Well that's good. Fantastic. That gives us 20 minutes to save the world and I've got a post office. And it's shut!

Wednesday, November 22


Roses Are Red

Violets are blue. *

My DVDs arrived.

Probably won't get to watch anything until the weekend, though.

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Monday, November 20


A Keen Sense Of... Something

From a review of Stephen Baxter's Omegatropic:
As a critic, Baxter pulls no punches. His comments about others' work on similar themes to his own books (future history and space opera, etc) are often strident but also highly perceptive. Unsurprisingly, it is American writers that are the main targets of Baxter's incisive analysis. He's justly intolerant of implausibility in both plot development and character motivation, and derides US authors for their lack of any sense of irony. Baxter seems to suggest that this last bit of typically British sensibility is an essential part of any SF writer's mindset, irrespective of their nationality. This is not to say that Baxter slams optimism, only that American blue-sky thinking ought to be tempered with an awareness and deep consideration of the alternatives.

I've just read Baxter's Timelike Infinity and Ring, the second and fourth books of his Xeelee sequence. The first, Raft, is out of print (or nearly so); the third, Flux, I bounced off after two pages.

With the small size of my sample set noted, it must also be noted that the plots of the two books I have read, and indeed the overall plot arc of the Xeelee sequence (which is outlined in those two books), is only possible if the great majority of Baxter's characters, and indeed of all sentient life-forms in his universe, are either brain-damaged or insane.

They build a starship to go on a five million light-year cruise, dragging one end of a wormhole with it, and their primary concern is the stability of the society on the ship during the cruise. The ship is churning across five million light-years of space at a velocity so great that only a thousand years will pass on board (and that includes deceleration and the return voyage!) and they are worried about social interactions. Medical techniques have advanced to the point that at least two of the original crew survive the journey; computer technology has advanced to the point that human minds can be (and are) uploaded into machines and so are effectively immortal, and they can't keep a starship crew functional for a thousand years. One of the characters is five million years old, and they can't...

And then they drop the wormhole and break it.

They have time travel. They have working time travel. In both directions. They've actually used it. And they still can't get anything right.

And while this is going on, the human race takes over the galaxy, gets wiped out by the race that controls the rest of the universe, which is then destroyed (for a rather dubious value of destroyed) by something even the humans have known about for five million years (and which has been around for twenty billion years, and just happens to crop up now), and apparently no-one involved ever bothers to talk to anyone else.

The astrophysics are complete baloney too. If you artificially cool the hydrogen core of a main-sequence star so that fusion ceases and it collapses under its own gravity, you might very well get helium fusion in the surrounding layers and something that resembles a regular red giant. But the hydrogen core is still there, even if it's collapsed into degenerate matter, and if you ever remove the artificial cooling you'll have an instant supernova.

And, and, and, red dwarfs are among the most useful stellar objects for a species planning seriously for the long term. A small red dwarf can keep up hydrogen fusion for a trillion years or more, a long time even to the Xeelee. And they're everywhere. Space is littered with the blasted things. Oh noes, we have no yellow stars, we are done for! What crap.

All of which criticism would not be nearly so mordant, if it were not for that one sentence from that review:

He's justly intolerant of implausibility in both plot development and character motivation, and derides US authors for their lack of any sense of irony.
Yeah, well, Baxter certainly has a keen sense of... something.

P.S. American blue-sky thinking ought to be tempered with an awareness and deep consideration of the alternatives. Yeah. Baxter's characters manage to commit suicide on behalf of not just the human race, but almost all life in the galaxy, through wilful and persistent stupidity. Mr Baxter, I have given deep consideration to your alternatives, and they suck.

P.P.S. I'm off to watch Sumomomo Momomo. Add half an eye-sparkle to my earlier review. It's no classic, but it's silly and fun.

P.P.P.S. That line about "American blue-sky thinking" still has me steamed. But having not read the book in question, I don't know how well it represents what Baxter actually wrote - it could well be something the reviewer read into it rather than something that is actually there - so I'll lay off awaiting further data.

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I Hate It When That Happens

Missing volume 1 of Card Captor Sakura.

I wasn't sure if I'd bought the complete series; turns out I had. But now I have the complete series minus one.

