Katrina (the slutty version of the name) “3”

I was just on BBC news looking at the Katrina damage in New Orleans which is totally terrible. That's really bad (shouldn't have built there... just look at this).

But I have to say it hasn't affected me.

Nope, not me.

I'm in the UK.

Oh, hang on... Buster Tests is down.

[rings the new support number for the first time instead of spamming the help desk]

Whore!

Unfortunately, it seems that there have been outages at my datacentre (or whatever they're called) and there's even problems with the actual Internet.

I was quite upset before the call, but once the [actually nice] man told me this I said, heartily, "alright... that's a good excuse... I'll let you off this time".

And so I did. I didn't even ask when it would be up next; it's alright if the rest of the Internet is having trouble, too.

Ahh... I can't even make technorati tags for this post :(

More4 is coming “0”

Channel 4 have done it again, solving gaps in my television viewing time I didn't even know I had.

They're about to launch a new channel called More4 on digital, cable and freeview (digital terrestrial) on October 10th at 8pm.

Great thing number one

There will be a special extension of Channel 4 news, excellent and a personal BBC replacer, which promises to bring new and challenging perspectives on events at home and abroad. Excellent; it's an early Newsnight, but I hope it's a lot snappier.

Then they'll be something called The Last Word at 11pm (past the time I am expecting to say up - I'm trying to cut down on awakenness :D) which is a funny talk show. So so, looks good.

Great thing number two

After having all the links being sent to me by Kevin and seeing lots of the bits of the show for myself on other blogs and thinking it's very funny indeed, The Daily Show by John Stewart is coming to the UK with a one day delay (understandable).

I'm really looking forward to watching this, and am frankly impressed by the one day delay. If C4 could bring shows like Lost and Six Feet Under up to that standard, I wouldn't be so scared to go on the 'net to find stuff out about them.

Great thing number three...

...would only be a great thing for someone like me. The More4 (or MORE4) logo is snappAY!



It's a clever design that I expect will have a lot of movement to it. Not sure about the thin text, but I hope their idents will be quick and cooool.

Lyme Disease “5”

After being bit by a tick a few months ago, I was interested to hear what Points West (our regional news programme) had to say about a new revelation that three people have been infected just down the road, the first in fifteen years.

Lots of scaremongering, no advice on how to protect yourself WHATSOEVER.

So I send this:
Did you consider dispensing ANY advice on how to protect yourself from tick bites, or even where the ticks are more likely to be on the Mendips?

Really, I would have thought that if you tell people to be cautious of ticks, you'd also give people a little advice to work with.

I really was expecting something to follow up on the fact that Lyme Disease exists around here.

I really wouldn't be surprised if you've put people off from walking outside now.

I do expect a prompt reply to this.
Yeah. That'll show 'em. I wonder if they'll reply?

Petrol Prices in the US “5”

I just watched a news report on the hurricane in the US.

That's a real sad situation. They were talking about how it might affect petrol prices, and they said it might even hit 45p a litre.

If that is some kind of high price of petrol in the US, and the country have been moaning before at a presumably lower price, you need to get a grip!!!

We pay 90p + a litre. It's high, but no one complains. It's quite heavily taxed, but that's a good thing, and the majority of drivers don't give out about it!

Ugh. There's so much more to this but it just makes me angry so I'll leave it.

I'm having one of those days “2”

Laaaaaandan and the Yankie Grub “2”

Alright well I?ve spent the day feeling like a long streak of cabbage, but I really want to get this post written and read.

I have had two major culinary discoveries over the past three weeks. They are all ones I wouldn?t have counted on being so great, or even happening at all. But they have and I?m sure one has changed my life.

Firstly, Kirspy Kreme. Well, what can I say? The Tescos in London stock them. Prominently. They look fresh. I had one from the Tescos in Trafalgar Square. I got the chocolate one covered in white icing, which looked exceptionally nice and quite different from any one I had ever seen.

It was really, really nice. I ate it while walking to Waterloo station (across the bridge). My only worry here is that, although I was walking and it might have been the exercise, I could feel something going on with my heart. It wasn?t love; it was more in the way of a coronary.

