January, 2005

Jan 05

Holiday time

Just in case I’ve not wound anyone up about this – I’m going off mountain biking in Spain for a week with Dave and Peter. Enjoy damp Scotland people…

See you in a week! :)

Jan 05

Top 5 linux programs

I’ve been using linux for a while now and think it’s really good. I’ve been using SuSE 9.2 on my laptop and Mike has kindly let me borrow his little iBook for a while to use Gentoo as well – thanks mate! Anyway, here are five programs that I think kick ass in linux.

  1. ScreenSSH is great, but using Screen via SSH is way better than great. Really useful for starting remote downloads, compilations or whatever.
  2. Portage – Gentoo package manager. Makes installing, updating and removing programs total piss. Wicked. Hammered home how good it is when I tried to install PHP-GTK on Gentoo and a SuSE back to back recently. I din’t bother finishing the SuSE install…
  3. MPlayer – easily the best movie player I’ve found for Linux.
  4. Kopete – nice little instant messenger program for KDE.
  5. Dia – cool program for drawing diagrams.

Thunderbird is a really nice mail, news and RSS client, despite being occasionally slow, but it doesn’t seem right in that list. I’m also sure there is a text editor out there that should be in my top five, but I haven’t found it yet.

Jan 05


Extreme sleepover champs

I’ve just received this exclusive photograph of Stuart, our man at the Extreme Sleepover Championships. Stuart, in his quest for new adventure sports, took up ‘sleepovering’ after a knee injury meant that he had to stop playing women’s netball and ‘creepy diabolo’ (also pictured). He soon realised that he had a talent for it and shot through the ranks, quickly gaining the title of “Queen of the East”. After just a short time competing at the local level, Stuart became a member of the British squad and is now hoping to attend the World Sleepover Championships in the summer. Until then, you can catch him at any of the National Points Series events or at any of the “Sleep Camp” training weekends this year.

Stuart perfomed very well at the champs and narrowly missed out on first place, getting pipped at the post by a young whipper-snapper who made a mean cup of hot chocolate and put on the best midnight feast the judges had ever seen.

Well done from everyone at Wind Things.

Freaky diabolo boy

Stuart – remember it’s my birthday, so you can’t remove this post… :)

Jan 05


Here are the rules of Appleball, a game that Brendan, Pedro and I developed while wandering about in the Garleton Hills when I was recovering from an injury. The game first came about by throwing apples, but these were soon replaced with juggling balls due to the rather short life span of the apples. I recommend 120g JAC juggling balls, available at Wind Things. Balls that bounce or roll too much won’t work. The game is equally at home in Tesco’s car park as it is in the hills, as some rather confused Czech boys, who we managed to convince to play the game, will be able to tell you.

I’m releasing the rules under a Creative Commons licence. Utterly pointless, of course, but it sounds cool. OK, here are the rules (almost certainly incomplete – I’ll tweak them as I remember them!):

Appleball requires three players or more, but is noticably better when played with just three players. It is a tactical, turn-based ball game that involves throwing your own ball to try to gain points. Points are gained by either hitting another ball or by hitting the current target. The winner is the first player to fifteen points.


  1. Play stone-paper-scissors to decide the initial order of play.
  2. The first player selects the first target and throws his ball first, as far or near as he likes. No points are scored if the target is hit by the first player on the first throw.

Throwing rules:

  1. The person farthest from the target throws, unless he has just thrown.
  2. A throw must finish closer to the target than where it was thrown from. If this is not the case, the thrower misses an entire throw.
  3. Throws must be made with one foot where the ball lay and the other foot not closer to the target than the first foot.
  4. If a ball hits an opponents ball, the thrower gets a point and gets to throw again. The same opponents ball cannot be hit twice in a row, even if the throwers ball lands behind it.
  5. If a ball hits an opponents ball and rolls/bounces on to hit another opponents ball, the points are doubled (four points awarded for two balls, six for three…).
  6. If a ball hits the target, the thrower gets a point and everyone collects their balls and moves to the target. The thrower who hit the target selects the next target and throws first. Again, no points are scored if the target is hit by the first player on the first throw. The thrower who was next closest is second, etc.

Some thoughts:

  1. Location – although I imagine you could play the game in all sorts of places, try to pick somewhere with plenty of space. A smattering of obstacles keep things interesting. Woods are probably bad and groups of neds are worth avoiding.
  2. Target selection – entirely up to the thrower, although something too close or too easy to hit isn’t that great. Fence posts, lamp posts and small signs work well.
  3. Attitude – remain focused and deadly serious at all times. Appleball is the reason for life itself. Don’t lose sight of that in favour of taking the piss out of your mates. Never play Appleball under the influence of alcohol. Not even strange Czech spirits…
  4. Tactics – the good part of the game is working them out for yourself :)

Jan 05

Flatshare adverts

Some classics I found while looking for a new flat:

  • “real gas fire place”

Jan 05

The Legend of Zelda

Zelda tattoo!

