« June 2003 | Main | September 2003 »

Spooks: Season 1 DVD

August 31, 2003

Spooks is a British drama series about Series B, a counter terrorist section of MI5. This is the best drama series I have seen in a long time and the DVD presents it very well. The series uses suspense, intense music, split screens and realistic scenes to hold it's viewers in a grip (or in the sofa).

The episodes were no surprise as I have seen most of them on TV but the added bonus on the DVD I would like to rave about.

First of all, the standard (boring) menu system has been replaced with an interactive movie of an intruder to the Section B office. You steer him to select audio options, scene index and cut scenes. First time I watched the DVD I actually thought the menu system was the first episode ;-)

5.1 sounds makes the episodes even more dramatic than the TV version. Shame no sub-titles were put on as the dialogs tend to get complicated, especially with the addition of various British and American dialects.

Get the DVD here.



Busy Bee

August 30, 2003

eagle.jpg
Cleaning can be so therapeutical. I was really looking forward to some time of to tackle the increasing amount of grime at our place.

Vacuuming, scrubbing, washing, drying, and shredding (leaves in garden). Clean pad, clean mind.

Then just 6hrs helping a good friend (Svante) moving (what are friends for). Ok, most of the time was spent on the busy roads of London and some time in the pub munching on figs and Parma ham and downing Budvar (the Czech one).

Pedro and his flatmate invited us for dinner (1st or 2nd time ever :-) and it was majora. Brazilian food at its home-made best. Once again thank you Bruno!

Update 1/9/03
Oh yeah, forgot to mention. Insurance company X honoured my claim so I got a new bike. Sweet.

Listening to: Arabesque



Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

August 29, 2003

laraA glowing golden globe has been stolen. This globe is told to have a map inscribed on it that will leads it's owner to the mythical Pandora's Box.

Of course some baddie gets hold of the globe and plans to find Pandora's box to unleash it's content. Lara Croft is sent out to retrieve the globe and her adventure leads her to a secret place called the Cradle of Life.

Not bad at all. The movie is fast paced and the action scenes are entertaining. Lara Croft is as superior as ever and fun to watch. As long you don't get annoyed by unrealistic story lines (it's a movie) you should be ok.

More on the Internet Movie Database

[Listening to: Coming Of Age - Breaking Point -- CD * - (04:09)]


Friends are good for you

August 28, 2003

A very old friend Snorri and his girl friend Lotta are visiting us for a couple of days. So of course, we called some friends over and a Sushi party was on. Nothing like chilled cheap rose wine and salmon sashimi on a late summer evening.

Feng Sushi let us down though, shame on you. Did not deliver until 1hr after the order was made and part of the order was missing. What is going on, you are always aces normally.

I really enjoy having friends visiting. You get a chance to catch up on old times and planning touristy things makes me appreciate London so much more. It's easy to forget you live in one of the most exciting (bar Helsingborg) towns in Europe when you work 9-7 and spend weekends DIYing.

[Listening to: I'm Glad - Jennifer Lopez -- CD This Is Me Then - (03:49)]


Portrait shots

August 27, 2003

dofHow to get crispy shots of the subject with a blurred background? You need to know what depth of field is and what determines it.

Although the exact focus occurs in a single point there is a range (in distance) in which there appears to be focus in your photo. This is the Depth of Field (DOF).

The DOF is affected mainly by apperture size and focal length (zoom). The bigger the aperture (lower f-number) and the longer the focal length (more zoom) the smaller the depth of field is.

So next time you are taking a portrait shot, max up the aperture and use a zoom lens (80mm+).

Of course, you can also use the portrait mode dial.gif if you have a newer SLR camera and it will do exactly the above for you.

More on depth of field

PS Photo taken by Tomas Hancka (more photos)



Spam - How to limit it in your inbox

August 26, 2003

Herbal Viagra, anatomy enlargements, academical degrees, buy a bride(groom), US$100,000,000 transfers and various pyramid scams. The longer you have had your email address the more spam (unsolicited email) you are getting each day. During the last 3 years I have been looking into avoiding spam emails in my inbox and here is some advice.

Be netwise
First step is to limit the exposure of your email address. This is necessary because spammers collect email addresses from the Internet and buy email addresses from not so honest web businesses.