I think I had two of those in total over the two weeks, the second from a Tesco in Piccadilly, which was a bit of a find.

So in conclusion, it was nice but clearly bad for you. No more than one a week, but one a month is still probably pushing it.

Onwards and upwards to Subway. Recently, Subways have been opening up all over the place. They?ve even had adverts for them, and McDonalds and Burger King seem to be getting in a bit of a tissy over all of this sandwich nonsense, so it?s all the rage in their own advertising now.

I?m not going in to much detail here, but they are well nice. Chicken Teriyaki with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes with the onion sauce. YUM YUM YUM!

Had about four of those over five days. There?s one in Weston and I think they?re my new McD?s. Even though I realise that they?re likely just as bad as whatever McDonalds sell, but at least you can get something healthy and simple from them.

Yes, I can actually envisage myself having another one next week when I visit Bristol to take a look at the next piece of Hollywood comic trash.

Hmm. I feel much better now. That must have been bad to bottle-up or something.

Ahh Home “2”

After three long weeks of being relatively nomadic, I'm back 'ome!

But I'm not as happy as I should be. My rooms has been moved about, some furniture stolen for use in my Brother's room, which means that all the stuff which was on the shelves is now... disheveled.

You knew that was coming.

So basically I have to reorganise and rethink.

I also have a metric tonne of podcasts and blog posts to get through. I'm sure my iPod can't take it, but we'll have to go slowly.

I have loads to blog about (exciting, non-tech things) but I'd like to wait until I can write a post properly. Food, glorious food!

Minutes after being home my friends poped over and asked me if I wanted to go down the pub. I was so traumatised by the room dishevelment, I went. A lot.

Now my head hurts! Damn carcenagens.

Google's Desktop Search TWO “5”

Google have just released the second version of their desktop search, and it's bloomin' fantastic!

They really have outdone themseleves here! It's great to use, seems very light and flexible, and extremely powerful. The new way the search works is fantastic, although I think it needs a little working on. Results aren't always that good (Google good), because your hard disk isn't the Interweb, and it isn't all nicely linked together with magic links that give context to content.

There are two amazing 'bigger picture' things to think about now.

Firstly, it takes a major bite out of Apple's OSX Tiger release's marketability. Spotlight on Tiger looked really great, and Apple were the only ones to have such functionality. But now you can have it on the PC, and it works amazingly fast. Perhaps it's not quite perfect yet, and I'd like to be able to launch more programs from this search bar, but it's there.

Secondly, it takes a major bite out of Microsoft's Windows Vista release's marketability. The Longhorn sidebar which didn't really appear to do much in all of those screenshots is now not so special, and it's going to have to do something amazing to beat the Google version (with which it is going to be cometing directly).

Ohh, the excitement. It's like a geek's soap opera. You slaaaaaaaaag!

Hello Hello? “2”

Isn't that a good question?

Well, I was at Comic Relief for two weeks, having a ball and working on the designs for the Dubble site. I think I caused some problems, but it was for the best (trust me :D).

Now I'm holidaying it up on the lovely, sunny/rainy Isle of Wight. I'm staying at my Uncle's house and I'll be going into the nice town of Ryde tomorrow on the bus. I spent a pleasant day on Sandown beach today and got a bit red. I'm going home on Friday, which is when normal service will resume.

I've been taking loads of photos over the last few weeks, so expect at least some nice ones.

One thing which has totally ruined my holiday and perhaps robbed me of a good deal of money (a few dollars, perhaps) has been the mistreatment of my websites by my host, ScotReg. I always held them in high regard, but it's a bit of a disaster when you pay for something and your account gets cancelled. I had a little fit over the data, particularly the Buster Tests users and the Buster Studies articles, but I think it's alright. Nevertheless, as I have said before, it's a total nightmare when your site goes down. Really bad.

Oh, and I have been keeping sort-of-up-to-date with all of your blogs etc. Sorry if I haven't commented or my email replies have been super-short. It's because I wasn't in an ideal location to reply fully (work, or with family peering about). I'll probably do a little review when I get back and make sure I'm up to date with everything.

