]