Wednesday, November 30, 2005

OneLondon pins and stickers

Last week I received a package from the Mayor of London's office. Fearful of a biological attack by someone pretending to be the Mayor of London I carefully opened it. Thankfully the content proved to be more innocent than I initially thought - they were the OneLondon stickers and pins I ordered a couple of months ago.

My excitement soon took over me as I (Danny Wallace style) started pinning OneLondon pins onto every single bag I had. Even my rucksacks. Which I still use on the Underground. All these are a little waste as nobody would be exposed to these. I needed to start plastering those OneLondon stickers all over London.

Unfortunately the stickers given were car stickers (ie. the sticky part is the one being printed on). I couldn't start decorating the high street with this lot. However car stickers has its advantages despite me having not own a car. My car is the tube.

So Friday I boarded the tube to Victoria and started sticking a couple on the windows of a Piccadilly Line train. Apparently plastering stickers all over a tube train is deemed normal because, apart from a few glances from confused tourists, nobody gave a shit. I also gave a couple of pins to tourists who seemed to think they are souvenir pins.

Slightly happier I got onto my National Express coach for Brighton. Before I alighted the coach in Preston Circus I left a sticker behind. Once at Jenni's flat I decided to pin a couple more around her flat.

Now I carry a couple of stickers with me all the time.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Book Review: Banksy - Wall and Piece



As Britain's most wanted graffiti artist, the anonymous Banksy has been responsible for many artistic genius in not only Britain's streets but also in Paris and the Palestinian side of the segregation wall. This book (hardcover) features collections from some of Banksy best street art works including stencilled rats, graffitied farm animals and subversive installation of "Dead rat with spray can" in the Natural History Museum.


Bethlehem (TheGuardian)


As reported here


A stencilled Banksy rat rapper in Brighton (
artofthestate.co.uk)


You can purchase it here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Music Review: Babyshambles - Down in Albion



Before I continue, I would like any The Libertines fans to take note that if you are expecting a repeat to The Libertines of Up The Bracket, then you would be fairly disappointed. Pete Doherty is in Babyshambles now. If would be senseless to compare this band to his former one. Or to talk about his off stage habits and his fascination among the British media.

Having said that it would be stupid not to do some comparison and talk a little bit of Kate Moss. So on to my review.

Down in Albion started out amazingly with Le Belle Et La B├ęte with samples of the lovely Kate Moss. Which followed by Fuck Forever, a crappy remastered grunge number for kids still into that other crappy band called Nirvana. Quite unnecessary really but somehow Pete thought it necessary. Maybe his drug habit screwed him up.

A'rebours followed the continued departure from the stylistic approach that ended in Up The Bracket. Pipedown tried to do another Nirvana halfway through and it failed miserably.



Kilamangiro, as expected, did notdisappointt with this official remixed album version. Pentonville and Sticks & Stones on the other hand has reggae influence. I kid you not. That may be a good thing for some of you but I wanted to break the CD when those two came up.

Albion
on the other hand debuts with acoustic, more in line with Doherty's free online album. And then there was The 32rd December, a very good track by any standard.

So some pretty good tracks hampered with quite some rubbish ones. Quite frankly this album doesn't reach the hype it was supposed to be. The tracks do not feel right together. There is no flow altogether, just a bunch of mismatched tracks; some good, many bad; put together at the last minute.

It is undeniable that Pete Doherty is an excellent song writer. But this album sounded as if he wrote half of them drunk (good) and the other half drunker (bad). In different planets. With his band no where in sight. It was disorientating. Some might even say misguided.

Bloody shambolic.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The BBC and Chinese bloggers / Big Red Bus

I find this article on the Beeb's Weblog Watch to be very interesting. Apparently there are a number of Chinese bloggers who are fed up with the BBC's aggressive approach to interviewing to the point of canceling interviews(!). Another source of anger among some Chinese bloggers is the BBC are always onto the issue of freedom of speech in China.

One of the weblog quoted (with many mistakes) a recent Beeb interview and claimed that such aggressive and repeated questioning as unacceptable.