Anyway, I've had the time to bang out this post and another on something which I was quite excited to find out about. Read on, my friends...

AS results in “2”

Take a look at BBC News and you'll find loads of news around this year's exams.

I can happily announce that I have gotten an A in Mathematics and Media studies. The rest of the results are not publishable :D (email me if you want to know)

Internet Technology for Learning “0”

I'ev just written an article about how students can use Blogger to record their media studies productions. Does anyone see any other web applications that can be used for learning/studying type things?

link The start of the end? “0”

Run for it...

JPG Magazine's OWT! “4”

Whoooo!

I gats a front page spot!

Check it out!

Quick Update “2”

Well I'd just like to say sorry for no posts over the last week, I'm not really able to post that much.

I'm working with a charity here, next to where James Bond works! Amazing! See MW for details.

I also took the tube the other day to the place the Brazilian got shot, but I didn't know that's where it happened untill I saw a camera crew shooting (pun! ahahaha) a report from the very spot. Rough area.

Scholastic or something will be printing one of my pics in an article about Flickr.com and students. I think they're some US thing so I don't know if that's big or not. Will someone tell me?

Going to an exhibition with the New Media crew this afternoon. Have a nice weekend all!

p.s. Don't forget to sign up with Buster Studies admin and if you feel the slightest hint of an article coming on, write it down. I'll edit, expand and publish it for you (and credit, link and buy you something nice if it does well).

link It's ready! “13”

Wow! It's only took 400% longer than I thought it would, but Buster Studies is now basically ready to go!

It even comes with a new article about managing your time. Please do check it out and the fancy comment display system!

Bearing in mind that these are better if you're a student...

I'm especially happy about my lovely new set of three document icons. These are crisp and clean and were actually fun to make. Blimey!

I'm suffering from some suspicious adverts at the moment which I'm not entirely happy about, but hopefully that problem will fix itself. Hopefully :)

Getting On My Nerves “6”

I have received an email to my Hotmail account a good few times from different people I know personally, containing an array of images of US soldiers being nice to children, group hugging, holding small babies, petting kittens, etc. in Iraq.

I can't tell you how tempted I am to send just one picture of a dead Iraqi in reply to these emails. I mean, I really am very tempted to do so. Really. I am. I could do it any moment now.

But I resist...

An Organic, Delicious, Healthy, Smoothie. “3”

As part of the Online Potluck day, I'd like to share with you a very nice formula for making a really cool drink. They're lovely on hot days, and are quite straightforward to make.

Firstly you need to secure your ingredients: blackberries, strawberries and a pot of raspberry Organic Yeo Valley Yogurt (450g). Firstly, I understand getting that particular brand might be a problem, so you can replace it with whatever pot you like, but keep it light, natural and good for you. Blackberries and strawberries are best bought from farmers markets. Leave them to ripen so they'll be sweeter when you come to make the smoothie. Make sure they're washed and cleaned out, remove the green bit of the strawberry and put in the freezer four hours before making the smoothie.

Now to be honest the ratio of my ingredients changes with the availability of the fruit, but I would say add a small handful of blackberries, a small handful of strawberries and about half of the 450g yogurt will get you a decent portion. You can also just throw all of it in and save some for tomorrow.

You can use either a big blender or just a hand one, mash up the fruit first just so it's pulpy, and then add the yogurt and blend it all up. Make sure it's very well blended before serving neatly as shown.

Clean up before you drink it to be able to enjoy it fully. Also, enjoy it in the sun.

You Know You Want One

link And For My Next Trick... “7”

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about how I could expand Buster Tests into something more. I want to be able to cover more ground and I don't want to have to rely on just the exam season rush for ad income.

So I've decided to start a new blog (well... I'm going to think of it as more of a magazine) specifically for the audience at the doors.

I'm working on it right now, it's 5.20pm, and I plan to have the template and WordPress engine installed and running by tonight (11pm?).

You can watch the live development of this new project, named Buster Studies.

link Big Fish? “0”

Finding the FishThere's a cool little logic compo going. The problem is old but the challenge is new; so tonight I'm going to see how far I can get with this one.

