Monthly Archives: October 2005

Londoner arrested as a terror suspect

What did he do wrong? Let me count the ways…

  1. Wearing a rain jacket that was "too warm for the season".
  2. Carrying a rucksack with a laptop inside.
  3. Looking down at the steps while going into a tube station.
  4. Checking his phone for messages

Apparently he just ticked too many boxes on their checklist and made him a terror suspect.

His crime? Being a geek.

DRM… just say no

One writer for the Wall Street Journal gets it. If you want to know why I hate DRM so much read this. I could not have said it better.

Movie Review: The Hitch-Hiker’s guide to the Galaxy

The planet Earth has developed a slight eccentricity in its orbit. The cause? Douglas Adams spinning in his grave.

I consider myself a long-time aficionado of the original book – and its sequel, "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe", though I was not so fond of the remaining three.

Reminiscences aside, on to the movie. What did I like? Well, the special effects were, of course, excellent – but that is pretty much expected these days. The Heart of Gold and the Magrathea Shop Floor sequence in particular were beautifully done. Zaphod's heads were downright hysterical.

Stephen Fry was a natural choice for the narrator, and did a superb job. The portrayal of Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) was very good, though he seemed to be a little whiney in places. Marvin was also nicely – and unexpectedly – done. Interestingly the original Marvin and Arthur make cameo appearances – watch for them. Trillian was vivacious and spirited. Ford was Froody.

However, not all was sweetness and light… Ford (Mos Def, who reminds me of the cat in Red Dwarf), Trillian (Zooey Deschanel – what the HELL is a Zooey?) and Zaphod (Sam Rockwell) all have American accents. While Ford pulls it off and makes it work quite nicely, I find myself asking why on Earth – or anywhere else, for that matter – Zaphod had to affect a Texan drawl out of both of his heads. Perhaps it's the British snob in me coming out – the creator of this franchise was, after all, British. The last straw was Trillian – hearing her saying "I'm feeling peckish" in an American accent simply doesn't work.

What is far more serious is that some of the best lines in the book were cut, along with entire subplots. The entire "Beware of the Leopard" exchange is hacked out and replaced by one unfunny line. There was no mention of the Dentrassi. No Marvin humming like Pink Floyd. Most of laugh-out-loud moments from the book were simply… missing. In their place were other subplots were simply grafted on in a way that that left me scratching my heads. Zaphod having a head cut off? Filling out forms to rescue Trillian from the Bugblatter Beast of Traal? Romance between Trillian and Arthur? What were they thinking?

What were they smoking?

This is a movie that begins well, but spends the latter half wandering around trying to figure out where it wants to land.

Instead of a movie that would have explained the HHG phenomenon to those who were wondering what the fuss was about, I am left apologizing for what I consider to be an abortion of a film.

Douglas, I for one am glad that you didn't live to see this. You deserved better. Rest in Peace.

eBay bans other payment processors

Recently eBay changed their Paypal payment policy for sellers. If you accept Paypal, you must accept ALL FORMS of Paypal – including those that sellers have to pay extra for. You must also upgrade your Paypal account from a free one to a paid "merchant" account if required (and it WILL be required).

That was a pure "profit move" trying to squeeze more , as is this latest "Paypal-only" rule.

Those who think that this will cut back on scammers are deluding ourselves – account hijacking is rampant; I have experienced it.

This is just eBay trying to lock down their monopoly. I would like to see Google – or anyone else – compete, as eBay obviously needs competition to keep them "honest".

Opinion: The top ten reasons why I refuse to sign “prayer-in-schools” e-petitions

  1. The Government loves to get e-mails. Why? Because they can claim that they never received them, or that the spam filter got them. Why, so they can ignore them with impunity. Ask me how I know.
  2. Without addresses, no petition is legally valid.
  3. Since the President fought the last election as a Christian, we can safely assume that either a) He is already in favor of prayers in schools but cannot do anything about it or b) He was lying. Either way it won’t work.
  4. From a cursory reading of the constitution, I cannot see what The President can do about this within his job description.
  5. Most of us have signed identical petitions before. Signing the same petition several times – or several identical ones – invalidates all of them
  6. It occurs to me that it would be more effective to to write your Congresscritter or Senator.
  7. There is no way of knowing how many registered voters are on that petition… or even how many real people.
  8. Personally I do not believe that prayer in schools or the display of the Ten Commandments will improve either the government or the people.
  9. To my knowledge no e-mail petition has ever resulted in a change in Governmental policy. Ever.
  10. As long as there are tests, there will be prayers in public schools

Now I lay me down to rest,
I pray I’ll pass tomorrow’s Test
If I should die before I wake
That’s one less test I’ll have to take

Pilot on no-fly list

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain, Robert Gray, speaking. Unfortunately we cannot take off at this time. This is because the airline has informed me that the government has placed me on its no-fly list, making it impossible for me to do my job.

The government won't tell me why it thinks I'm a threat. Federal prosecutors, citing national security concerns, refused even to confirm in court that I am on the list.

They have denied an administrative appeal and refused to disclose what information it had, but it has provided my lawyers with a computer printout that indicated it was about a Hispanic suspect who happens to have the same name as me.

The fact that I am white apparently makes no difference."

TiVo II: Got it connected

Last weekend I got my new TiVo connected and up and running. Physical installation was not difficult. Setup was easy – I did not need to open of the 180-page manual. In less than half an hour I had programmed the TiVo and set up the service via the web.

The TiVo has two USB slots on the back, and can connect to a wireless network using a USB Wireless device. Fortunately I had a compatible one lying around. According to the manual, TiVo requires a "setup call" using the build-in modem and a phone cable. This was a minor hassle that took about half an hour.

More later.

RIAA to get another thrashing?

A woman sued by the RIAA has countersued them for illegally hacking into her machine. This could raise some interesting precedence.

Confessions of a Car Salesman

Undercover journo lays bare the car dealers' secrets….

Opinion: Gas Mileage

Many years ago, when I worked in Munich, I visited the BMW museum, where I saw a vehicle that carried four people and did 30MPG. It was built in 1938.

Nearly seventy years later, a four-door sedan gets about… 30MPG. If you’re lucky.

Before the oil shocks of the 1970s, Americans were driving two-ton tanks and were laughing at the little Japanese econoboxes. Thirty years later, history is repeating itself.

Have we learned nothing?

Show an American a Smart Car and they laugh. Tell them that it gets up to 60MPG and the laughing subsides… but only because Big Oil is putting them in the poorhouse.

The good news is that the Smart Car is coming to the USA. The bad news is that their first offering in the US will be an SUV… which does not, to me, seem very smart. This is a consequence of most people over here viewing small cars as “unsafe” – as if you need a V8 engine and two tons of metal, plastic, rubber, hair teeth and eyeballs to get two hundred pounds of human from home to work… but I digress.

So what went wrong? What happened was this: For every advance the geeks in engineering gave to us, the marketing boys made them add on a few more power-sapping gadgets and put smaller engines in bigger, heavier vehicles… then spent millions persuading us that this was what we really wanted.It has become clear to me that most Americans are not concerned about fuel economy. Watch the ads for the new 2006 models and listen for the words “fuel economy”. You won’t hear them. The larger SUVs do not even have fuel economy requirements – mostly as a result of lobbying efforts by the automobile industry.

What Americans really want is performance and safety; unfortunately the former guzzles fuel while the latter is associated with size and weight…, which also guzzles fuel. They tend to see cheap gas and huge vehicles as theirs by divine right, and would rather complain about the prices than actually do anything about it.

Sadly, I don’t see this mentality changing anytime soon.