Excuse me while I laugh out loud. Not only did the blogger in question got some facts wrong but he failed to grasp the true nature of why many British journalists (especially Paxo) act they way they act. This is purely because politicians love to dodge questions. And nobody dodge questions better than senior British politicians (especially in this age of perfecting the art of spin).

Next time switch on the telly and watch a newsreader questioning a politician. Then watch the politician as he or she attempts to side step the question by playing the "before I answer the question, I would like to...". There are reasons why programmes like Newsnight and HARDtalk exist.

Isn't that the whole point of interviews? To get the truth out? Those Chinese bloggers got it lucky anyway. Imagine if Paxo interviewed them (like he would care). I can only hope, can I?

But seriously, I am more inclined to believe that the reason why some Chinese bloggers are opposed to questions on freedom of speech is probably just to protect their blogging 'career'.

Blind patriotism.

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After ITV's The Tube series, a new series on London bus drivers started today on BBC One. Big Red Bus explored on what it takes to be a driver on London's famous red buses.

The first episode features some rather nasty unpleasantness. Terry has to deal with a bunch of kids who attempted to set alight a fire bomb. And CCTV footages revealed a bunch of teenagers who escaped the driver's wrath by fleeing through the upper deck's back window!

Shaftesbury Avenue

We also witnessed Mia who passed the first test en route to becoming a bus driver. More next week.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Metro Maps and Architecture of the World talk

Tuesday, me and the guys from Tube Relief (Annie, Stephen, Fimb and Neil) attended the Metro Maps and Architecture of the World talk by Mark Ovenden and Max Roberts at Central Saint Martins College. Annie was scribbling away furiously in her notebook next to me (you can read more here and here). While the talk was mainly on the design and architecture of the London Underground, Mark also covered Metro systems from around the world - mainly those in Western Europe.

The talk revealed a couple of interesting information for my research into European graphic design of the early 1900s. The typography issue is an interesting one. I will have to look more into Parisians' uneasy relationship with different typeface.

I have to admit, Max's talk on alternative (and usually ripped-off) LU maps was very interesting. Apparently travel guide publishers, mainly from overseas, have their own alternative maps to cater for different cultures. I can't see why they would be bothered - judging by some of the design - nothing I have seen will ever best Harry Beck's iconic diagram.


A very European interpretation of the LU. With many mistakes.

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A couple of weeks ago I was issued with an internal access RFID card. I had misgivings about another RFID card in my wallet as this may interfere with those Oyster card readers on the LU. True enough on Monday when I swiped my wallet on the reader, the system flashed the red 'Seek assistance' notice before the barriers finally opened. A grand total waste of 1.5 seconds. And this morning I had a problem entering a bus before the reader finally accepted my Oyster card after I removed my access card from my wallet.

Anybody else has problems keeping their Oyster card along side other access cards with embedded radio tags?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ice rink at the Natural History Museum

I just happened to be at the V&A today so I decided to pop over across the road and have a look at the much hyped temporary ice rink that opened last week.

A white weekend / Metro Maps of the World

This is early. The Met Office has forecasted that much of Britain will be blanketed with snow from Thursday night. This is inline with early predictions that we will be facing our coldest winter in a decade. But hei, snow is fun. Remember January 2003 when London was brought to a standstill? And I am due in Brighton Friday evening, by coach no less.

And I have also decided to rant against my neighbour who decided to wash his car over the weekend, thus creating a rather frosty and slippery sidewalk.

Source: Yahoo! UK News

Tomorrow I would be (update: they were having trouble with my payment so fingers cross) attending a talk by Mark Ovenden, who is the author of Metro Maps of the World at Central Saint Martins College in Central London. Tickets (£6/£4 concessions) are still available through the London Transport Museum on 020 7379 6344. More details here.

Source: London Underground Tube Diary

Product Review: Sena case for Axim x50v

My Sena case arrived two weeks ago. It came with a red pouch and a box. Opening it up reveals the sweet smell of leather. It isn't as strong as those Vaja cases I once owned in the past though.

The version I ordered was a two tone colour (red and black) version without belt clip (I hate those). As you can see it match quite nicely with my bed spread. :)





Sena has thoughtfully drilled a hole for the reset button down the back.



