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Home > Weblog w/e 24.11.2001

Saturday 24 November 2001, 22:55 GMT
The Brunching Shuttlecocks brings us The Videogame FAQK.
How do the consoles differ from each other?

Unlike previous generations where the differences were simple and easy to articulate, such as "Mortal Kombat on the Genesis gots more blood," the differences among these machines involve pushing polygons, bump mapping, and other phrases that sound like excerpts from "Debbie Does Flatland." The actual effect this has on the screen is subtle and often difficult to see, which is why each machine is now bundled with a rabid fan of the system recruited from various discussion boards around the Web. This fan will stand over your shoulder and point out reasons your machine completely rocks over the competition. They will also make disappointed noises and roll their eyes whenever you fail to play the games at optimal efficiency, but that's the price you pay for progress.
Proof that the Euro is a bad idea? Believe it or not, handling the coins could make you ill. (In a related story, the forthcoming introduction of the new coinage has forced a Lisbon zoo to retrain one of its elephants. Oh, just go and read the story: it does make sense, honest.) [Via MetaFilter and Grayblog respectively]
In the old days, Mickey had enjoyed being on television. Now he just wishes he could remember how things had gone so totally, horribly wrong.
I first read about Magic Lantern, the FBI's project to develop keystroke-logging software which could be installed on a user's machine via an email attachment earlier this week at MSNBC. Now Rafe Colburn has pointed to a Washington Post article which gives more details, including the worrying news that antivirus software makers MacAfee have already approached the FBI to make sure their software won't detect Magic Lantern.

Microsoft will now be able to claim that Outlook Express is not the world's crappiest, least secure email client, but is in fact protecting National Security by making it so easy for the FBI to install Magic Lantern on your system. After all, if you're innocent you've got nothing to hide. [MSNBC article via the null device]
Friday 23 November 2001, 22:40 GMT
The 10 Minute Deer Skinner. Complete with pictures. It's every bit as gruesome as it sounds. [Via Memepool]
The Guardian reveals which former pop stars are writing hits now instead of singing them. I knew about Andy "OMD" McCluskey, Alison "Betty Boo" Clarkson and Cathy Dennis, but I had no idea that a former member of Mud - Mud, for gawd's sake! - was writing for Kylie Minogue, Fragma and Spiller.
Thursday 22 November 2001, 21:55 GMT
I used to think I was good at spelling, but to my eternal shame I only managed 6 out of 8 in the Guardian's spelling quiz. [Via not.so.soft]
First we had Yakuza Barbie, and now we present ... Pregnant Barbie! [Via yrth mirror: unblog]
Have you read the story of Speedy the Kitten? Heartwarming stuff. [Via blogjam]
Channel 4 newscaster John Snow talks to OpenDemocracy.net about journalism in the wake of September 11th. [Via Haddock.org]
Wednesday 21 November 2001, 23:05 GMT
As part of the settlement of their anti-trust lawsuit, Microsoft have proposed that they should supply 14,000 US schools with free hardware, software and support. That sounds fine, until you consider that in essence this involves their helping tens of thousands of children to learn computing The Microsoft Way. Red Hat Software have a better idea. (Not that there's a cat's chance in hell of Microsoft agreeing to this, but it's a neat thought.) [Via rc3.org]
What really happens when you finish a game of Pong. [Via tajmahal]
If you've made your Amazon wishlist public, you might be interested in Secret Santa. [Via Kottke]
A touch of alternate history. [Via The Sideshow]
Tuesday 20 November 2001, 23:50 GMT
Neil Gaiman is interviewed by Michael McCarty for Science Fiction Weekly. Worth reading just for Gaiman's first response, which includes a classic Douglas Adams anecdote.
It's reported that now that Windows XP has been launched Microsoft will soon drop support for Windows 95 and 98. I'm not at all surprised to see them trying to ditch Windows 95 support - the writing's been on the wall ever since they withdrew official support for USB drivers to encourage us all to "upgrade" to Windows 98 - but I'm amazed that they feel they can already drop Windows 98 support. A lot of organisations (including my own employers, who only ditched Windows for Workgroups as our desktop OS almost exactly a year ago) have deployed Windows 98 on their laptops because NT4 wasn't a great OS to run on a laptop and Windows 2000 was too untried (and the minimum hardware requirements were a bit steep). Still, corporate buyers will undoubtedly a) have service agreements with the vendors who supplied their systems, and b) gradually upgrade as they pension off older PCs after 2-3 years. For home users, the savvy ones will rely as much on advice from newsgroups and drivers supplied by hardware manufacturers as they do on Microsoft anyway. Will peripheral vendors stop supporting Windows 95 when they write custom drivers for your new scanner/joystick/printer/[insert peripheral of choice]? I suspect not. The real killer blow for pre-ME versions of Windows will probably come when Microsoft release an upgrade to Internet Explorer or MSN Messenger or Outlook Express which refuses to install on unsupported Windows variants.

I still use Windows 95 on my home PC, because other than USB support there's nothing in Windows 98 to tempt me to upgrade, and one major reason - the Active Desktop - to steer well clear of post-Windows 95 OSR2 versions of the consumer Windows OS. In the end, the end of official Microsoft support will make little difference to me, until the point at which I want to buy some hardware that demands drivers Windows 95 doesn't have. I'm not in need of any new peripherals right now, so I think my PC will be sticking with Windows 95 for some time to come. [Via MetaFilter]
Monday 19 November 2001, 23:10 GMT
Smokehammer: Earth's Premiery News Node.
Afghans Taste Freedom...

Gordon Trodd in Kabul...

Just 4 days ago, as we liberated their city, these people peered at us through their beards and burqas. Yet today, the men's chins are clipped - and the women - oh yes the women! Their faces are back in make up. And thanks to the new figure hugging clothes I brought through in my back pack, they've rediscovered their waists and some are even refusing food aid parcels! Their daughters show the first signs of anorexia, and I have to say, there's plenty of time before that becomes a problem. Right now, it's an absolute delight. Parts of this city are now just like Amsterdam - only better.

Elsewhere, children play happily in the dust. Half an hour ago I helped an excited group skin a dead taliban fighter and turn him into a kite....

There is peace here this evening - the disagreement with my cameraman about who technically entered the city first is over - a white man's body lies feeding the first flies of winter - and I will be using a video phone from now on.

I think this Autumn we will indeed see bikinis in Kabul.
[Via As Above]
The story of David, on his first birthday. Michele tells the touching tale of her sister's baby. Happy birthday, little David.
Sunday 18 November 2001, 22:40 GMT
What do you get when you mistake a trash compactor for a laundry chute? Probably front-runner status in this year's Darwin Awards, for a start. [Via rec.arts.sf.written]
The Economist wishes to make an election correction. [Via The Sideshow]
Robert X Cringely looks forward to the demise of Moore's Law. Whether the PC industry as we know it could stand the radical change in its business model that would follow such a revolution is debatable, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in the long run.
Lawrence Lessig says that the internet is under siege. A perceptive look at how we got here and where we may be heading if intellectual property law continues to be used to stop anyone challenging current business models, regardless of the benefits to the public at large. A must read. [Via rc3.org]

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