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Sunday, November 19


A Day Of Rest

Today, I did nothing.

And, while I was busy doing that nothing, I decided to watch some anime. Now that my notebook is back from repair - not actually repaired, mind you, but back - I plugged it in to my shiny new* TV and took a look at the new season.


That Boku Show

Watched: 10 minutes
Rating: 1 boku out of 5

Review: I, My, Me: Strawberry Eggs, only with worse artwork and animation and an even more contrived plot. If there even is a plot. Pointy chins.


Watched: 4 episodes
Rating: 3 uguus out of 5

Review: Our hero, Kyon Yuuichi transfers to a school in Siberia, in a town where all the girls have had their memories erased. Except that would be interesting. Beautifully animated and very cute, but dull as dishwater. In the preview for episode 4, there was a hint that something might actually happen. As it turns out, it was just a preview of a hint that something might happen. So far, nothing has.

Pretty, though.


Watched: 1 episode
Rating: 2.5 kunoichi out of 5

Review: Don't take the dramatic introduction seriously. The show certainly doesn't. Looks like it's a nonsense slapstick comedy (with ninja girls), and I'm willing to watch some more to see how it develops. Art and animation are unamazing but decent.

Sumomomo Momomo

Watched: 1 6 episodes
Rating: 3.5 eye-sparkles out of 5

Review: Ranma ½ meets Rizelmine. If the writers can keep the male lead from becoming an idiot, they may have something. If not, that rating may plummet.

I'll see if I can watch some more of this now; my video player (I use Core Media Player) has stopped working, something that is almost certainly not its fault. I have Media Player Classic on the notebook as well, so I can probably get by with that until I get a chance to reformat the little bastard again.

Updated: Continues to be a very enjoyable and very silly show. I was surprised to see that it's slated for 26 episodes - I expected it to be 13 - but the pacing does become evident by epsiode 6. I don't know how well they'll keep up the humour over that length, but for now, I'm going to keep watching.

* And hardly used.

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Saturday, November 18


Two Steps Forward, One Kick In The Pants

One: Internode turns on ADSL2 Annex M. That means upstream speeds of 2.5Mbits, up from 1Mbit.

Two: SoftLayer launches quad-core servers. Including dual-processor quad-core models. And they're not much more expensive than the dual-core versions.

Kick: One of the munu sites has a leetle hole in it, and has been used as a spam relay. Not Movable Type or Minx, but a PHP app somewhere. I've had to disable outgoing email until I can find out which PHP app. Which shouldn't be that hard, except I'm otherwise occupied.

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Wednesday, November 15


Install Install Install...

I also got my notebook back from HP repair, where it's been for the past two weeks. I mentioned that it has a small problem with intermittently dropping dead without warning or apparent reason. A couple of weeks ago, this stopped being intermittent.

After I swapped out my 100GB drive for the original 40GB unit, removed my 1GB memory module, and re-installed Windows from scratch (twice, since the system crashed the first time), it was intermittent again, but kind of useless since I no longer had any software or files installed, so I gave in and sent it in for repair.

Where they plugged it in, loaded up their test routine, and left it running for days without any sign of error.

So they called back and told me this, and I mentioned two things that I knew had crashed the machine: smacking the screen with your hand (it was an accident!) and installing Windows.

Which they did. Install Windows, that is. I guess it's one of those immovable object vs. irresistable force thingies. On the one hand, any complex machine sent for repair with an intermittent fault will work perfectly until the engineer gives up and sends it back.

On the other hand, installing Windows.

So it crashed, and they traced it to the memory, which they replaced, and they ran the soak test again, and it was good, and they sent it back.

And I plugged it in, and I ran a soak test of my own, and it was good, and then I closed the lid, and it crashed.

And then I re-installed the 1GB memory module, and it crashed, and it crashed, and it crashcrashcracracracrashed. Gatling-gun BSODs.

So I pulled out the memory modules, and swapped them around, and ran Memtest86, and it was fine again.

And the reason this matters, when I have three fully-functional desktops at home (two of them not even infected with Windows)?

I use the notebook to watch anime. So yes, I have watched no anime for two weeks. Two weeks! And before that I was ill, and before that I was on holiday, so four weeks.