Update: Oh well - couldn't quite do that one. It was waay too late and my brain just couldn't handle it :D I would have made a program for it if I had the skill...

Procrastination “4”

I'm researching an article I'm writing for Buster Tests on procrastination.

I'm looking for how you deal with it, if you do at all. Do you recommend any good websites? Tips? Techniques? Anything like that would be great. Just leave it as a comment on this post if you like! I'll make sure you're credited and all.

Thanks!

NatWest issues new cash card Mr. Dick Head “3”

Today The Sun is reporting how Chris Lancaster, who banks with NatWest, was sent a new cash card showing his name as "Mr C Lancaster Dick Head".

What exactly did Chris do to upset the bank so much? "I know I've been overdrawn a few times and got a few £30 charges but I've done nothing to deserve this," he reasoned.

Poor guy.

I had better watch out.

Via The Register.

link Software: The Regex Coach “0”

Regular expressions are a pain in the vagina.

It's a uphill battle for me to write one, and even harder to find a decent one that will work in PHP.

You can use The Regex Coach, a brilliant bit of software, to see how you're doing in real time.

It's free and easy to use.

link How to hack a lift “6”

Hacking Elevators 101

Summary: if you want your life to go from where you get in straight to where you want to go, press the 'close door' button and your destination floor button at the same time. You won't stop for anyone else!

Can't wait to find one, now!

Simple Adsense Tips “9”

This great article has moved!

Read the Simple Adsense Tips by Fintan Darragh on Dech.co.uk.

Article is straight after the jump.

Microsoft Tests Personal Home Page “2”

Over at start.com, Microsoft have been trying out a kind of personalised start page which is strikingly similar Google's Fusion.

Microsoft have also been keeping an MSN Spaces blog, very bloated, which keeps people up to date with start.com's development.

While the code and layout used by Microsoft here is strikingly similar to Google's method, I'd like to point out that there are only so many ways of doing this kind of thing, and such ideas have been around for ages. Neither one of the two are really innovating, but I think that Microsoft's attempt is superior. For example with the MS attempt you can add or remove columns and minimise 'windows'.

Interestingly start.com isn't branded with Microsoft or MSN logos, only a link or two. Is this a new minimal design strategy?

I use the Google page and think it's alright - nothing is particularly special about it because I prefer to go to a specific website which has more detail. Well... I use it, that is to say I don't actually use any of its features and just have it as a home page. It's grown well in the last few weeks, though.

link Kindy, If You Please... “0”

Would those of you who enjoy taking a gander at my photos pop over to the Flickys and give me a vote?

Just tap in my name...
F-I-N-T-A-N.

Thank you :D

Selling Internet Services to Teenagers “0”

Teenagers might be well aware of what the service of a mobile phone network is, but how can we be sure they understand what an internet service is, and what it means for them?

It may not seem an issue, but in the quest to make Buster Tests as likeable as possible among its fifteen- to sixteen-year-old audience, a special approach must be taken to make the website seem as useful as it is.

One of the services behind Buster Tests is the Revision List. This takes the user's results from a test, and based on questions that the user got wrong, puts specific points onto the Revision List.

This might not seem all to clear to some of the Buster Tests audience, so to make Revision Lists stand out and appeal to the user, they are 'sold' as a product, as opposed to the service they are. We can't be sure they understand what exactly is it, but we can try to show it to them in a form they might recognise.

Buster Tests - Revision List IconThis is done by the Revision Lists icon, a visual identity which makes the software appear like any other tangible product which is being sold over the web. Follow this up by a firm placement on the front page, a clear 'free' icon and the general presentation of a cheery product, and the existence of Revision Lists are much clearer.

The visual approach is also much wiser when marketing to teenagers or children of any age; it takes the weight off of the brain and allows the service to appeal to simple desires. Additionally, it isn't hard for the user to register for the Revision List. Clicking on the advert on the front page takes the user straight to a short and simple registration page, which can also be filled out with little thought.

I nearly had a bit of a heart attack... “1”

Chill Out, Buster...when I found out that my world famous picture of Buster was the most interesting one of January 23rd 2005.

