They are my oldest and deadliest enemy. You cannot trust them.
If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favourable reference to the Devil.

Thursday, June 24



I will be at TAM Australia in November. smile

Tickets went on sale on the 20th, and apparently are nearly sold out already.  It's their first event in Australia, so I guess it's hard to judge the size.  Shame for the people who don't get to attend, though.

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Monday, June 21



This is neat.  It's a filesystem module for Python that lets you work with your files using a single set of code, without having to worry about whether the files are regular operating system files, inside a Zip archive, hosted on Amazon S3, on an FTP server, or whatever.

It also has a very nice built-in security model - you can map a virtual filesystem to any part of the OS (or other) filesystem, and it will prevent you from accessing files outside that area.  I have code for that built-in to the file management routines in Minx, but if I can use this library - and get Zip, FTP, and S3 support for free - then that's a nice little win.

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Doctor Who, Season 5, Episode 12, The Pandorica Opens

The Doctor and Amy respond to a distress signal being broadcast from Stonehenge, as relayed via Vincent van Gogh, Winston Churchill, the Doctor's imprisoned future wife, Queen Elizabeth X, and finally graffiti'd over the site of the oldest writing in creation because, being the Doctor's future wife, Professor Song already knew he would find it there. 

Upon arrival they find a prison cell, the Pandorica of the title, reputed to contain the most dangerous being in the Universe.  Also, this being 102AD, a Roman legion - and River Song posing as Cleopatra, as her future self will have had promised to Amy's past self in the future.

The most dangerous being in the Universe being something of a draw, and the distress signal being busily broadcast in all directions in four dimensions, they are not too surprised to discover that the Earth has been surrounded by a vast array of alien ships, including Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Terileptils. Zygons, Atraxi, Slitheen, Judoon, Sycorax, Nestenes, Chelonians, Draconians, and pretty much everyone else with a battle fleet and a bad attitude.

To say anything more would be a spoiler.

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Sunday, June 20


Gotta Love Steam

Today only, the original Mass Effect for $5.

Yesterday, I picked up Mirror's Edge, also for $5.  That's the perfect price for Mirror's Edge, which is an entertaining but somewhat shallow game.  Mass Effect for $5, though, is a bargain.

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Thank You, Greece

I had an mp4 file I wanted to play on my desktop PC, but my old version of Zoom Player didn't recognise it.  So I downloaded the latest version of Zoom Player, and it promptly committed trialware suicide - it told me my 30 days was up and it didn't want to play no more.

Well, poop.

Okay, I know by now that Zoom Player is a good piece of software, and I'm willing to pay for it, so I go to their web site...  And the cheapest version is AU$55.  Gak.  For that price, I'm inclined to use MPC instead.

Except they have prices in other currencies as well, and a quick check shows that the same version is available for €24.95.  A year ago that was AU$45; now it's AU$35.

So, thanks to Greece, as an Australian I saved nearly 40% off the price of an Israeli product.  Gotta love global finances.

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Thursday, June 17


It's All About The Moechlorians


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Thought For The Day, Custom-Made Luxury Epistemology Building Edition

How the post below on impossible planets came about is that I was day-dreaming about a story setting where the characters routinely travel to alternate universes with not just alternate histories, but alternate laws of physics and metaphysics - and that these alternatives are actually quantised, such that only certain sets of physical and metaphysical laws are possible.

I've termed this Quantum Epistemology, and I'm rating it on a scale of 0 (where the behaviour of all matter and energy is described by a small handful of supremely elegant equations) to 14 (where matter and energy are entirely matters of opinion):

0 - Order.  Classical Newtonian (i.e. deterministic) materialism. Life probably does not exist, and if it does, is likely not very interesting.

1-2 - Hard Science.  These universes follow consistent and universally applicable physical laws, but those laws are more complex and contain more surprises.  Our Universe would fall into Stratum 2.  In Stratum 1, Moore's Law wouldn't have failed at the 90nm node and Intel's plans for a 10GHz Pentium 4 would have run like clockwork.

3-4 - Soft Science.  Physical laws are still consistent, but may appear somewhat arbitrary.  Third law of thermodynamics may be violated under some conditions.

5-6 - Super Science.  Physical laws, while consistent, contain many boundary cases that can be exploited for suprising and useful (or dangerous, or both) results.  Second law of thermodynamics may be violated under some conditions.  Faster-than-light travel and time travel become possible.  Popular science fiction shows like Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, and Doctor Who fall somewhere in this range.

7 - Science Fantasy.  Advanced technology starts to look more and more like magic, with increasingly arbitrary physical laws making it hard to connect cause and effect.  First law of thermodynamics may be violated under some conditions.

8-9 - Techno Fantasy.  While physical laws are locally consistent, they may not be universal in either space or time.  The zeroth law of thermodynamics is thus no longer guaranteed.  Advanced technology may no longer function reliably, but those who can recognise and adapt to the changing conditions can produce remarkable effects.

10-11 Fantasy.  Physical laws are neither consistent nor universal, but to some degree local to and influenced by the observer.  Magic - the manipulation of reality by the exercise of will - becomes possible.  Advanced technology tends not to function at all.

12-13 Multi-person Solipsistic Panentheism.  Mind, not matter, is the fundamental consistent of reality.  Minds shape, even define, what reality is.  Where minds come together, worlds may form out of the common elements of their dreams.  A lot of Michael Moorcock's work explores this territory.  And yes, I stole that that expression.

14. Chaos.  Order is not defined.  Life probably does not exist, and if it does, it is likely not recognisable.

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Wednesday, June 16


Thought For The Day, Planetary Engineering Edition

If you were to construct a planet out of the lightest known solid, with Earthlike surface gravity, it would have a diameter of 44 million miles and a surface area of 30 million Earths.  Rotating once per 24 hours, at the equator you would be moving at approximately 1% of the speed of light.

Unfortunately (a) the bulk strength of aerogels is such that it would collapse instantly into a ball of seifertite only 2.7 million miles in diameter and with a surface gravity of about 2500G and (b) if it didn't, the rotational speed at the equator would exceed the escape velocity and the entire planet would immediately fly apart.

Apart from those minor issues, it would be an interesting place to live.

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Wednesday, June 09



My latest toy arrived today - an Intel X25-M 80GB SSD.  The one thing I've been lacking in my development environment has been an SSD; we've been running them in production for the past year (and they've made things run a lot smoother) but the good ones are still expensive and the cheap ones aren't good.

So I've had one on my wishlist for a while, and when I saw it going for nearly 20% less than the price I had on my list - including delivery and a free 1TB Seagate Barracuda - I pounced.

Only problem is that I don't have a spare SATA port in my dev box.  I do have a couple of PMC-Sierra (née Adaptec) 1430SA controllers sitting in a box upstairs, though, so that's easy fixed.

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