There is a cut on the top allowing undisturbed access to the 3.5mm headphone jack. This is large enough to even accommodate my Shure e2c.



It fits rather snugly. All buttons are visible. The thin material on the side do worry me a little bit as the large gap down the bottom edge.



Instead of velcro patch or buttons, Sena uses magnetic clips to keep the case close. I love this feature a lot. You can see one of the magnet down the bottom left of the case above the x50v's button in the picture below.



As with most Sena cases, you can sync and charge without removing the case first. And yes that is Quake III: Arena.



There are a couple of grips I had with the case. There are no protection for side impacts especially the bottom edges. And I rather wish Sena would create a case that hide the 'Dell' logo above like the Vaja version does. Despite this I am very happy with the case. It is quite cheap (compared to Vaja) although not quite matching Vaja's level of customisation (colour, choice of leather etc.).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Xbox 360 impression

Yesterday evening I had a chance to have a go at Microsoft's new Xbox 360. Running on it was a demo of Call of Duty 2.

First impression on the console. It is huge. It is almost the exact same size as the original Xbox if placed horizontally. The new white design is easier on the eye compared to the black brick, and with its sleek design, actually looks slimmer, but it is all illusion.

The power adapter is possibly the worst bit of the whole system. At a quarter the size of the 360 itself, it is a complete monster. I could not imagine ever wanting this in my living room.

The new wireless controller is quite comfortable to hold although I did find the analogue stick a tad too responsive. I didn't test the range as the controller was tethered.

Now the game itself isn't that impressive. The graphics aren't as good as Half-Life 2 or Far Cry. Also the graphics has that PC feel to it - very sharp, in fact almost too sharp. Behind my glasses, I was not able to detect any usage of anti-aliasing (smoothing).

The 360 was hooked up to a 21" LCD screen with XGA resolution and the graphics seemed fine for casual gamers. As a former PC gamer I have seen it all, although I am still curious to see how it performs if paired with a high definition screen.

Playing Call of Duty 2 on a joypad proved once again how superior it is that FPS games are on PC, with a keyboard and mouse. It is just impossible to point and shoot with a joypad. This isn’t the fault of the 360's controller as all current consoles suffers the same impracticality. Which is why I can't wait for Nintendo Revolution with the new freestyle remote controller.

Will I get one? No. My next PC upgrade is due in a year and by then it would have surpassed the power of the 360. Also none of the launch title really caught my eye.

I am actually more curious to see the multi-core Cell powered Sony PS3 and Nintendo Revolution in action.

Friday, November 18, 2005

On Christian fundamentalists who cracks me up

Was surfing through a couple of Brit blogs and visited Paul's blog, who left a comment here. The blog entry by Paul on a Christian fundamentalist organisation, The ChildCare Action Project, really cracked me up.

This Christian fundamentalist organisation 'reviews' films and subjects them through a torturous proprietary CAP model, where a films' unsuitability is highlighted based on the model provided by the New Testament. Basically a higher score means it's good.

Not surprisingly, Kevin Smith's Dogma (a favourite film of mine actually) got an eyeful from the reviewer (a pitiful score of 6 out of a theoretical 100) due to a number of blasphemous contents.

Hell even The Passion of the Christ received a rather curious '69'. Eh? Harry Potter and The Lord of the Ring all received condemnation due to portrayal of evil wizardry used for good.

And get this, Toy Story 2 got docked a point because there were "many Barbie(tm) dolls dancing in swimwear while characters ogle at them with sensuous expressions".

I am going to bookmark it. It's so fucking mental, it's bloody hilarious.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

BBC One tonight: 7/7: The Day The Bombs Came

Less than a minute later, Germaine Lindsey detonated his explosive laden rucksack close to where Gill had been standing.

The whole environment changed and suddenly it felt like I was falling in black thick liquid or tar and my immediate sensation or thought was that I was having a heart attack and that I was dying in the Tube. (
via)

If you don't mind reliving the nightmare some Londoners had to go through last summer, 7/7: The Day The Bombs Came will be broadcasted tonight, 9pm on BBC One. The documentary will use recollections by members of the emergency services who helped the victims, as well as news clips, CCTV footages and taped phone calls used by emergency services.