I have at least three great pics on that day, and that is quite simply because it was the day I signed up and unleashed all of my best onto Flickr.

Take a look at the calendar for surrounding images.

Update: Oooh it looks like I'm second on the 16th June 2005, too.

link Apple's New Pip “0”

Well, well. Apple's only done it again and made another device which looks like a tampon and is packed with functionality.

Good for Mac users. Now go and pay your $49.

Publish Your Results (again) “4”

Phew. I've just spent the last couple of hours engineering a new little feature inspired by Firemind which allows people who take a Buster Test to publish their results on their blog.

It's fun, free and painfully flexible. It wasn't easy to make this work, but I'm quite sure it's bulletproof. It even decays sort-of-gracefully. Dunno about Safari, though :D

I had to try loads and loads of techniques to make this work. The one I ended up using is the least obvious, and is simply the result of playing with the code over and over and over again. As far as I am concerned, that's how one learns to do something well, and there's nothing wrong with loosing time to such things.

I was just about to publish this article when I found another problem, and became quite the stressy Bessy for half an hour while I tried to solve it. This better work! Update: it didn't, and suffered from an IE bug. Agh! Well, I redid it and think it's nearly sorted now. Long test names do it in, though.

So try a test yourself (click on the test title shown below to do an easy one) and see for yourself.

Simple Chemistry “5”

Alright, this is probably quite a good measure of how good you are with science generally.

Guess the elements (well... try not to guess if you can help it!)

Firemind's Podcast. “1”

I wrote a nice long article about this, but Firefox crashed. So I'll keep it simple:

Firemind
has a podcast which you can subscribe to.

Ananova's Corrections “4”

Being a fast-paced news agency, you're bound to make some mistakes eventually.

How about Mariah Carey not flashing her breasts in Germany (it was an incident with a shoulder strap!).

How about Frank Skinner not being a rapist (silly misspelling...)

How about Bill Clinton not doing ads for clothing in China?

I dare say that all of these mistakes are far more exciting than most news relating to these people.

The Hippy Festival is Coming - the "Big Green Gathering" “0”

Just to inform you ahead of time, the Big Green Gathering is happening just up the road from me this week, and I'll be there to photoblog some of the groovy action.

I've been told what in particular to expect, and I'm looking forward to it. We've even got a car pass from someone who supplies them with food. Great!

The Cult of Getting Things Done “4”

What's the rush?

I'll admit, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is a rather good book, but not for everyone.

If you are in such a stress over what to do, and you have a real job (not like myself who just has a tonne of spare time), I can see some real benefits. In fact, when I start working wherever I'm quite likely to employ some (not all) of David Allen's advice.

He's obviously got the experience here.

Accessibility at the Odeon “2”

The whole accessibility craze which has swept the 'net has had, as far as I can see, one very good effect on Britain's cinema-going population.

One word: Odeon. Their website was utterly, utterly shambolic, enlisting various DHTML and JavaScript widgets to try to create a cool, slick interface. But it failed, miserably. Their old interface, which is still available today and is presented as the main version of the site, just doesn't work. It won't go anywhere in Firefox, and is purely a pain to use in Internet Explorer.

But not to worry. Matthew Somerville started by creating an accessible version of their site himself. Odeon didn't like this at all, and despite Matthew's site being perfectly legitimate, they forced him to withdraw it.

After lots of badgering, probably by many web designers who just couldn't stand the sight of the site (like me), Odeon have given in, in the form of a published a simple, text version of their cinema listings. Praise be!

It's fast, easy to use and tells you exactly what you want to know. Precisely what Odeon should have aimed for to start with.

But, I suppose, well done to them for actually thinking about how they represent themselves online, even if they were being shouted at to do so.

Remember: no website is better than a bad website. The frustration that was caused by this site might have lost Odeon loads of custom over the past few years. It's intenet antimarketing. It's always best to play it safe when it comes to something like this; make the information as easy to find and use as possible, and if possible in a way where no one can possibly go wrong.

Don't Say The "E" Word! “0”

I'm always mindful of this one. Far more than any other word, in fact. It's the "E" word, and it just ain't any good.

