Archive for April, 2005

PS2 DVD shenanigans

Are PS2s naturally multi-region? I’m doubting this.

Mine, a refurb model with a very pernickety attitude to disc quality, seems to be quite happy playing US and UK DVDs and never complains. Is this normal? Have I bought a modded one by accident? I’ve got a million and one ways of playing DVDs of any region but it’s convenient to be able to play them through a box that’s permanently connected to my TV anyway.

(My Powerbook, though, will not. Some sort of issue with the Matsushita drive means that I can’t read DVDs and play them via a software decoder – or at least, nothing I’ve tried so far has worked, and, yes, VLC, MPlayer, ripping the DVD onto my hard disc and so on, done all that. Bah. My pbook’s screen is bigger than my TV’s.)

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UKIP for a laugh

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The UKIP (apparently pronounced “you-kip” rather than “you kay eye pee”) party political broadcast, as politics, is guff, as you might expect; leaving Europe will stop crime, MRSA, eggy farts etc. But you really should watch at least the first ten seconds in order to see the Evil European Octopus. (Sample screenshots to the right.)

Other good moments include:

  • Old badger in hat, when offered an extra twenty five pounds a week on his pension, crossly says “I’d rather have independence from the EU!” As would we all. But wait! With You-Kip you can have both!

  • Rusty Lee speaking against immigration. “EU? They’re ‘avin a laugh!”

The irony is that I would agree with the statements about the EC being run by unrepresentative crooks. Waves of pro-corporate legislation, software patents, copyright bastardness etc (my usual things) do not endear them to me. I just can’t see (a) that this is any different to the government we have here – except that ours is even worse – and (b) that the UKIP are anything more than a bunch of dodgy little-Englanders who want to keep corruption local. It’s Boss Hogg trying to persuade you that the fedral guvmint is evil.

And, I’m sorry. Kilroy. I know he’s left, but you got him on board in the first place. And, well, all the other racists. And all the bullshit about the country being “full up”. And all the pathetic pretense that it’s not a single-issue party. Okay, yeah, I would never vote for them ever ever.

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Ninja comment spam

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of the usual casino spam, which seems to be bypassing the usual comment procedure and appearing directly in posts without WordPress notifying me about it via email, which it should be doing. I only notice when I check recent comments manually, which I don’t do that often.

Anyone know anything about this and how to stop it? I’ve not found anything googling.

Incidentally, I have concluded that anyone who plays online poker is a traitor to the net and needs beating with sticks. You might as well order phentermine online or enlarge your penis with herbal pills. If you buy this stuff they will keep on spamming.

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The invisible and tedious hand

In less than ten days, we will reach the culmination of months of excited discussion and fierce debate, when opinions and speculation will finally be proved right or wrong, when hopefully dreams of a better future will, at least in part, come true. Yes, you know what I mean – OS X 10.4 Tiger will be in the shops.

Meanwhile there’s some sort of election going on and that segment of the British population that can be arsed will be going down to whatever local school has been designated “official democratic outpost” to put a bit of paper in a box for someone who will either not change anything, or won’t be elected.

Really, I’m feeling even less popular interest this time than in any previous election. It’s become a truism that “they’re all as bad as each other”, and a rather undeserved one I think – some of them are even worse, after all. But the level of active rejection of the election farce seems higher to me than in years past.

At least the first time when Labour got in there was the excitement of kicking the Tory bastards out. Okay, sure, anyone with half a loaf of sense could see that New Labour was at the least Tory Lite, but who cares, you got to laugh at all the old Tories as the results were read out and they lost their seats, ha ha ha. Then New Labour exceeded even my cynical expectations and proved to be Tory Super, but in 2001 there was at least still the feeling that there was no way we should ever let the buggers get a sniff of a seat.

This time, with the Tories apparently working on the theory that if they make themselves look even more creepy and incompetent they’ll gain votes, with even the stupidest person not being able to say that Tony Blair was a pretty decent honest bloke (since anyone stupid enough to believe that wouldn’t actually know his name) and with the Lib Dems, despite being in precisely the right position to exploit the failings of both of the other parties, running what’s turned out to be a pretty lacklustre campaign, the general opinion seems simply to be “fuck it”.

» Continue reading “The invisible and tedious hand”

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Nothing to see, move along

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Cartoon from Il Manifesto – the caption reads “Friendly Fire 2″

A little update on the Giuliana Sgrena story, regarding which I have written before. You’ll be surprised and no doubt relieved to hear that it’s all turned out to be quite all right and it was the Italians’ fault.

A US army official said Monday that the US investigation concluded that “the soldiers were all complying with the standard operating procedures for those checkpoints and therefore were not culpable of dereliction of duty in following their procedures.”

Needless to say, Ms Sgrena is not happy.

“After the apologies comes the slap in the face,” wrote Giuliana Sgrena in a frontpage editorial in her daily Il Manifesto…

…US authorities had taken no note of her testimony and that of the other agent, Sgrena said, underlining that their two accounts coincided although they had never met or discussed the shoot-out.

“Obviously, our two testimonies given to the American commission were useless. Or will I be charged with perjury?” questioned the journalist.

