Thursday, 31 July 2008

Psychic competition

Deb made an interesting observation while flipping channels on TV the other night. On the Channel 7 show "The One", many alleged psychics take part in challenges to determine who is the best of them all. But if they're really psychics, shouldn't all but one of them have quit immediately, knowing who was going to win?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - If there was only one real psychic, though, the others wouldn't know to quit.
PPS - The same would be true if none were true psychics, though.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

These are a few of my favourite things

A day full of my favourite foods would look like this:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs on toast with orange juice.
Morning tea: a Snickers bar.
Lunch: egg and lettuce sandwich with iced mocha to drink.
Afternoon tea: pumpkin scones topped with strawberry jam and cream.
Dinner: spring rolls entree followed by chicken enchiladas as main course.
Dessert: cheesecake and a hot chocolate.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Now I'm hungry.
PPS - Feel free to play along in the comments if you like.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

DVD ripping vs CD ripping

I think someone in the portable media player industry needs to take a stand on DVD ripping for mobile viewing. They should provide tools to copy DVDs to their media player and dare the movie houses to respond. It's silly to suggest that I can copy this (music) disc for personal use on the go, but not this (movie) disc when I own both of them.

I think the main argument at the moment is that they have set up systems to keep you from doing so, and breaking those systems has become illegal.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's not a popular argument.
PPS - But I'm sure they'd do the same to CDs if they had the chance.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Random thoughts rapid fire

I've accumulated a few thoughts that don't warrant expansion into full blog posts, but I also don't want to throw them away. So, here they are in quick succession:
  • I wonder if the IRLED trick for hiding your face from cameras would work to hide your number plate from speed cameras too.

  • I wonder if it would be relatively easy to adapt the UFO: Alien Invasion game engine for a zombie-themed squad combat game.

  • If Spiderman was really going to have organic web shooters, they would more likely be spinarets near his butt than conveniently located in his hands.

  • I think it would be funny to reverse the internals of a car so that it looks like it's driving backwards.

  • I think we resent rock stars who destroy their lives because we would gladly trade our lives for theirs and not destroy them.

  • While going through airport security screening, I would have appreciated having a belt with a non-metallic buckle.

  • I'm tired of seeing the message on Amazon that "You qualify for a free trial of Amazon Prime", because I don't. I tried. Amazon is not checking whether I qualify, but assuming I do until I apply.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I may have said some of this before.
PPS - If so, I apologise.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - The Mowercycle

My zombie news feed occasionally throws me something really unusual. This is one of those days. The Mowercycle was referenced in another blog as the author's "zombie apocalypse weapon of choice", which is how it showed up here. Basically, it's a pedal-powered version of an old push mower. I actually can't imagine it being much good against the undead, but it caught my eye as a great alternative to petrol-powered mowers. Also, it might be just the thing to get the kids to pitch in around the yard.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Now all it needs is an baling attachment.
PPS - Hopefully it's not difficult to ride uphill, either.

Songbird media manager

Today I was going to post some praise of Songbird, the open source media manager based on Mozilla Firefox. That plan has changed because of two incidents:

1. Even with the "MTP" device plugin loaded, Songbird can't connect to my Zen Micro or even seem to detect it. This is forgivable for now, because Songbird is still in beta.

2. I tried Songbird as an alternative to iTunes for Deb's iPod. The intention was that it would not try to erase the iPod contents just because it connected to a different computer. Though it does allow manual management of iPod contents relatively well, it refuses to synchronise the full contents automatically without erasing the device first. This is not an accident or a requirement of the device - it is a deliberate sabotage as bad as what Apple does with iTunes.

I suppose this crippling was done either at the behest of Apple or in order to avoid their wrath, but I think it's a bad idea any way you look at it. This decision makes Songbird only slightly more useful than iTunes instead of an awesome alternative.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I was also unable to get Songbird to rip a CD, despite this being a standard feature of media managers. No plugins existed to do any ripping either, as far as I could tell.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I will probably continue to use it, though.
PPS - Because slightly better is still better.

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Blocking certain websites from within your company network seems like a good idea. There are certainly some that pose a direct threat to network security, and they should be kept at bay. The trouble with taking these steps is that it quickly becomes a power issue, and it is easily abused, or at least taken too far. When someone notices that a few employees spend five minutes per day checking personal email on sites like GMail or Yahoo, someone in power cranks the handle and network access is locked down further. When you squeeze like that, some people take it on themselves to fight back, which is the start of a battle nobody wants.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is all harder than it seems, of course.
PPS - Our internet policy at work is notoriously limited.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Tiny sheep and shepherds

I think I'd like to have a screensaver that simulates little sheep flocks and tiny shepherds taking care of them. I don't know why the idea appeals to me. It just does.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I guess it's peaceful.
PPS - It reminds me of a computer game, but right now I can't think which one.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Google Contact Sync?

