Archive for July, 2005

The GIMP, OS X and font crashing

Just a small tip here for anyone googling for an answer to this problem, so they don’t have to go to quite the same lengths that I did.

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If you are using the Gimp (for example, via the excellent Gimp.app) and you find that it crashes when you scroll up and down the font list sometimes, your problem may be that there is a dodgy font there called NISC18030.ttf. It’s stored in /Library/Fonts. Move it somewhere else, restart the Gimp and things should be fine. It’s not one that you’re likely to need to use in other applications anyway.

It’s been reported that two other fonts – DevanagariMT.ttf and DevanagariMTBold.ttf – might also cause problems, but those don’t seem to be standard in Tiger.

I use the Gimp all the time; I used to have Photoshop Elements, but when they upgraded the version to 3 including a photo organiser that I didn’t need, I decided that I wasn’t going to bother paying any more money. Gimp.app simply sits there in the Dock, and launches X11 and the Gimp when I click on it; I can also drop image files onto the Dock icon and it will load them up. I’ve really had no reason to go back to Photoshop, or warez it, which would be a terribly teenage thing to do. Windows version’s good too.

~waves open-source banner~

Well, it was either this or post nothing.

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don’t believe it

If you receive an email like this:

Important Number you should note 25/Jul/05 09:24
If you travel to work on the tube please note the following information: If your mobile phone has no signal (so even if you were in a tunnel) if you dial 112 it diverts to a satellite signal and puts you through to the 999 call centre. ALL phone companies have signed up and as it is a satellite service it also gives them a trace to you if you don’t know where you are.

don’t believe it. It’s a hoax – dialling 112 will take you to 999 and has done for a while, but only if you have a signal, which at the moment you don’t on the tube. And for god’s sake don’t forward it on. Of course, the fact that it claims that “it diverts to a satellite signal” should tip you off – you’re underground, how’s it going to contact a satellite? A teeny tiny little tube satellite that zips around at the top of the tunnels?

Come to think of it, the fact that you received it via email should have tipped you off too. Anything forwarded by anybody via email is pretty much always rubbish. Certainly any security alert, rumour about transport, “if you call this number it costs 50 a minute” etc etc, let alone the really obvious ones with tsunami kids, “read to the bottom and make a wish” and “Bill Gates will pay you $200 if you forward this to twenty people”. Remember that “send this to everyone you know” is the sex organ of the viral email peeking through its pants, indicating that it’s not quite sure that it is funny or scary or believable enough that people will actually forward it and it will reproduce, so it has to really underline the point. The presence of the phrase or any similar one is a bad sign.

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The only forwarded email I can remember that was actually close to what you’d call “true” was the ICE one…

East Anglian Ambulance Service have launched a national “In Case of Emergency (ICE)” campaign with the support of Falklands war hero Simon Weston and in association with Vodafone’s annual life savers award. The idea is that you store the word “ICE” in your mobile phone address book, and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted “In Case of Emergency”. In an emergency situation ambulance and hospital staff will then be able to quickly find out who your next of kin are and be able to contact them. It’s so simple – everyone can do it. Please do. Please will you also forward this to everybody in your address book, it won’t take too many forwards’ before everybody will know about this. It really could save your life and create peace of mind for your loved ones.

ICE is actually a real thing, but they never said “forward it to everybody in your address book” – that’s the viral/annoying bit. It spawned a counter-email that said

Be very careful with this one – although the intention is great it is unfortunately phase one of a phone based virus that is laying a path for propagating very quickly. Passing it on is part of the virus interestingly, such is the deviousness of the people who write these things. We have already seen the “second phase” where a program is sent as part of a ring-tone download that goes into your address book and looks for something it recognises – you’ve guessed it, an address book entry marked “ICE or I.C.E.” or whatever. It then sends itself to the “ICE list”, charging you for the privilege.

which is of course complete rubbish. Emails that talk about phone viruses should always go straight in the bin. It’s interesting how people are quite happy to believe that you can get viruses on your computer, phone, watch, dishwasher etc by all sorts of baroque mechanisms – text messages, al Qaeda hackers, talking to badgers, just plain magic – yet remain stubbornly resistant to avoiding the actual ways you get viruses. I can just see somebody getting the above in his inbox and immediately deleting ICE contacts from his phone, before going back to surfing porn sites with IE 5.5, thinking he’s had a lucky escape.

But then. You know. People.

I’m quite fond of the idea of chain or viral emails, but I hate getting them so much that I’ve put everybody I know off sending them to me (it’s the habit I have of replying to all with a link to a page proving that it’s crap, I think). This means that I can’t research them quite as much as I otherwise might.

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Photographic evidence

I also noticed that the Mail was up to the same thing – not terribly surprising all told.

disgraceful Daily Express cover disgraceful Daily Mail cover

They don’t like people taking camphone pictures in supermarkets very much, so I didn’t get any other covers, but those were the worst. The Sun wasn’t nearly as bad. The red tops just aren’t up there any more when it comes to sheer naked hatred.