When signing up to ANYTHING online/offline make sure you check the fine print of what the company can and will do with your email address. Select not to receive any information from 3rd parties. Asses the risk of the company selling on your email, is it really worth the 1 in million chance of winning a fluffy stuffed animal?

Create a separate hotmail account dedicated to registration emails only. Give this address whenever asked during registration processes.

There is a new service called Mailinator that you can use when in need of a temporary email address. It works by creating email addresses on the fly, when a message is being delivered. So next time you are asked for an email address, give the service something random @mailinator.com. Later you can pick up the confirmation email you wanted but don't have to worry about future spam. Just remember that anybody can pick up that confirmation email if they guess the address so there is 0 privacy with this service.

Disable preview of emails in your client. When an HTML email is displayed, images are fetched from the spammers servers and immediately your email address will be marked as active. By previewing spam you will receive even more.

Never ever reply to spam. The return address will be forged 99% of the time and you are only wasting your time and bandwidth.

Do not use the unsubscribe links in obvious spam emails. Once again typing in your email in any fake unsubscribe forms will indicate you are real and alive and want more spam.

Masquerade (munge) your email address if whenever you are leaving it on discussion forums or other web sites where it may become visible to any visitor. Some common ways to masquerade it is to replace "." and "@" with the words "dot" and "at" or add some silly word in the middle of the address, eg NOSPAMING.

Software
If you follow the rules above you should minimize the risk for future spam but what about the current flood of spam? Below are some software solutions that you can use.

Mailwasher is my favorite 1st defense. It downloads a preview of your email from the mail server and tries to determine whether it is good or spam. From a list of emails you can select which ones to delete without even downloading them. When done, you then use your regular email client to retrieve the spam free messages.

I am using the FREE version 2.0.28 that allows you to use multiple POP3 and Hotmail accounts. The most recent FREE version 2.0.40 is limited to one POP3 account and does not allow Hotmail account. The FULL software is great and well worth the $30.

The software detects spam by a combination of keywords and known spam sources (black listed servers).

Make sure to deselect the bounce feature as it has been reported to let the spammers know you are real and increase spam.

Below is a list of DNS black list servers that I am using:

Cloudmark SpamNet is a more automated software as it is a plug-in for MS Outlook (support for Outlook Express coming soon). When you mark an email as spam, it will be marked as spam in the Inbox of any other subscriber of SpamNet.

The email client of Netscape 7.1 is reported to be very effective in eliminating spam. There is a Bayesian filter at the core of the spam filter. It works by learning what spam is and what is good email. As such, it is reported to take some time (1 week) before getting accurate (95%).

If you are on a corporate network and getting too much spam email to your work address ask the administrator to install a spam filter.

Identify spammer
Identifying the spammer is tricky and it requires you to have a look at the header of the email. Forget the return address, it is almost always forged. SpamCop does a great job at identifying the culprit and even lets you send complaint to administrators of their network.

More information
Spamcop
News groups (alt.spam)



News (RSS) aggregation

August 25, 2003

rss-icon.jpg After advice from Stefan, I have discovered news aggregators to be a great way to keep updated about favourite blogs and news.

RSS stands for really simple syndication and is an XML representation of an article. All the layout and formatting information is left out and left is raw information. Most common information is creation date, title, summary and full text.

RSS feed aggregators will scan RSS feeds that you define at specified interval and notify you when updates are available.

How to get started
First find out whether the blog or news you are following are available in any syndication format. Most common are RSS in various versions.

LiveJournal blogs have their RSS feeds at http://www.livejournal.com/users/<username>/rss. Movable Type blogs will often have an index.xml with the RSS feed. InfoWorld has many interesting RSS feeds.

When you have a collection of feeds you would like to monitor its time to get the software. A good list can be found here.

I have tested the FREE Feedreader and recommend it. Stefan has had good experience with the commercial NewsGator that works as a Microsoft Outlook plug-in.

There, now it is much easier to keep up with your increasing amount of information.



Couple of clicks on the old odometer

August 25, 2003

This weekend was an annoying mix on bad things and good things to happen. Yes, it was the worst weekend in a long time but also I had some wonderful time with Carla and Ginger.

