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Saturday 18 August 2001, 23:55 BST
Mfx' world-renowned Quotations File. Ample material for your .sig file.
"Obviously those people needed a union or something"
-- hugh@netcom.com about the Harkonnen's employees' "heart-plugs" in the DUNE movie
[Via a fire inside]
Guinea pig harem says 'hello Sooty.' [Via It's All About Me, Me, Me]
Nicholas Petreley argues that businesses thinking about moving to Linux shouldn't be deterred by the prospect of abandoning Microsoft Office. He points to some specific solutions to this problem, and of course it's entirely true to say that businesses shouldn't really be afraid of using non-MS productivity applications. However, I think he's overly optimistic to suggest that firms should look on the switch to free software as an opportunity to save money.

Petreley compares the switch to free productivity applications to the switch to Microsoft Office, which he says firms undertook because it saved them money. It's true that Office was a bargain for any firm whose employees needed more than one productivity application, but that wasn't the whole story. When Microsoft first packaged Word, Excel and sundry other pieces of software as MS Office they were offering businesses not just a substantial cost saving but also the chance to buy a set of applications which looked alike, could read most common file formats from rival suppliers well enough, and which were fairly well integrated. (And they've become better integrated since.) Switching to OpenOffice as part of a migration to Linux will save money, but it doesn't actually add significantly to the functionality of the office suite. Furthermore, since none of the Linux productivity suites offers anything like perfect file compatibility with MS Office applications firms may find that their carefully-designed and formatted documents are translated with just enough niggly little formatting changes to make the transition anything but seamless.

Finally, MS Office was introduced when Windows 3 was still only a couple of years old, and the dominant DOS applications like WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Freelance and dBase had barely made the transition to the Windows environment (hindered, particularly in the case of Lotus, by their having spent time splitting their development efforts between Windows and OS/2). There simply wasn't a single dominant supplier of productivity applications back then. That clearly isn't the case nowadays.

None of these barriers is insurmountable, but with so many firms already using MS Office it's likely to be a hard sell to persuade firms to switch to Linux-based productivity suites. [Via CamWorld]
Rejoice! Over the next couple of weeks the new (to terrestrial viewers, anyway) seasons of both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Farscape start on BBC2.

Unfortunately this is balanced somewhat by the disappearance of Malcolm In The Middle from our screens until next year, but overall I'd say that's still a win for discerning viewers everywhere.
Friday 17 August 2001, 23:55 BST
NASA fakes moon landing! At last, definitive proof. [Via brainsluice]
Free the 'Real World' Seven!
King Penguin promoted to the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major in Norwegian army. Yes, really...
Ken Layne thinks The Problem With Salon Isn't Money. I think he's right about the rather variable quality of Salon as it is today, but he comes off as just a bit too determined to be hard on them. Around the time they went to daily updates they were putting together a seriously good ezine. The thing is, a lot of Salon's problems were very much the same as those of most of their dot-com contemporaries: a certain amount of extravagance in terms of executive perks, frantic casting around for new directions in an attempt to find something that works, repeated promises that one day they'll make a profit, even if that date is endlessly deferred. That's no way to run a business, it's true, but Layne talks as if Salon was an especially bad case, and I'm not sure that's so. In fairness, I think Layne is almost as pissed off at the press for giving Salon an easy ride during the dot-com boom as he is at Salon for being so profligate. Again, that's hardly a situation that was unique to Salon as the "Long Boom" continued and stock prices soared.

For all that, I fear that the End is Nigh for Salon. In the final analysis, I think the question isn't so much "What did Salon do wrong?" as "Can any generalist independent ezine survive, given a web that still lacks a micropayments system?" [Via rc3.org]
Thursday 16 August 2001, 23:30 BST
Welcome to breathtaking Tokyo Water Park, where you can wash away the pressure and stress of the overcrowded city and relax with your friends in the soothing enjoyment of sun, fun and splashing. [Via 3 Bruces]
Secretaries use Linux, taxpayers save millions. A little anecdotal evidence to suggest that given a couple of Unix-savvy sysadmins Linux can be a practical Windows replacement in a large office.