Edit: Actually, now I come to read it properly rather than hang around with a cameraphone looking dodgy, the Sun‘s cover is still pretty bad.

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Satire dead for 23535th time

I swear I did not photoshop this.

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I got it straight from the Express‘ site. Honestly. I’ll see if I can take a picture of a real copy to prove it.

I won’t need to photoshop tabloid covers any more if this sort of thing carries on. Perhaps I could create balanced, sane versions instead.

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Aroused by the Mail; more hippo fun

I’ve been too generally sick and disgusted with things recently to feel like blogging about them, but the Mail can always drag me from torpor with the quality of its journalism, particularly its habit of including exceptionally relevant and well-sourced information.

It was reported today that at least one of the bombers had received benefits while living in the UK.

The Department of Work and Pensions was unable to confirm the reports. (Mail)

A sneak preview of new claim form B78:

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Mind you, if you’re looking for utter toss I’ve yet to see something that beats the following piece, since “Londonistan” anyway.

There is a growing feeling among many of the Londoners I know that it was not so much radical Islam that attacked them, or al-Qaeda or some deranged youth cult. It was Leeds that attacked London. Here was the other England, the impoverished, hateful, culture-devoid England, attacking the country’s much more successful, happily pluralist urban pole. (Globe and Mail)

I’ve noticed a lot of the inhabitants of Swinging London muttering about Leeds as well. It’s getting to be a common topic of conversation. “What are we going to do about Leeds?” “We need stronger border controls.” “That Leeds lot, they just hate us, they hate freedom.”

Let us turn for a moment to the white people of Leeds. To understand them, I dropped in on one of their more successful representatives, a 31-year-old retired squash pro named Nick Cass.

Mr. Cass, a red-haired giant, is the Yorkshire organizer for the British National Party, the most successful of Britain’s far-right political parties.

The best way to understand white people – talk to white supremacists.

There’s a lot more but I’m going to skip to the end, and the statement

Class mobility, which I believe is the most important measure of a society’s success, is virtually nil in Britain.

which is balls, even ignoring the fact that when he says “class” he means “economic”; Britain is about average for Europe on that basis. I suspect that he’s suffering from Journalist Statistics Syndrome, a sadly common condition that leads hacks to misunderstand, misrepresent or just make up figures to support whatever point they fancy, even in the presence of abstracts that quite clearly say the exact opposite. But we are on the fantasy hippo again here. Giddyup! There is actually one small non-hippotastic (though somewhat obvious) truth in the piece – poverty makes people unhappy and discontent – but I think you might have guessed that one already.

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stockwell fantasies

At Stockwell tube station this morning, a place with which I am pretty familiar:

Mark Whitby said: “I was sitting on the train… I heard a load of noise, people saying, ‘Get out, get down’.

“I saw an Asian guy. He ran on to the train, he was hotly pursued by three plain clothes officers, one of them was wielding a black handgun.

“He half tripped… they pushed him to the floor and basically unloaded five shots into him,” he told BBC News 24…

…”I got into the ticket hall. I was approached by a policeman and London Underground staff asking me if I needed counselling.

“I was just basically saying I’ve just seen a man shot dead. I’ve seen a man shot dead. I was distraught, totally distraught. It was no less than five yards away from where I was sitting. I actually saw it with my own eyes.” (BBC)

Don’t quite know what to make of this yet. A distinct lack of information beyond the bare facts.

Not that that’s stopping people internet-cheering, revealing all sorts of Tom Clancy fantasies about instant justice, talking about “five shots to the head” with relish. (Five shots to the head with extra relish, coming right up, would you like fries with that?)

It makes me too cross to respond. This isn’t a fucking airport novel, with white hats and black hats, moral certitude and a nice conclusive ending. Even the officer probably wasn’t completely sure he had the right man as he was pulling the trigger. I don’t need the urban revenge fantasies of a bunch of unconnected dimwits rewriting real life events into an Andy McNabb miniseries in their heads, without even having the decency to call it fiction. That is the sort of behaviour that gets humanity into trouble, time and time again.

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Terrorists didn’t win, way of life not changed

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They can’t stop me buying gadgets.

I was in the office earlier on when things started happening and I was unable to get onto any of the streaming radio that would have given me live updates. Various internet people were telling me that they were hearing things on Five Live and so on, and I couldn’t.

This, plus my usual gadget lust, brought me to pop into the Sony Store on the way home and buy the thing to the right – an SRF-M10 teeny-tiny radio. Seriously, it’s extremely small, I could hide it up my nose. The justification for this was that I needed to be able to hear travel news on public transport but let’s face it, that’s bollocks. I wanted a gadget. And I got one, in black and chrome, strangely similar to the T610, but not a phone.