I want my GMail contacts synchronised with my phone, and I want help finding and merging duplicates. Since Nokia PC Suite already synchronises with Outlook, I just need a way to get GMail contacts to Outlook and merge them easily. With the recent introduction of "My Contacts" to the GMail address book, I suspect someone at Google is planning a GMail Contact Sync much like Google Calendar Sync. Hopefully after that they will come together as a Google Outlook Sync application. This does, however, still leave out the duplicate finding and merging functionality that I require.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've started organising my GMail and Facebook contacts into groups.
PPS - It turns out I need at least "family", "extended family" and "very extended family" to represent my relatives.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

It won't be up for much longer (free, anyway) but if you have the time and bandwidth for it, go now to watch Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog:

It's pretty funny stuff, but after a few more hours you'll have to pay to download or wait for the DVD.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Dr Horrible is an aspiring evil genius.
PPS - With a crush on the girl at the laundromat.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

A plug for Midsummer Night's Dream

I meant to do this yesterday to give everyone the maximum time to act, but my weekend got a bit away from me. Anyway, on Friday night, Debbie and I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream by the Harvest Rain Theatre Company. It was great. Sets and costumes were top notch, but the performances were really outstanding. Hermia and Helena had particular enthusiasm, backed strongly by Lysander and Demetrius. The stand-out moments, however, are undoubtedly in the final scene, the spectacular, hammy, over-the-top performance of "Pyramus and Thisbe". I bust a gut laughing.

The play is still being performed until the 26th - just one more week. If you plan to go, book sooner rather than later.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I highly recommend it.
PPS - Obviously, or I wouldn't be writing this.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Art, duplication and genius

The robot Erasmus in the book Sandworms of Dune literally does not understand that a stroke-for-stroke reproduction of a Vincent van Gogh painting is not a work of genius equal to the original. He has a materialistic viewpoint that says items are equivalent if they are molecularly identical, and therefore they share all traits. If one is a work of genius, so is the other. But why is he mistaken?

If van Gogh himself had been hooked up to an aparatus that duplicated his brush strokes at the time of the original painting, would the two be works of genius equal to each other, or would it only be the one that his own physical hand had touched? Then what if his motions were recorded and later replayed to produce a third painting? Is there an abstract concept that makes the work priceless and its reproductions worthless? Does the existence of such faithful reproductions devalue the original as a work of art?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not so sure now that Erasmus was wrong.
PPS - Mostly because I can't define the distinguishing concept.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Zombie lawn sculpture

In case you aren't frightened enough by your own house when you get home late at night, consider installing a zombie lawn sculpture.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Also effective at scaring away dogs and small children.
PPS - And perfect at hallowe'en.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Agreement Bot could do my job

Some days at work I feel like my job could be adequately performed by a cardboard cutout that says "Uh huh", "Yeah", "Okay", "Right" and other assenting statements in random order. Today may be one of those days.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's not every day.
PPS - Just when I'm doing more discussing than coding.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


I'm a bit unwell this morning, so I don't know if I'll be at work all day. It's some kind of sudden stomach upset, and I also feel like I've broken a fever. One thing that worries me is that we had chicken shishkebabs for dinner last night, and I've had food poisoning from those before. For now, I've got my ginger ale to settle my stomach and an escape route planned just in case.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - When I'm sick, I often can't picture what it's like to be well.
PPS - And vice versa.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Dumb software vs smart software

There is a difference between dumb software and smart software that people usually characterise as software vs people. That is, people assume that if it's a smart action or shows some common sense, a person must have done it.

If you get sent a bill for $0.02, that is dumb software. If you never hear about the bill, that might be smart software or it might be a person. Both are capable of weighing the cost of mailing the bill against the benefits of having it paid and deciding it's not worth the trouble. In contrast, it could be a very dim person who obediently mails out the bill regardless of the small amount.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - There are a few stories around of bills for zero dollars.
PPS - Definitely dumb software.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Bales of grass

One thing I saw everywhere in South Dakota was round bales of hay in fields. It got me to thinking that it would be cool to have my lawnmower at home bale up the grass as I go.

As I mow, when the baler gets full, I can just crank a lever to drop the bale and continue on. Later, when I'm done, I can go around and pick up the bales to put in the bin - no plastic bags necessary. Also the time for the whole job should be slightly shorter.

One disadvantage that leaps to mind is that a bale-making lawnmower would be a more complex machine than a traditional mower, and would be more likely as a result to break down.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It would probably be more expensive too.
PPS - I still want one.

Friday, 11 July 2008

I have returned home

I've got a lot on my mind at the moment, so I'm primed for a big post this morning. I don't think I'll let it get that far out of hand, though.

For starters, Debbie and I have returned safely from the United States as of Wednesday morning. I'll try to get photos up online soon. The trip was great and jetlag didn't affect us too much on the way home. The excited chatter about the trip may have all been spent on Anthony when I got back to the house, so you won't necessarily have to cop that unless you ask to.

It was my birthday yesterday, as it seems all of my Facebook contacts are aware. Thanks for the well-wishes, everyone.

I'm back at work today, and I have yet to open my email. I'm not looking forward to the volume of accumulated messages, but I expect most of them will be quite irrelevant.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've got a few new ideas I'll post soon.
PPS - I guess travel can open your mind.

