Friday Jun 21, 2013

Nice work, guv

Erwann reminded me yesterday of how nice a job the UK Government, of all places, has been doing of revamping and unifying all their websites to make a lot of complicated information really quite accessible. They even won the London Design Museum's 2013 Design of the Year Award earlier this year.

Their design principles are well worth a look, too.

Sunday Jan 08, 2012


Said farewell to an old friend today: the 14" Sony KVM1400U TV that my parents bought for me when I left home in June 1993. (I well remember double-checking with the man in the shop that it had a SCART input, as I was desperate to get a better picture from my Commodore Amiga 500+ than the RF input I'd been using up to then gave me… and eschewing the slightly more expensive variant that had teletext, as that seemed like something I'd never use.)

Sony kv m1400

It's been used almost daily since then and was still working perfectly, and I hate replacing stuff that does. But if nothing else, it had been dropped so many times that the case was in several bits and I couldn't really guarantee it was still electrically safe. So off to the great recycling plant in the sky (well, Argos) it went. Somehow I doubt that the 19" LED TV we bought to replace it, for almost exactly the same price in numerical terms, will last another couple of decades.

(We aren't a completely CRT-free household yet, though—we have a larger and equally well-used Sony warhorse in the dining room that's probably still got a year or two left in it!)

Tuesday Aug 03, 2010

A decade at Sun

Well, 9.66 years at Sun, and 0.33 at Oracle... it was the Tuesday after the August 2000 bank holiday when I first ventured into this office, from the B&B that Sun were putting me up in until I found an apartment.

Have to say it would be nice if I got to choose the traditional thank-you gift from any leftover Sun stock in one of the countries that hasn't LEC'ed yet :) But somehow I can't see that happening...

Thursday Mar 11, 2010

Streetview gallery

Thanks to Google Streetview's new 95% coverage of the UK, which went live yesterday, here's a visual history of all the houses and flats I lived in over there, until I moved to Ireland. Obviously I'm not telling you where they are, though :)

1971-1987 1987-1993 1993-1996 1996-1998 [1998-2000

(Although the cars have been spotted out and about in Ireland, there's no coverage here yet...)

Monday Feb 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mum

Hope you're enjoying a wee advocaat and lemonade with your mum and dad :)

Tuesday Jan 20, 2009

Star Wars retold...

This is better than at least four of the actual movies...

Sunday Nov 30, 2008

Thanks... everyone who chipped in to the retiring offering at my mum's thanksgiving service. Turns out we raised £750 for the Beatson Oncology Centre in Glasgow, which I know will be put to good use.

Meanwhile, I'm back to work tomorrow. I promise I'll try to catch up as quickly as I can... probably just about in time to fall behind again over my Christmas break :)

Tuesday Nov 25, 2008


As some of you may know, my mum, Janice, sadly died on November 13th. This is one of the last pictures of us together (along with my dad!), from Christmas Day 2007, which my parents spent with Julie and me here in Dublin.

Mum had been battling cancer since 2003, and although we knew it wasn't curable, her regular chemotherapy cycles (at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, who were fantastic) seemed to be keeping things more or less in check. So to lose her just a couple of hours after being admitted to hospital suffering from what seemed to be non-critical abdominal pain came as quite a shock to us all. At the same time, we're all relieved that she slipped away quickly and relatively painlessly—one of her only fears in life was that her health might decline to the point where she could do little more but lie around in agony, a fate that osteoporosis had inflicted upon her own mother some years earlier. (Her other fear was somewhat less morbid—a lifelong phobia of birds!)

Although she had been comparatively poorly for the past few weeks, Mum's consultant expected her next cycle of chemo to clear up the main cause of her discomfort, and she remained pretty active right up to the end. Just after I last visited her and Dad back home in Scotland last month, they were off to Gran Canaria for a holiday (ironically, her 96-year-old aunt died equally-suddenly while they were away, and the first thing they had to do when they came home was arrange her funeral). And when I last spoke to Mum the weekend before she died, she had me looking up some hotel in Edinburgh on the internet for a wedding she thought she might be invited to next year!

Positive though she was, though, Mum was nothing if not ultra-organised, and she was well-prepared for the inevitable. She left us copies of directions to the cemetery to send to people who might want to come, and sheet music for the hymns she wanted sung at her funeral in case we didn't have the right books... but best of all—and this was Mum in a nutshell—she left Dad a notebook listing all the household chores that he ought to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual, bi-annual and occasional basis after she was gone, right down to specifying the correct washing machine cycles for the bedclothes, and the appropriate shades of paint to use on the outside of the house!

On Thursday, we laid Mum to rest in Dunblane cemetery, near her parents and several other generations of her family, and on Saturday we had a thanksgiving service at Hillhouse Parish Church in Hamilton, where she'd been a member for the past 40 years. The turnout at both was pretty humbling.