Which is fitting, really. The word "evil" is being used more and more in the mainstream media and those in power. Deliberate or no, this word is a highly divisive one.

Take a look at the media you consume to see how regularly the word 'evil' is used and what for. Are they reporting news here, or are they providing opinion? Do they make it clear what is news and what is opinion? Do you trust them?

Odeon's Advertising “3”

I was disgusted to sit though 25 minutes of advertising after paying more than £4 (about $7 USD) to see the Fantastic Four.

Why should I have to pay to see a movie which is supported by advertising?

A message to those in the film distribution business: one or the other. Either:
  • we pay to see a film with no advertising, or...
  • we see a film supported by advertising for free.
It's wrong to have it both ways, and quite demeaning to the audience in my opinion.

Review: Kanye West - College Dropout “0”

He's got a great name and a great voice.

There are three tracks that particularly stand out - Jesus Walks, Slow Jamz and Through The Wire. I'm sure you would have heard them at one point or another if you spend any time consuming mainstream media.

He's a producer of music, so he's done a lot of work for other people in the R&B genre.

It's hard for me to write about something I know little about, but I will say that this guy is quite talented, and that those three tracks in particular are excellent.

link India launches its first cheap PC “0”

Well done to them. I hope this project lives up to their expectations, and India is brought even further into the computing world.

Review: Charlie and The Chocolate Factory “2”

More exceptional film making from Tim Burton and company.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is the best film I've seen all year. It follows well in the footsteps of Burton epics such as Edward Scissorhands, rich in visual detail and full of powerful storytelling.

When I saw the film I was in quite a grumpy mood, but the film is such a powerful one that both sad and funny parts of the film are brilliant.

Issues of poverty and loneliness are dealt with quite skillfully by Burton, and the comic edge of the film, which is a great part of the picture, is truly sharp. One acronym: LOL.

The film got a good number of laughs, cheers and sighs from the audience as far as I could tell (although they weren't my first concern), but I thought everything was hilarious, and was surprised that a good deal of the jokes and entertaining nuances included in the film weren't grasped my most people. I'm talking about very subtle things, where simply the choice of shots is clearly deliberately meant to be funny.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory seems to have a mixed sense of Internationality. Despite being set in some industrial English town, the currency is dollars, and both American and German currency is used. I was a bit annoyed by this at first (just get it right, ya?), but I think since many countries use dollars as a currency (not necessarily the US), and the film contains a very broad set of characters for a children's film, it's quite alight.

Depp preforms excellently, with a fresh and bubbly pace.

In fact, all parts of this film are brilliant. All actors pull their weight nicely, Burton directs masterfully, Elfman composes with his usual flair and the CGI and cinematography is excellent.

Go and see it while it's at the cinema. Your inner child will love you for it, and you will emerge refreshed.

Blogging for Money “0”

I've tried this before, but I've been reading a lot about Adsense and making money on the Internet lately, and want to give some techniques a try.

None of the things I'll be doing are devious or questionable, but we'll see how it goes.

At the moment, because the demand for academic websites is pretty much non-existent, Buster Tests is getting no traffic whatsoever. The Record Card is getting waay more than Buster Tests, so I think I'm going to focus my efforts here for a while.

Essentially what I plan on doing is writing a decent length, generally exhaustive article on one of a range of issues (news, technology, cooking, etc.) which pander to my interests. I'll try hard to make these informative, and certainly interesting. In return I'll be placing an ad block below each individual articles, which will hopefully contain relevant ads which people will want to use. Let's see if I can get more traffic to The Record Card and then out through those ads. This will involve search engine optimisation of articles and ruthless tagging. Forgive me if things get nasty, but this is an experiment and I doubt I'll be able to keep it up for long.

You, my faithful subscribers, will be treated to no ads. I also won't be limiting the content in the feed, because I disagree with that. RSS advertising pisses me off.

I need to take Buster for a walk now, and while I do I'm going to think up something nice to write about.

Good evening.

link How to make the best paper aeroplane in the world! “0”

Really excellent guide. Spend the time doing it, perhaps while listening to a podcast.

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