My VHS tapes were starting to look good.

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Format Format Format...

I've had a 320GB drive sitting on my desk for a few weeks, waiting for me to work out how to get it into my Windows box, which currently contains one (1) failed disk and hence one (1) spare SATA port... but not where I can get at them easily. And I have a 600GB spanned volume in there, and I don't want to find out what happens if I get the cables mixed up.

Meanwhile, μTorrent has been torrenting away; iTunes has been sucking up podcasts; I have some new and not-exactly-small VMWare systems to run; I have a bunch of DVDs to DVDshrink; and of course there's the ever-growing collection of stuff.

I needed that drive.

So I got one of these.

It is what it says, as far as I can see. It takes either IDE or SATA drives (it has both connectors on its circuit board, and fiddly little cables), and connects to your PC via either USB or eSATA. 480Mbps today; 1.5Gbps tomorrow!

I popped it open, attached the drive to the circuit board with the screws provided*, slid it back in... pulled it out, tucked the SATA cable down so that it didn't get trapped, slid it back in successfully this time, plugged it in, and turned it on.

Storage manager found it, and it's formatting away.

It also has a three-port USB hub; haven't tried that yet, but I will.

So, plusses: It works; it's reasonably inexpensive; it takes SATA drives so that you can take them out at a later date and put them in a machine; eSATA option; USB hub. Not especially ugly. Power and backup buttons. Backup software.

Minuses: Those darn blue LEDs are pretty bright; I've tucked it away behind my monitor so I don't have to look at it. No fan.

Overall, I'd rate this a crackers... oops, too much Anime Pulse... a doesn't suck much. And I'm good for disk space for the next three months.

Now all I need to do is swap out my buggered CD burner (which is stuck closed with my Hordes of the Underdark CD in it) for my new 16x DVD burner. And then! Then I will have a somewhat slow and elderly but reasonably capable PC with too many drives attached to it.

* Which, being very flat, make good replacements for the lost screws from my 4-drive SATA backplane. The external case has enough clearance for normal screws; the backplane doesn't, but as I said, I lost the screws.

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Tuesday, November 14


Door Number Three!

I'm working with a variant of XSS-countermeasure 3 from my earlier post. I still sanitise comments (though there are some holes in the current implementation), but I won't bother with the posts or templates. Yes, the owner of a blog will be able to steal your cookie. I've just set things up so that the cookie isn't any good to him.

Which means (yay!) users can Ajax all they want* and (yay!!) I don't have an arms race with people trying to work around my sanitiser script. (Well, again, maybe in comments, but all that happens then is the comments get deleted by the bloggers.)

Which leaves just one component of the system that isn't a variation on something I've done before - trust metrics. Fortunately, while there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of stuff written about how to prevent XSS attacks (or at least, not much useful stuff**), I trip over interesting stuff on trust metrics everywhere.

* Minx is Ajax-agnostic. A page is a page; a request is a request. HTML vs. XML is just a difference in the template. And since the Minx user interface is built in Minx, this gives me a fair bit of flexibility.

** A lot of the advice consists of "Sanitise your pages really carefully. Bob didn't pay enough attention to his sanitiser script, and his company lost $50 million. Bob now washes windscreens for a living." The one worthwhile thing that I've seen come up is the first commandment of computer security: Default deny.

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Seems that some fans aren't happy with the new Neverwinter Nights:
Dungeons and Dragons is a very rule intensive, complex game... and Bioware tamed that beast. Obsidian simply fired tranquilizers at it until it couldn't fight no more. I'm really looking forward to reading a post mortem of this game; it'll probably be more interesting than the game itself.
With NWN2 sidelined for at least a few patch cycles, and FFXII not due to hit Oz until an unspecified date in '07, the only thing I have to look forward to this Christmas is... uh... Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2?

Somehow, I think I might get some work done over the holidays.

Update: Definitely not happy.

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Sunday, November 12


Buy The DVD!

Even if you already have the fansub, hot from the Japanese TV broadcast, there are often very good reasons to buy the DVD.

(Examples from Renkin San-kyuu Magical? Pokaan)

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:33 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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