Omega by Jack McDevitt

Omega by Jack McDevitt

Just finished his book. It's a great sci-fi novel in the post-space opera vein. The story is quite understated, but involving. Drags you in but isn't an adrenaline rush.

Basic story is this: A future Earth is threatened by giant nanobot clouds that will reach us in 20,000 years and appear to target objects made by intelligent races. While investigating the origins and nature of these giant clouds, scientists discover an inhabited world that will shortly be hit by the devastating clouds.

I'm not keen on series-type books, but this works well as a standalone book. It's also part of a loose series, which I'll start trawling through shortly.

DVD rental gold rush

There's currently something of a gold rush mentality going on with the DVD rental companies here in the UK. Dozens of them have sprung up in the last few months and they're all trying to get your business with free introductory periods.

Using this handy list, I'm planning to get free DVD rental for the next few months, cancelling at the end of the free period.

The services are actually pretty good, and the prices keep coming down. I might end up keeping one of them after all the free periods anyway, though I'm not enormously impressed with the range of the current one, Love Film. I think the range could be wider.

Lazy-arse tube drivers

Tube drivers on the Picadilly Line are on strike today. Apparently they're upset because one of the drivers was demoted for running through four red signals. These bastards, with their £35,000 salaries and 42 days' paid leave a year really need to learn how to get the public's support.

Here's my tip: if you're going to strike, make it hurt the bosses. Have a fare strike, where everyone travels free for a day. Or strike in the morning, so people are late for work, but start up again in the afternoon so people can get home. Whatever you do, don't strike on the day when the bosses don't care if people are late (no work gets done on Xmas Eve anyway) but the general public has lots to do and places to go.

And don't moan about disciplinary procedures that involve safety issues. The public like safety, in case you haven't noticed.

Music on wheels

Finally got my little radio transmitter sending Minidisc music to the radio on the handlebars of my bike. Now I don't have to be subjected to the horrors of British breakfast radio (where every DJ is a hilarious comedian) and can instead listen to music. Works brilliantly!

Hawkshead are spammers

I ordered from this company once. Fortunately I used a Sneakemail address so I can delete it. Postal spam isn't going to be so easily solved.

In a short time, this email address will start bouncing.

1. I never asked to receive your emails.
2. I never asked to receive your catalogues.
3. I attempted to unsubscribe from your emails when I received the
   last one.  It seemed to be successful, but obviously wasn't.

Fix your system and respect your customers' wishes or you will lose
them.  Don't assume they want all your crap just because they ordered
from you once.

Goodbye.  You've lost a customer today.  Take me off your postal spam

New policy on bands

To avoid ending up like my parents (who recently saw Simon and Garfunkel) I've decided to adopt a new policy. I won't see any bands unless they have put out new material, even crap new material, within the last ten years. This means I can still see Bowie, New Order and the like, but not has-been regroupings like last night's Human League gig.

Don't get me wrong, the gig was great. I really enjoyed myself. What's more, the band knew their place: after playing their two big numbers at the end of their set, they knew they were out of material that anyone would know for the encore. So they played Visage's Fade to Grey and Giorgio Moroder's Together in Electric Dreams. Great stuff.

And yes, Steve, Phil has absolutely no stage presence.

The problem is, I couldn't help feeling like I'd joined the RSL cabaret set. Scary and far too middle-aged for me.

Right, I'm off to see how much hair plugs and Porsche cars cost. Wonder if I can afford it after my pension fund payments?

London Perl Workshop

I went to the London Perl Workshop on Saturday. It was very good and I learnt a lot. The "Gimmes" session taught me a few things that were useful. The session on sort was very useful, as I've never really delved into it beyond the default behaviour.

The session on Testing was also good. Lots of useful tools in there. And finally, I'm intrigued by Class::DBI which turns database rows into objects, without the programmer writing any SQL. Very cool!

At lunchtime there was an OpenGuides BOF, so I got to meet all my fellow OpenGuiders.

All in all, an excellent day and I learnt a lot.

Network Solutions suck!

Yes I know I know, I should have moved registrars when Network Solutions lost their monopoly on .com, .org and .net domains. I didn't get around to it. Certainly should have done it when they hijacked the domain system for their commercial purposes.

Well yesterday I tried to redelegate my domain to different name servers. Their web site wouldn't accept my new servers, but happily blanked out the original (and still working) ones, which left me without a domain.

Support requests to them result in responses saying they can't resolve it by "email" (despite me being authenticated on their server), despite me giving me all the information they need. So they want me to call them, in the US, to resolve it. I can well imagine that would result in a long wait in a phone queue. Very high-tech of them!

For now I've restored my domain by using these clowns' name servers, the part of their site that works.

So, recommendations? Jamie recommends Other suggestions?

MPD is great!

I finally got sick of xmms being so flaky and installed mpd which was discussed on gllug recently. It's brilliant!

In the Unix tradition, it is a collection of small tools that do one thing well, and nothing more. mpd is a music player that happily sits in the background as a daemon. A bunch of clients connect to the daemon and control what gets played. gmpc is clean, stable and nice. I've also got lirc working for the remote control and a tiny web-based client to allow control from the PDA. Neat!