Friday Zombie Blogging - The Last Supper

For your amusement, please find enclosed a zombified version of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. Enjoy!

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Link via BoingBoing.
PPS - It was a while ago.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Virtual Private Network

I'd love to be able to connect all my computers over the Internet as if they were on one local network. It would be handy sometimes, especially if I've left a file at work. I could also print things at home while I'm at the office or even while I travel. Setting up such an arrangement, however, is a bit beyond me at the moment.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think it would involve the OpenVPN tool.
PPS - I need to do some more research.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Terms of sale

With the last DVD player I bought, I specifically asked whether it would play region 1 (USA) discs, and was assured that it would. It does not. Now it turns out I would actually be entitled to a refund, even now, because by asking the question, region 1 capability became part of the terms of sale under "fitness for purpose". Unfortunately for me, I can't prove that I asked that question or got that answer.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Next time I'm getting the answer in writing.
PPS - And taking a region 1 disc to test.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Get things off your mind to get to sleep

Stress causes sleep loss. If it gets to that stage for you, think hard about what you're doing to yourself. You need to be able at least to put down your job when you go home at night. Better yet is the goal to have absolutely nothing on your mind all day every day, but that's much harder. Anyway, if you do find yourself lying awake at night with your mind racing, make a list. Just write down everything that comes to you so you can pick it back up in the morning. The reason you're thinking yourself awake is that you know you're going to forget something important. If you write it down to look at in the morning, suddenly your mind is able to let it go and you can sleep.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I am familiar with relaxation-inducing lists myself.
PPS - Sometimes I wish I'd realise it would help sooner.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

The Sunday Mok - Sightseeing

This week was the sightseeing portion of the trip. On Wednesday we drove through the South Dakota Badlands, which is basically a lot of hills made of clay, and made me briefly consider the subtitle "Nice Butte" for this post. I don't think the Badlands actually count as buttes, though.

We also went through Custer State Park where we got up close to some bison, more commonly known as buffalo. That was pretty cool. Also on show were white-tailed deer, pronghorns and prairie dogs (very cute).

We actually saw Mount Rushmore on the 3rd, which it turns out is when their fireworks display is. As it also turns out, Jefferson's nose, rather than Lincoln's, is at a better angle for sparks. ;) I was shooting one second exposures from the hip during the show, mostly because I didn't want to focus on the photography and miss the experience. I think most of my photos were blurry as a result.

Other sites of interest included "Wall Drug", one of the most famous drug stores in the world (apparently) and a Cold War "Minuteman II" missile site, though it wasn't the actual silo.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I got a bit sick on the return journey.
PPS - We begin flying back to Australia on Monday morning.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Independence Day at Mount Rushmore

Today is Independence Day in the USA, and if all has gone according to plan, I should be enjoying it at Mount Rushmore, hopefully watching fireworks shoot out of Abraham Lincoln's nose. Or maybe not. I don't know exactly how it's going to work, but I have been led to believe that there will be fireworks here, and that's the way I'd do it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Under no circumstances should I be allowed near decorative explosives.
PPS - There's just too much that can go wrong.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Power Generation

This article from Firefox News suggests that zombies, if properly restrained and motivated, can be used as a nearly infinite power source. Just put them on a treadmill, connect that to a generator and put a tasty brain morsel just out of reach.

I can imagine this as a creepy plot point in a Twilight Zone episode, where some company starts selling self-contained home power systems after a zombie apocalypse. They're just big black boxes that generate a constant stream of energy, but someone opens one and then it's all "Soylent Energy is people!".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or "undead people", to be precise.
PPS - I'd want my generator box heavily armoured.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Pedestrian GPS

I can think of a few situations when GPS in my phone would have been very useful. Before I had a car, during my university days, occasionally I had to take public transport to odd areas of town for a meeting or a party. My usual practice was to print a list of the bus stops and sit near the front of the vehicle ticking them off on a clipboard as we passed, then using printed directions from to find my way after that. With GPS, I could have just kept track of our position on my phone, got off the bus and headed along as directed. Easy.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Or "easier".
PPS - Assuming it's accurate and the batteries hold out, too.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Training for what?

About once a month a training schedule comes via email at work listing a session called "Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying by [Head of HR]". Despite the very obvious joke, nobody in charge seems in a rush to change the title to include, say, the word "Awareness".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Then again, I haven't been to one of those sessions recently.
PPS - Perhaps the curriculum has changed.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Saving time through programming

I love my tools and I love making new ones. My note-taking tool is steadily evolving into something more powerful as I consider new ways it could be used. I am currently using it for time tracking, general note-taking, a todo list and work diary keeping (which comes out more like a private live blog on disk). As a result of using it for project-based time keeping, I wrote another tool to generate timesheets, including uncounted time for the current day. It's come out even better than both previous tools I've used for that purpose. Neither of these programs are particularly large or impressive, but each one saves me many minutes a day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Computers are good at taking over the mundane tasks of your day.
PPS - That's pretty much what they're for.