Elements of the Italian government appear unhappy as well, though I imagine that Berlusconi would rather the whole thing just went away. According to the NYT:

Italy disagrees with major findings in the report and has declined to endorse it

(Little point of order here. It’s interesting how the biased America-hating liberals at the New York Times repeat two USG points that turned out to be untrue; the piece is called “Ruling on Barricade Death” when there was no barricade, and call it a “checkpoint” when it was just an armoured vehicle of some sort at the side of the road. Well, I suppose there might be some sort of euphemism such as “mobile checkpoint” that would technically excuse that last one. But the intention of the USG in calling it a “checkpoint” is clear – it’s meant to bring up images of fences, guards, Checkpoint Charlie etc and provoke the immediate thought “checkpoints are obvious and they check rather than just opening fire, so they must have been doing something wrong if they were shot at one”.)

“US Military Exonerates US Military” is a bit “Pope In ‘Catholic’ Shock” (although that last one seems to have inexplicably appeared across the blogosphere recently – you mean Ratzinger doesn’t approve of gayness?) and I’m not exactly shocked by the news, but it does mark the last point at which the USG will ever consider that there are questions to be answered. Case closed. So if you consider any of the following

  • independent reports from those in the car claiming that they had reported ahead, were driving slowly and were fired on without warning;
  • the fact that they had passed through many other checkpoints and were in a “safe zone”;
  • confiscation of cellphones from eyewitnesses by troops;
  • refusal to let Italian investigators examine the car in question;
  • release of photographs of something that was claimed to be the car that clearly do not show a car fired upon with a machinegun, so which don’t agree with anyone‘s story;

to be a little dodgy, as far as the USG is concerned you’re out of luck. As far as the US media is concerned as well, I expect.

To recap, I’d say that the most charitable explanation for this, I’d say, is that the incident was a tremendous fuckup, this was quickly realised, the spin menu was brought out and ordered from, and no attempt was made to placate the Italians (since only US opinion counts, the spin could be this flimsy and it wouldn’t matter to them, because it’s not something the US media are very interested in anyway, a token explanation is fine). Add to the previous spin this investigation and the line being pushed in the press reports, “it’s just the Italians’ word against the Americans’”.

The least charitable is that someone was deliberately trying to kill her, and there are various possible explanations in between. I’m not sure what I currently think is the case at the moment, so I’m giving it one of those reasonably wide “uncertain, insufficient evidence” truth values that I seem to be attaching to an awful lot of things. I don’t really see what other choice I’ve got, apart from unthinking acceptance, unthinking condemnation and just plain not giving a shit.

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Comedy “terrorist threat” of the day

SECURITY chiefs fear Al-Qaeda terrorists trained as scuba divers could mount attacks against a royal review of the fleet being held to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar…

…Officials fear Al-Qaeda divers could attach bombs to the hulls of the ships, detonate explosives strapped to their bodies in suicide attacks or even board vessels and kill some of those on board.


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No Billie

I’d just like to state that, unlike every other twenty/thirty-something blogger in the UK, I did not watch Dr Who this weekend. I do this to feel special, you realise.

I watched it last weekend.

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Two statements, two graphs

1. “We’re winning in Iraq, things are getting better”



You can say that things might get better in the future; you might be able to say that events are indicating that this will happen (though if you can say that an election with a rigged candidate list over a small proportion of the population is a giant leap for democracy with a straight face I’ll be impressed, and I’m not sure what else there is, but you could say that and not be instantly laughed at).

What you cannot say is that “we are winning in Iraq” when every indication is that the insurgency is becoming more and more active.

Steve Gilliard’s blog piece covers this in considerably more detail.

2. “The insurgents in Iraq are just terrorists, bombing civilians and causing chaos”

(an impression that it would not be hard to receive from news reports, but then from news reports you’d think that the military were barely ever attacked)


The graph comes from a report (PDF, interesting reading) by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. That bar at the bottom is attacks on Coalition military forces. Civilians are sixth from the bottom. You can also look at these graphs from the NYT with a similar message if you like.

Attacks on civilians make up around 4% of the total, and note that this is just going to be including attacks that cause civilian casualties, rather than attacks necessarily specifically against civilians, since, well, how do you tell? Even if you lump in a lot of other groups such as the police and the unspecified category, it’s clear that the vast majority of attacks are being made on the occupying forces.

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There’s always something

Take a look at this, which is the keyboard map for the British layout on OS X when you’re pressing SHIFT:


and now take a look at this, which is my actual new keyboard, paying close attention to the keys outlined in red:


Notice any difference? (That blob above the 2 is a ", incidentally.)

Yes, you’re damn right they’re different. Is there anything I can do about it that doesn’t involve sticky labels or scraping the existing marks off and rewriting them with Tippex? Not as far as I can tell.

“It just works” my puckered ringpiece. Steve Jobs, you are a knobend. And no, I’m not buying an overpriced (though nice-looking) Apple keyboard that gets filled with crap which you can see due to the fact it’s transparent.

N.B. And where’s my bloody # key? ALT-3? You’ve having a laugh.

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01 Call Missed

Photo from Jacob Applebaum travelling in Iraq (via BoingBoing). It’s the detonator on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).


Jacob says in his entry:

“I really wish I had brought a GSM jammer with me.”

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