The bad
Coming home last Friday (day before bank holiday) discovering our car has been towed. Getting a cab to fetch the car and paying a ransom worthy of Robin Hood to get it.

Missing our plane to Scotland and thus the 2 months ago planned trip. Bummer.

Coming home after a road trip (see below) and discovering my bike had been stolen. I had become quite attached to it during the last 3 years. Maybe because it has had to carry a lot of weight around...

Can you top this foul luck?

The good
Desperately we decided for a road trip to the North with Ginger on board. As soon as we passed Oxford we started feeling bit better and arriving in the Lake District we soon forgot our worries. The narrow roads and steep hills sure helped.

Windermere was a charming village but we found our retreat at Leeming House, just by Ullswater. What a charming area! I really enjoyed walking around and smelling the nature as it ought to be, not poisoned by urban pollution. So THAT is the colour of trees.

Photos...

Hmm, I should be able to get a brand new bike. At least that is what insurance company X claims.

[Listening to: Kielbasa - Tenacious D - Tenacious D (03:00)]


Housing sorted, Scotland here we come

August 21, 2003

Crees In Phew... I escaped from Carla's wrath, but it was close.

We are planning to visit Edinburgh and surroundings, Perth among other cities.

This is the last weekend of the Fringe Festival so that will be fun checking out. We also have a (dubious) white water rafting booked.

Turns out that there is a Harley Davidson get-together in Perth and thus all possible housing have been booked up for weeks. I know I should have booked months ago but it just ain't me. I almost gave Carla (another) chance to say I told you so.

The Crees Inn looks very charming and if you are in the neighbourhood, do pop over for an ale or six.

Anyways, back 26th of August...



Animatrix

August 20, 2003

Animatrix is a must for any fan of the Matrix trilogy, especially if you are into animations.

The DVD consists of 9 short stories that all happen in the world of the original Matrix movies but that are wonderfully alternative. You will see explanations of how machines were driven to mutiny and you will see other heroes than Neo.

The animation technique varies from state of the art CG (computer generated) a la Final Fantasy: Spirits within, via traditional Japanese Anime to black and white. Simply splendid.

Favorite episode? Matriculated for sure. What a wonderful animation of virtual reality.

Don't forget to listen to directors commentary as it shows how much work and talent there is behind the animations.

=== SPOILER BELOW ===

In Matriculated, at the end. Did I see right that the (bum) lights of the machine were back to red? Does this mean that it realised the virtual reality had been fake and that love between it and a human being was not possible?

d.



Google your unit conversions

August 20, 2003

Google just doesn't stop delivering the goods. New features I discovered recently and would like to share: unit conversions and updated toolbar.

Did you know you can type in your conversion right into the search box and Google will return the answer instead of searching for pages. Some examples would be


Toolbar 2.0
In addition to the previous functionality of searching without going to Google page and highlighting the toolbar provides pop-up blocking, auto filling of forms.

Get it here!

Full list of Google features

Update August 10th, 2005
Google recently added currency conversion to their serch. As always with Google the feature is very intuitive. Try any of the following:

73 british pounds in euros

430 USD in SEK



Camel toe

August 19, 2003

What a bad start to the day. I saw a 70+ year old camel toe on my way to work.

Makes me wonder; is the camel toe wearing person not aware of the "fashion" feature or is it intentional? I would guess the former for an elderly person and the later for a younger female.

Personal note: what is the name for the male version of a camel toe?



Top dog / Underdog

August 18, 2003

A tale about the classical themes of greed and jelousy. This time in the shape of two brothers that are struggling to make it one day at a time.

The older brother (Lincoln) is working at an arcade, pretending to be Abraham Lincoln. His younger brother (Booth) is a hustler.

The acting and costumes were top notch. The street lingo was hard to understand at times. The perfomance is 2:15 long and performed at Royal Court, Sloane Square, London (UK).

Here is a more thorough review.

Update 04/09/03
I was surprised to see one of the actors, Mos Def, in the block buster movie Italian Job. Great performance!



T3: Rise of machines

August 18, 2003

Gee, what a disappointment. Arnold is old and not properly pumped, no Sarah Connor present and weak lead actors just to mention a few of the fallbacks. Still, the flick has some attractions for an old Terminator fan.