This would be followed by 7/7: Citizen Journalists, on how the victims of the London bombing became 'citizen journalists' and how they changed the way news were played on the media. That would be on BBC Three from 10:35pm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Why I support the Licensing Act for flexible drinking hours

A mate of mine from Germany loves to drink. This is not unusual. She has introduced me to loads of German lagers to the point I wish I could attend the annual Oktoberfest.

And she ain't a yob. She does not vomit all over the place or hit people for no apparent reason. She loves her lagers, I promise you that, but she also drinks in moderation. A habit, she admits, inherited from her country.

I do not think that flexible hours would encourage binge drinking more than the current limit already has. Hell what I am arguing is it may actually decrease binge drinking and public disorder. Flexible hours mean I can choose to go to the local pub at any time I want with my mates, have a nice pint and bugger off at a time of our choosing, while staying sober enough.

The problem isn't with the drink itself - it is people. And right now with pubs being forced to close at 11pm, punters are urged to drink up before being chucked out. Drinking five pints of beer in eight hours is a hell lot better than drinking five pints in three hour.

This legislation, if successful, would reintroduce the pub as a public sphere where people can have decent conversation over a pint without fear of being forced to finish up, is hell a lot of better hordes of drunk kids pouring into the streets at the stroke of 11. Much better than reading about silly fake blog wars, that were created by attention seekers to increase traffic, at 2am.

There will always be binge drinkers and yobs who love to get drunk silly regardless of the outcome and nothing can change that. People like George Best are ain't worth it and unfortunately some people love to emulate other people's desire to destroy their lives.

A tougher punishment against landlords who continue serving the drunks with more than they need to, is also a good idea - but do not punish the majority of us who just want to enjoy a drink. I wouldn't mind any increase in booze duty so long as it returns into helping people.

Longer hours or not, the brewery industry should at least start being responsible by at least owning up to the fact that their products does affect some people. I would love to see a portion of their profit going into local NHS coffers and local policing or even the opening of more help centres for the troubled.

Now if you will excuse me I would just hop down to my local pub for a pint before they close at 11.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Winter and France

Brr. Winter is officially here. It is fucking freezing. London's temperature will finally touch the big 'O' this Thursday night. It will slowly improve from there on but the doom prediction of this year's coldest winter in a decade will probably come true this January. I marvel at the way my flatmate, who works for CNN as a reporter, dresses up non-chalantly in his pressed suit and cycles to work.

-

We cancelled our December trip to Paris. All those riot really exposed how corrupt the French elites really are. I am far from anti-frogs - I have loads of mates from France - but politically I am torn. France is half a model socialist democratic country governed by an elite group of people with fascist ideals (much like in the early 1920s). Flame me if you will but I am deeply cynical - you can't be liberal and right wing at the same time.

As far as boycott goes I expect loads of people to be cancelling/postponing their trips across the channel. They, the French that is, had it coming. Jennifer had to apply for a Visa to enter the country and twice the French consulate in South Kensington, were rude to her, and in my opinion exhibited racist tendencies. An Iranian colleague of hers who also applied for a Visa some months ago, was told in the face that "you, definitely won't be able to enter" without so much of a glance of his passport.

A shame really because I have always wanted to visit the Sewers at place de la Resistance and the Pere-Lachaise cemetery. Maybe next year to the South of France. Jennifer has a mate there who could probably put us up.

After all that, truthfully, I am actually rather glad. I rather spend Christmas in cold Britannia watching crap reruns (maybe auntie Beeb could rerun Jerry Springer: The Opera) on the telly - than running round Paris trying to figure the Metro (whose maps are baffling compared to Harry Beck's LU diagram) and then having to spent the night in the hotel due to half measure curfews.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Windows Mobile 5.0 upgrade thougths

I finally upgraded my PDA to Windows Mobile 5.0 today and guess what? I 'downgraded' back to Windows Mobile 2003 SE a couple of hours later.

I wanted to like the new OS. But after struggling with it for hours I decided it wasn't worth it being an unpaid Microsoft beta tester.