I’m not a tattoo person. Not at all, not even a teeny little bit. This one though, that I spotted on BoingBoing is definitely one of the best ones I’ve seen. Geeky as all hell, but undeniably cool.

Like most boys, I played a few computer games when I was younger. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was, without doubt, the best game ever on the Gameboy. I hadn’t played a computer game for a few years when I broke my back, but got hold of my old Gameboy and Zelda while I was lying about in hospital. The game was still brilliant.

A quick search told me that a new Zelda, as well as two of the older NES Zelda games (which look crap), was released for the GameBoy Advance last year. Which is just about enough to make me buy a GameBoy Advance. Just about, but not quite.

Jan 05

Bad weather reports and Worldpay customisation hell

Stuart and I had a wicked looking bike route in mind for today up at Blair Athol. The weather forecast was rubbish though, and the news has been full of severe weather warnings and tales of flooding all over Scotland. Still, we decided on a pussy out option of going to the woods at Dunkeld to avoid some of the wind. Today arrived but Stuart called me to cancel, citing illness, so I decided to be a wise boy and get some web work done.

The job I’m working on at the moment involves using WorldPay for processing payments online. Unfortunately, I’m tied into using some pages that are hosted on their server. The defaults are terrible WorldPay branded affairs so I’m using their “Payment Page Editor” to bring it into line with the rest of the site. It’s a shame that the “large amount of flexibility” that their system offers doesn’t actually allow you to do anything useful. Oh look, I can change the text colour and even that button over there. What does that do? Ah, I see, it spits out some lovely nested tables and loads of <font> tags – great, exactly what I was after. I can also add a header and footer, but since there’s no access to the <head> of the document I can’t link to a CSS file. Great, so I need to bash in all the styles inline. OK, now I need to save the file and preview it. Getting there, let’s go back to edit again – AAARRGGGH, it’s mashed all the whitespace. XHTML and inline CSS all on one big line – magic, just magic.

Right, so I’ve worked out that you need to edit the XHTML/inline CSS mess in a text editor and copy it over to the WorldPay panel for each change if you want to stay sane, and I’m trying to fudge all these CSS rules to try to work, because I can’t declare anything on the <body>, when I happen upon something in the documantation that has an example where the <body> is redeclared in the header. Thank God – now I can apply the same sort of CSS as on the rest of the site. Going on that logic I add <head> to the header, but it get’s redeclared rather than merged! EH? WTF is going on? I must be missing something, there must be a better way than this.

Surely, surely, surely when they developed this system there must have been someone, somewhere with just a teeny bit of web development savvy who they could have employed to get this done properly. It’s embarrassing, in fact it’s worse than that – it’s a barely usable piece of shit, and that’s exactly what I’ll tell WorldPay when I e-mail them some of my comments later on today (OK, so I’ll moderate it a bit). Maybe the scariest thing is that I’ve got a couple of Royal Bank of Scotland bank accounts, and RBS own WorldPay. If they can’t even do this without screwing up, what’s going to happen to my money?

Maaaaan, what a way to spend a Saturday. To make matters worse, I don’t see much evidence of the terrible weather here. In fact it’s sunny, and Aviemore has been getting a frighteningly windy 13MPH. And, relax. It’s bound to be good weather tomorrow, it’s just got to be…

Note: in all fairness, I’ve been very impressed with RBS banking so far, it just seemed like a cool thing to write :).

Jan 05

Tsunami disaster

Happy New Year etc.

I haven’t written anything about the recent Asian tsunami, despite really wanting to. This is partly because I just haven’t had that much time, but also because I’m not really sure what I should write. The more I read and hear about it, the crazier the story gets and I think it’s probably the biggest piece of news I’ve ever heard. I can get my head round wars, which are also pretty wild. I can even get my head round famine and disease, which both kill and ruin lives on a much greater scale than the recent tidal waves, but I have real trouble computing the idea of large waves wiping out scores of towns along a coast. Best of luck to all of those involved.

Fortunately, there are many people who have written about the tsunami (I also think it’s interesting that almost all of the news I hear about is from the internet now). Wikipedia has some good information, as usual, and some of the posts on Boing Boing are also a good place to start.

Scotland, or the rest of the UK I guess, really is a pretty cushy place to live. We don’t get scary spiders, snakes, crocodiles, bears or sharks and our weather is pretty tame. It’s occasionally quite breezy, but not often proper windy. It’s occasionally a bit damp, but not proper rain. It’s not too hot and it’s not too cold. We don’t have deadly volcanoes, big earthquakes or live in any great danger of tsunamis. In fact, it’s geologically pretty dull (but very pretty!). On top of all of that we’re a fairly rich country with loads of cool folk. Scotland rocks!