It is the most humorous Terminator of the three and all the lead actors manage to be funny.

Catch the movie because of the stunning effects but be warned about the weak plot.

IMDB



Sony DVP-NS730

August 18, 2003

Our old trustworthy samsung dvd-709 gave up after recent refurbishment. I suspect the large amount of dust to be the reason :-)

I set out to search for a replacement with the following criterieas:

For 160 (high-street price) this Sony is a bargain and delivers great quality video and sound.

Jargon
Multi region: Will alow you to play discs from all over the world. Good if you want to buy DVDs from USA or Asia.

Progressive video: In short this will result in double (vertical) resolution and less flicker in the image. You have to have a display that supports it (plasma screen, LCD, 100Hz tv).

Component video out: Requirement for progressive scan. Will output the video in 3 seperate cables. Good if you are connecting to projector or plasma.

MP3 support: Can play home made CD with MP3 music. Good party factor.

JPG support: View home made cd/dvd with photos.

Dual scart: the unit can be used to loop through other video devices (eg VCR)



Pioneer 433MXE plasma TV

August 17, 2003

How about a flat, skinny, 43", high-resolution TV? If this is your vice then a plasma TV is your medicine.

plasmatv.jpg The Pioneer 433MXE focuses on video performance and leaves out extras like tuner and speakers. This will result in highest quality possible and low weight but means you have to know how to connect your video sources to it.

Most convenient is to use RGB out from your devices. Usually digital top boxes and DVD players support this. Your old VCR will most probably not support RGB but then you can use composite video or S-video.

Since there are no speakers on the TV you should really have an amplifier and set of speakers available to connect your video sources to.

The technology in a plasma TV allows the picture to be in higher resolution than a traditional TV. This will be mostly visible when connecting a computer to the plasma.

The Pioneer 433MXE supports 1024x768 pixels, which is enough for Internet browsing and giant gaming. A wireless keyboard and mouse is a final touch.

Geek warning: the TV supports many different input formats, which makes it ideal for multi usage. From highest to lowest quality the TV can handle progressive scan component vide, (DVI), RGB, s-video and composite video. It supports PAL/NTSC/SECAM.

Advantages: flat and skinny, high resolution, all purpose display
Disadvantages: high price, advanced connections, not as high contrast as some other models

Update 5th June 2007
The Pioneer 433MXE plasma gave up one morning after nearly 4 years of heavy usage.

There was a loud popping sound and now the plasma is inoperable. The red stand-by light keeps blinking at me (mockingly).

I sent it away for repair and it was quickly diagnosed as a faulty power supply - quite common apparently. Power supply £225 and labour £75 + VAT.

While browsing the USA Pioneer website I found an article about power supply replacement on second and third generation plasma TVs. A call later to the UK Pioneer customer service and I was told that they would get back to me.

I may have paid the repair costs unnecessarily :-(



Tanjung Rhu photos

August 17, 2003

Have added photos from our recent trip to Malaysia.

Tanjung Rhu, Lengkawi island, was like a paradise...

The staff was wonderful and always wearing a smile, greeting us at every opportunity.

If you are the active type, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in between your beach sessions. Choose between kayaking, katamaran sailing, tennis, golf, market visits, eagle feeding and loads more. Some complementary, some not.

Having 4 restaurants in your viscinity meant that every evening meal was a feast. I can definitely recommend the all-inclusive option because otherwise the costs do sum up during a long day.



Thank you...

August 15, 2003

for long summer evenings
for good value sushi deliveries
for strong Scotch
for Appetite for Destruction
for Animatrix
and for good friends



I, rearrangement servant

August 14, 2003

Dark Spada IV was the most exciting I could come up for my name.

How about you? Anagrams Tool



PINEAPPLE Premium Milk Chocolate

August 14, 2003

They look nice, they smell less nice and they taste nothing like pineapple. Still a good source of sugar and fat so they will do for this afternoon.

Interested in getting hold of some? Just around the corner, Lengkawi Airport, Malaysia.

Just in case you don't know, the weather is fantastic in London. Even when enjoyed from inside an AC office.



A new weblog is created

August 13, 2003

... and it was good.

avatar_1.gif