Persistent Storage

This was supposed to be a good idea. Still is. But the implementation is downright shoddy. The way persistent storage technology is supposed to work is programs and data are all saved into Flash ROM ala traditional mobile phones. This works. But the downside is the whole PDA experience is ruined by a device which struggles even after a hard reset (the 'align screen' applet is so so so slow).

GUI

The GUI is still based on the same one that debuted on the original Pocket PC OS. Apart from some cosmetic changes, nicer colours et al. you would not need to re-learn much. The most significant changes is the implementation of two new soft buttons to mimic (something MS does best) those on mobile phones. A great idea ripped off from mobile phone vendors but done in Microsoft's piss poor half measure manner. The only PDA mobile OS that can be used truly one handed is PalmOS 5.x on Palm's Treo 650.

Bluetooth

Broadcom's excellent Bluetooth stack is gone. With it came Microsoft's own Bluetooth stack. And with it went some truly good functions.

Internet Explorer Mobile

There is now a download progress bar. Hurrah! Why? To demonstrate how slow PIE is when opening websites. Stick with NetFront. Or wait for Minimo (mini Firefox).

Office suites

I haven't had a chance to test the office suites before I uninstalled WM 5.0. I played around with Word Mobile which crashed the first time I started it. It worked after a soft reset. Nothing visible that seemed to impressed me but I am no Office addict so this isn't a question to ask me.

ActiveSync 4.0

I have been using ActiveSync 4.x for a month now and it is alright. Works just like ActiveSync 3.x

But using ActiveSync 4.0 on WM 5.0, which is was designed for, was a nightmare. Firstly it did not connect with my device for the first hour until I figured that it was being shot down by Windows XP. Once I got that up and running I found it to be a tad too slow. It takes 30 seconds just to connect to my device.

I was also forced to sync 2 weeks of worthless past appointments into the PDA and I have no control over the Contacts applet.

I have read that ActiveSync 4.0/4.1 that were shipped with the Axim x50v upgrade and various WM 5.0 devices like the i-mate JasJar, are beta versions. Quite why MS are even allowed to ship beta versions on commercial products that people pay for is beyond me, but nothing surprises me anymore.

Installation/Execution of programs

Taking cue from one of Nokia's Series 60 more bad examples, WM 5.0 now asks whether I should install/execute any 'unsigned' program first. Which is annoying. I understand in the age of virus/worms this may be a good feature but come on - let us turn it off!

Battery

This isn't specifically a WM 5.0 problem. This problem is with Dell me thinks. While WM 5.0 is supposed to increase battery life, it did not for me. Apparently my x50v is chewing through the battery so much that once I removed it from my charger in a few minutes it dropped from 100% to 96%. Wow. The battery also felt hot, which is an indication that the PDA is running at full speed ALL THE TIME.

Conclusion

All in all a pathetic try. A worthy successor to Windows ME as a rushed and lame duck of an OS. I hope MS releases an update to WM 5.0 soon to address the problems - especially the one related to performance. With 624Mhz of processing power, it actually felt like a 206Mhz StrongARM device.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Peep Show

Last night's third season of comedy sitcom, Peep Show (Channel 4) was awesome. Am glad that David Mitchell and Robin Webb has finally returned to the telly as the dysfunctional flatmates, Mark and Jeremy from Croydon.

In yesterday's episode, Mark struggles with an erection problem after being mugged by two Chavs in an underpass while Jez has to make do with a threesome.

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Happy Birthday to my brother, Jeremy, who turns 24 tomorrow.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Bonfire hangover

Hi guys,

Hope you all had a wonderful bonfire night out. We went to Lewes for our bonfire celebration. The parades, bonfire and fireworks were organised by the Lewes Societies and Lewes Bonfire Council and was attended by tens of thousand revelers.

We arrived at Lewes Station along with thousands from all over the South East. We viewed the procession in the high street before walking one mile to Waterloo bonfire site (there are five separate bonfire/fireworks site), a soggy field where I ruined my trainers.

A 15 minutes fireworks display later we joined a 300 yard deep queue at the station. Fireworks continued around us as people toast Guy Fawkes Day 400 years after the attempt bombing of Parliament.

Pictures up tonight.