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Originally posted October 20 2006 at 14:10 under General and Friends and Mozilla and Physics. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled. Last modified: 27 October 2006 at 23:48

A Collection of Unrelated Things I Thought To Post Today


I had a few things I came across today yesterday (damn my tardiness) which almost made me post. Individually they probably didn’t tip the balance in favour of actually putting in the effort but together they just about do. So here goes a collection of interesting and not so interesting things, which I may or may not comment on, as have occurred to me throughout today.

Well, it’s become so long I thought I’d add a nice Table of Contents, just because I can

  1. Microsoft Catches Up With The 21st Century
  2. How Now Brown Cow?
  3. Ed Looks Behind The Curtain
  4. Logitech Buys Slim Devices
  5. Music Industry Still Annoying Idiots
  6. Search Greasemonkey Script Updated
  7. Tufty Is Not Evil

Microsoft Catches Up With The 21st Century

IE 7 has finally been released. Welcome to the new millenium Microsoft (all right, so 6 was released in 2001. Still, the way the web has moved on, it’s very last century). While the new release is a vast improvement (and the team which built it must be congratulated for getting this far from where they started) it’s still playing catch up, and needs a version 8 release soon. About the only area it may be winning on features is in feed viewing (which is something I frankly don’t care about…If I want a feed I’ll send it to my reader of choice—thanks to a Firefox extension, though I think that’s built in the upcoming 2.0—and take it from there). The entire Microsoft attitude is summed up nicely in the “check list”:

  • Verify that your User Agent String detection recognizes Internet Explorer 7…
  • Check your website for Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) filters (hacks) that may be turned off in Internet Explorer 7…
  • Verify that transparent images on your website are rendered correctly…
  • Use the Application Compatibility Toolkit to evaluate changes in the behavior of your web applications…
  • Verify that your website hasn’t been adversely affected by these Internet Explorer 7 security changes:…
  • Make sure that your feeds are discoverable in Internet Explorer 7…

In other words it’s your responsibility to make things work for us. Never mind that the bloody standards have been around a long time now. Nowhere is there a little bullet point saying, don’t worry if you have a standards compliant site because IE 7 will very likely work…because that’s just not the case. Still buggy and broken. Speaking of bugs. It’s not even a new one for fuck’s sake. Oh no, it’s our mistake. That’s an Outlook Express bug. Well, that’s all right then isn’t it (never mind the fact that they are still allowing IE to be an easy vector to such things, or that it they still make no mention of actually bothering to fix it).

How Now Brown Cow?

Via Metafilter: A bunch of american parents are upset at the standards of questions asked of their children (stop the sniggering at the back there about the general level of education in the US—and UK). Now while I agree that the question regarding “Why the Rooster Crows at Dawn” is probably badly formed, I don’t particularly agree that it’s not possible to answer it. The context of the question gives some clue that a change in the cow is expected (it is an entirely different debate whether that implied context is of itself correct). From there it’s not a difficult route to realising the most important change is from a caring cow who shows concern for the rooster to one who plays, with her peers, unkind practical jokes with observable consequences (and don’t get me started on “oh but they think it’s about the rooster and only get to hear it a couple of times”. One, the only character named is the cow, which probably makes it as important as the rooster—it is the cow’s actions which drive the story. Two, it says something about the modern attention span if children cannot be expected to hold in their head the salient details of a very short story they have just heard twice).

The above brief discussion does not form my main point however, for I believe they are giving their main attention to the wrong question. The second section, involving “The Stolen Moon” and “The Sun and the Moon”, is much, much worse (a PDF version is supplied by the parent’s group). First, the parents are entirely correct in their assertion that the related essay question cannot be answered from the two supplied pieces. While what the bear and fox each want is obvious, as is why neither quite achieves their aims, why in reality the presence of a shining Moon in the night sky is not constant cannot be answered. Second, I personally believe that presenting such a work of fiction as “The Stolen Moon” is such immediate proximity to a “factual” piece as “The Sun and Moon” without any clear differentiation of context is potentially confusing and harmful. Third, and most important, the factual piece is at times, at best, very misleading or, at worst, simply wrong.