You could probably argue with some of the cost savings cited by comparison with a Windows-based setup (as some of the comments confirm), but the broad lesson is that a workforce comprising non-techies is capable of coping with the shock to the system of not using Microsoft software. Open software purists will be aghast that the office in question was running proprietary software over the Linux network, but I think using the tools that do the job for you is what counts. [Via nocto]
I do - kind of. Amy Benfer dives into the debate over whether feminists can ever marry with a clear conscience.
Converting Pi to binary: DON'T DO IT.
If you compute it, you will be guilty of:
  • Defaming Islam. Not technically illegal, but you'll have to go into hiding along with Salman Rushdie.
  • Defaming Scientology. Which IS illegal--just ask Keith Henson.
[Via Bifurcated Rivets]
It's going to be a bloody massacre. He stomped Groundskeeper Willy. He pounded on Moe. Does anyone seriously think that Montgomery Burns is going to fall at the last when faced with ... Ralph Wiggum?
Nick Hornby is feeling his age after surveying the US Top 10 Album chart.
We should have seen this coming. Ever since Elvis, it has been pop music's job to challenge the mores of the older generation; our mistake was to imagine ourselves hipper and more tolerant than our parents. The liberal values of those who grew up in the sixties and seventies constitute an Achilles' heel: we're not big on guns, consumerist bragging, or misogyny (where are the people who objected to Bruce Springsteen's use of the phrase "little girl" when you need them?), and that is the ground on which Eminem and his crew choose to fight. I know when I'm beaten; I can only offer sporting congratulations and a firm handshake.
Despite the tone of that extract, the article is mostly very funny and well worth a read even if you find the idea that pop music's primary function is to outrage your parents somewhat less than novel. Hornby's comments on the tendency for artists to thank God in their liner notes are particularly droll. [Via Robot Wisdom]
Wednesday 15 August 2001, 23:30 BST
Does a beard really keep your face warm in winter? I've always thought so, but now Pete Hickey has decided to try to prove it. I don't think I'd have been prepared to go as far as he did to find out, though. [Via dutchbint]
Doctors grow penis on guy's arm, reports Pravda. When I read about this article I assumed it was a joke, or a translation error. But they even have a picture... [Via q daily news]
"Reading With Rover." [Via dollarshort.org]
An intriguing interview with Philippa Boyens, co-author of the screenplay for Peter Jackson's forthcoming three-film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. I can't wait to see how Tolkien's vision makes the transition to the big screen. [Via I Love Everything]
Meanwhile, over at PVP, Brent and Cole make a horrifying discovery.
A terrific New York Times article (free registration required) about the viral marketing campaign for a game aimed at pre-teens. [Via Rebecca's Pocket]
Tuesday 14 August 2001, 21:35 BST
Tery Gilliam has been filling Neil Gaiman in on progress on the script for the Good Omens feature film. (Scroll down to entry for Monday 13 August.) [Via a fire inside]
How's this for the triple-bill from Hell? [Via feeling listless]
Typical! I leave off visiting LazyGecko.net for a few days and they come up with not one, not two, but three lovely Picture of the Day shots in a row.
Monday 13 August 2001, 23:15 BST
"Please God, not on my shift." Tim Luckhurst on the BBC's determination to make itself look deeply silly the next time a major royal dies. [Via wherever you are]
This should be good. Bruce Sterling has started a weblog. Throw in some short fiction, articles and occasional book reviews by John Clute and you have the nucleus of a pretty decent site. [Via Rebecca's Pocket]
3D Pong. Fun, but I haven't got the reflexes or hand-eye co-ordination to make a decent fist of it. [Via Goatee Style]
Digital Pulp Fiction Postcards. Some lovely images here. Corny? Yes, but still hugely evocative of futures past. [Via Schism Matrix]
Sunday 12 August 2001, 22:10 BST
The BBC have some meaningless fun comparing the cost-per-mile of various modes of travel. It turns out that it's cheaper to fly Concorde than it is to take the Heathrow Express from the airport. Thing is, that Concorde is a bastard to park in central London. [Via As Above]
Bill Gates can come across as a bit creepy at times, but a pumped-up MS CEO Steve Ballmer is downright scary. Not to mention incredibly funny.

Want proof? Take a look at this. [Originally via NTK]
The engineer, the physicist and the mathematician...
An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician are staying in a hotel while attending a technical seminar.

The engineer wakes up and smells smoke. He goes out into the hallway and sees a fire, so he fills a trashcan from his room with water and douses the fire. He goes back to bed.

Later, the physicist wakes up and smells smoke. He opens his door and sees a fire in the hallway. He walks down the hall to a fire hose and after calculating the flame velocity, distance, water pressure, trajectory, etc. extinguishes the fire with the minimum amount of water and energy needed.

Later, the mathematician wakes up and smells smoke. He goes to the hall, sees the fire and then the fire hose. He thinks for a moment and then exclaims, "Ah, a solution exists!" and then goes back to bed.
[Via rec.arts.sf.written]
Two die in attempt to hijack sex plane. Call me naive, but I had no idea you could charter an aircraft expressly fitted out for the purposes of letting you join the Mile High Club in comfort. [Via world of jill matrix]
Johanna Schneller is sick of chick flicks:
Save me from opening shots like the one in Legally Blonde,where the camera moves through a sorority house full of dozens of women, all of whom are underdressed, all of whom are wiggling.

(Why are they wiggling? Is being really cute while standing still no longer enough? Do all young women now jiggle as if they're greased from head to toe and wrapped around a fire pole? Is it a new Screen Actors' Guild rule that everyone under 25 must spend her days going from towel to tank top to teddy? Does no one wear a regular shirt any more? I've been female all my life, and I've never met a woman remotely like these.)
Although most of the films she mentions haven't opened over here yet, I think we all know what she's talking about. [Via PopPolitics]

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