It’s got a clock on it, preset stations and a thumping bass boost. One of the problems I have with portable radios is that they don’t properly damage my ears. Not this thing. I was listening to it on the bus home over the sound of the traffic and the chugga-chugga-chugga of the bus itself; I had it on in the pub where I stopped for a quick “oh fuck all this” pint and it drowned out the chatter of the Tarquins and Jemimas at the next table.

I have to say that it can’t actually receive Five Live, because that’s on AM/MW. But Five Live is mostly crap anyway.

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Inappropriate responses

hamersmith_C_line.gif (0K)innocent victim

Well. Four bombs, all rubbish; presumably from the same batch, somebody adding a bit too much salt or something. At least one bomber arrested. A few other suspect packages and areas cordoned off, don’t know too much about that at the moment and the urge to check every information source possible has left me. Possibly somebody arrested near Downing Street.

That’s twice now that I’ve been too far away for me to go see anything and get some pictures, but my bloody tube home has been cut off. At least the first time I couldn’t get to work – now I’m stuck here, alternative route back being a packed 27 bus in the heat, sweating all over everybody else. Fantastic. They’ve bloody got it in for the Hammersmith And City. Why? It’s a charming, inoffensive line, denoted by a gentle pink. What could anybody have against it?

If this means that I have to take the bus to work all next week I shall be most put out. Reduced service of four trains an hour was bad enough.

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Yeah, I know

See: Livejournal. (It’s quicker and easier for me to publish, and gets to more people faster.)

Looks like that’s me getting the bus home. Bollocks.

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Nobody expects the Task Force Of Reason!

Send in the anti-fundamentalist hit squads!

Tony Blair said today after a meeting with Muslim community leaders that a “task force or network” would be created to tackle extremism “head on”.

The network would go into communities to actively confront what he called an “evil ideology” based on a perversion of Islam, and “defeat it by the force of reason”. (Guardian)

Despite “force of reason” being a bit close to “sword of truth” and “shield of British fair play”, and the whole thing being just a little “Brand America“, I liked this idea.

[Scene: a dusty room in a North London mosque. A fiery RADICAL CLERIC with scars, hooks etc is addressing an audience of earnest YOUNG MEN sitting on plastic chairs.]

RADICAL CLERIC: “…and I say to you, the Western governments are decadent imperialists, out to destroy the umma… the destruction of 911 was just punishment…”

[The YOUNG MEN nod and stroke their chins, murmuring agreement. Suddenly, the door bursts open and a TASK FORCE composed of MPs, peers, businessmen, religious leaders and education experts enters. The LEADER is a respectable middle-aged man in a suit, brandishing a copy of the Economist.]

LEADER OF TASK FORCE: “Stop! We are Tony Blair’s Task Force Of Reason, and we are here to defeat your evil ideology!”

RADICAL CLERIC: “Curses!” [He turns to run, but the back door opens to reveal more TASK FORCE MEMBERS, with an IMAM at the head.]

IMAM: “You’ll not escape that way!” [He brandishes a warrant card, marked "Official Good Muslim" and signed by Charles Clarke.] “We’ll stop at nothing to prevent you brainwashing these impressionable youths with your perversion of the true faith of Islam.”

[Sundry TASK FORCE MEMBERS restrain the RADICAL CLERIC and tie him to a plastic chair. The IMAM stands in front of the YOUNG MEN and begins a lengthy theological argument, destroying the RADICAL CLERIC's position remorselessly, piece by piece. They look impressed.]

YOUNG MAN 1: “I see now that my youthful inexperience and dissatisfaction have been exploited by this man to make me party to his irrational hate!”

YOUNG MAN 2: “Me too!” [He stands, opens his jacket and removes a belt of explosives.] “I won’t be needing this any more!”

[When he is finished, a BUSINESSMAN extols the virtues of modern neo-liberal economics, and MPS and PEERS prove by the force of reason that Western governments are fundamentally just and good, particularly where foreign policy is concerned. Throughout, the RADICAL CLERIC sobs as his plans crumble about him. Eventually the lecture is finished and the YOUNG MEN stand.]

YOUNG MAN 3: [Shakes the LEADER's hand.] “I must thank you for what you have done today. We were vulnerable to extremist ideas, but you have engaged with us and we are no longer a danger to anyone, including ourselves.”

LEADER: “No need to thank me – it’s all in a day’s work. But you have your whole lives ahead of you now, free of hate. What will you do?”

YOUNG MAN 4: “Why, we’re off to get jobs and become productive members of the middle classes of course!”

YOUNG MAN 5: “Yes, why didn’t we think of that before?”

[The YOUNG MEN leave, closely followed by the TASK FORCE, leaving the CLERIC, who has stopped sobbing, still tied to the chair. He looks around him.]

RADICAL CLERIC: “Hello?”

[MI5 men slip in behind him, gag him and bundle him into a large crate marked "Guantanamo Bay".]

Disappointingly, though, the actual result of this seems to just be getting the Special Branch to spy on Muslims. That’s going to be really effective.

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