I am all for what I like to refer to as “the lies we tell children”. This simply means that the factual and scientific description of the world around us is built up of increasingly complex explanations, some of which may not be technically correct but which serve as a very good approximation and do not claim something which a better grasp shows to be stupidly false. The piece actually gives a good example of a “lie to children” when describing the Sun: The sun is made up of hot gases. The burning gases give heat and light. That is a fairly good description and approximation of what is actually happening to tell to those not at a level of knowledge to grasp the details (“It’s a fire breathing dragon” would be an example of what wouldn’t constitute a good lie to children). The very next sentence however states The moon is mostly rock and lava. Whilst it is true that flowing lava has played an important part in the characteristics of the Moon (notably the formation of the maria) it’s not exactly covered in raging volcanoes, which is the image that such a phrase would seem most likely to conjure up in children, and many adults. The Moon’s geological history is quite a complex subject to try and convey in 7 words though; the lava is so old and cold to be perfectly well described as rock. There is more or less no geological activity on today’s Moon. I could go on. When we see a bright moon in a dark sky, we see the side of the moon that receives light from the sun. This is perpetuating the myth that there is a “dark side” of the Moon. Despite when Pink Floyd would have us believe, there isn’t. There is a far side of the Moon, tidal interactions have resulted in the Moon always presenting the same face to the Earth, but that doesn’t mean the far side is dark A few minutes with a grape, an apple, and a football will show you this. What the author meant to say is that we see sunlight reflected from the side of the Moon facing us, which isn’t the same thing at all. There is more (and it’s not a long piece) but that gives the general idea. Far too often this is allowed to happen. Often it is taken as “not mattering” or allowed because it’s not an actual “teaching material” such as in this instant where it forms part of a test (sorry, everything is teaching). There might be an argument that as this is an English test the compilers may be forgiven for presenting such obvious bollocks as fact but that’s a poor excuse. If they don’t know they should check with someone who does. The English of the piece isn’t even that good either!

Ed Looks Behind The Curtain

It turns out that it was all being run by magic. Seems the wizard may be out to lunch at the moment.

Logitech Buys Slim Devices

Talking of Ed, he has a Squeezebox which I always want to steal. The makers Slim Devices have been bought by Logitech, whose mice/keyboards at least I tend to like. Interesting to see where that leads (a drop in price would be good :-))

Music Industry Still Annoying Idiots

Visa (and Mastercard I believe) have withdrawn their services from the rather useful, the infamous Russian music store which offers downloads in formats and at prices that people actually want. Who made the credit card companies our moral guardians? (note that while its undoubtedly in grey territory nobody has ever shown that AllofMP3 is illegal. They’ve just said it is a lot as if saying it enough makes it true). Aren’t the credit card companies supposed to act on their customer’s behalf. Shouldn’t it be the customer who decides who they deal with? Not surprisingly it turns out that helpful suggestions were made by the music industry, who continue to want to force us to live in an outdated world. There is a very easy and quick method to make AllofMP3 go away: copy their business model. The music industry are living in the days of hardcopy. They had records, the cassette and now CD. Essentially that’s just a format switch, not a delivery/concept switch. Now though they want to carry forward what worked there into something completely different. So they’d like you to have the choice to pay so much for the physical CD, complete with associated distribution and storage and production costs but at least you get “extras” like whatever crap they bumph in the booklet, and an actual, shiny thing to handle and look at. If you don’t fancy a walk to the store, or waiting for Amazon, however, then they think you should be able to download a copy. You won’t get the shiny thing to look at, won’t be allowed to play it wherever you want (which also means they don’t want you making your own shiny version), don’t get extras, they don’t have to store or distribute all those physical things. They’d like you to be pretty much the same price for that though. There is the problem. Offer people the music at a sensible cost and they will happily buy it from “legitimate” sources. Of course, it’s possible to get it by other means but the thing that AllofMP3 hit on was people are still prepared to pay for convenience and simplicity, so long as the price isn’t crazy and you don’t impose stupid restrictions. Were individually companies to get together to do what the representing bodies are doing on their behalf they’d be brought up in court for artificially manipulating the market. Oh, and AllofMP3? They except Xrost cards which you can buy with Visa/Mastercard… Search Greasemonkey Script Updated

Speaking of music, I’ve updated my searches greasemonkey script to be nicer with the latest version (it’s a general clean up of how added search links are displayed. For more info on the script see the greasemonkey section.

Tufty Is Not Evil

Sorry, I refuse to accept that Tufty is evil. I’ve never been knocked over. That is at least partly Tufty’s fault I’d say. Yeh for the squirrel!

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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