Of course we'll all miss Mum very much, none more so than my dad, to whom she would have been married for 47 years last Tuesday. But I certainly don't feel sad when I think about her, so don't feel sad for me either. Just keep your fingers crossed that she hasn't hidden one of those household chore books away for me somewhere as well :)

Monday Aug 18, 2008

Six Degrees of Richard Herring

The "Nationally Known Comedian" Richard Herring unleashed a thrilling new craze on the world during this week's Collings and Herrin (sic) podcast... it goes like this1:

The aim of the game is to get between two specific Wikipedia entries using only the highlighted blue links. The player who navigates between the two pages within the fewest clicks, or uses the cleverest path is the winner. For example, to get from the Wikipedia page for American actress Argentina Brunetti to French anti-communist party La Cagoule, one could go via the following clicks:

  1. The Lone Ranger
  2. Chocolate
  3. Nestlé
  4. L'Oréal
  5. Eugène Schueller
  6. La Cagoule

(Argentina played a supporting role in the Lone Ranger in 1955, The Lone Ranger starred in a chocolate advertisment in the mid ninties advertising Rolos, Nestlé are a chocolate manufacturer, Nestlé are shareholders in L'Oréal, L'Oréal was founded by Eugène Schueller and Eugène Schueller provided financial support and held meetings for La Cagoule.)

Have fun.

1Description lifted from this RH forum to save me making up my own...

Friday Jun 13, 2008

Things to do on your day off #13671

Fun with Pixelblocks

Update: Here's a QuickTime version for those of you who can't handle .oggs yet...

Tuesday Feb 19, 2008

Fish ID

Dear lazyweb. What kind of fish is this?

A fish

Sunday Nov 11, 2007

Painting with Light

Recently finished Cheryl Johnson's online 10-week Painting with Light photo workshop. Here's a montage of some of the snaps I took along the way (click for slightly larger version):

Certainly picked up a few useful bits and pieces, although I did find it a bit hard to drag myself out some weeks to do my homework! Will probably sign up for her Tech Pro Masterclass early next year too, to try and cement all that stuff about shutter speed, aperture and ISO speeds into my brain (which I keep reading, understanding and then instantly forgetting-- sign of old age, I suppose).

Wednesday Jun 20, 2007

Busy old month

First up, the main part of Julie's belated birthday present from me was a spa weekend at the Johnstown House Marriott over in County Meath, still one of our favourite retreats when we want to spoil ourselves. That was supposed to be followed by her even-more-belated Christmas present the next day-- a trial flying lesson up near Belfast-- but it was cancelled for the second time this year due to poor weather. (It's rescheduled for this weekend, but the signs don't look good so far...)

On Bank Holiday Monday, Julie again joined 40,000 or so other women in the Women's 10km Mini-Marathon. Lack of training opportunities meant her time wasn't quite as good as her last outing, but she still raised a tidy sum for the Niall Mellon Township Trust.

Following that, the other 'big bit' of Julie's birthday present was tickets to see George Michael at the RDS outdoor arena in Dublin... not especially my cup of tea musically (I enjoyed Sophie Ellis-Bextor's warm-up set more than I was expecting though-- and not just because of those legs!), but there's no denying he knows how to put on a show, and the weather couldn't have been better. Here's hoping it's as good on Friday for my birthday day out to see Peter Gabriel and Crowded House in Marlay Park, but as it's been tipping it down and blowing a hooley all week so far, that looks unlikely to say the least...

On the geek front, pretty much every gadget I own has given up the ghost this month. First my camcorder, which fortunately was repaired under warranty. Then it was the turn of my ageing Minolta S414 digicam, whose CCD has thrown a fatal wobbler. (I luckily have a bit of birthday money to replace that... price and feature-wise, I'm looking at something along the lines of a Finepix S5700, but I'd prefer the proper image stabilisation and the form factor of a Lumix-- suggestions welcome!) My PS2's optical drive then proceeded to expire noisily; cue a quick trip down to Game to get one of the new slimline jobbies. (And another trip back next week armed with WEEE documentation to take my old one back for recycling again, since they refused the first time.)

Finally, the video cable on my PowerBook G4 has failed to the point of uselessness, after creaking a bit for a few months... 'fortunately', the five-year-old Dell Inspiron 8100 that I was using as a home server also suffered yet another hard disk failure the other week, so the PowerBook can take over those duties when my new MacBook Pro arrives :)

Tuesday May 08, 2007

28 Weeks Later

Just back from a nearly-free preview screening of same. Hadn't seen the first one, so didn't really know what to expect.

Not a lot, as it turned out; a mildy diverting (if utterly linear) gorefest with some big explosions and a lot of early-morning shooting around London to make it look deserted. And one of the most obvious "we're going to make a third one" endings I've seen in a while.

Came back out to my car to find that somebody had stolen the magnetic ISPCC ribbon from the back, presumably to stick on their own. Only in Ireland...

Monday Apr 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, Speccy

No, it's not my own birthday today, but the 25th birthday of the groundbreaking ZX Spectrum.

I still remember the excitement as the bundled Horizons tape threw up a proper loading screen (rather than the psychedelic loading squiggles I'd grown used to on the ZX81), and later presented me with Thro' the Wall, a full colour Breakout clone. Which was written entirely in BASIC of course, complete with neat squashy visual effect as the ball hit the paddle... turned out to be nothing more clever than swapping UDGs when the ball hit row 21, but half the fun in those days was finding out things like that so you could do it yourself. If only making computers do things were still that easy...

Way too many favourite games from the Spectrum era to list here (feel free to add your own), but suffice it to say I still play many of them via FUSE on my PowerBook! Thanks for the memories, Clive.


I am a Principal UX Engineer in the Systems Experience Design team, working at Oracle (via Sun Microsystems) since the turn of the century. I currently work on sysadmin user experience projects for Solaris. Formerly I worked on open source Solaris desktop projects such as GNOME, NWAM and IPS.


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