Monthly archives: July 2010

links for 2010-07-17

  • When Mike Christensen says his Camaro had a big supercharger on it, he wasn't kidding. According to Mike, his dad came home from the junkyard one day with a supercharger so big they could only speculate it came off a locomotive engine (side note, we must know where this junkyard is — immediately). Being bored gearheads, and having a sweet first generation Camaro drag racer laying around, they decided to lash it onto the car's big V8.

iPad or Archos 9

Because I can’t help being contrary (and I’ll have plenty of time before I can afford to do anything about it anyway) I’ve started pondering whether I want an iPad or would rather have something like an Archos 9 Tablet. Many of my friends have Archos media players and I don’t think I’ve heard anything negative about them. Amazon user reviews on the 9 are biased toward the negative, though I’m inclined to think some of that is because it needs a bit more thought to set up (but is consequently more adaptable) than an iPad.

The Archos 9 is better value storage wise than the iPad. It has a smaller screen, though it claims 1080p display capability compared to the iPad’s 720p (though how it does this with a 1024 x 600 screen is beyond me). I don’t think it has the iPad’s orientation detection- it’s landscape all the way. And, most obviously, the Archos isn’t going to have the mass of apps that the iPad will. I’m not sure this is a deal breaker, I’d only really need a text editor, ebook reader (it’s Windows, I can run a version of Kindle on it as well as pdfs, rtf etc.) and a lightweight drawing package such as ArtRage. Anything more, as my nice new desktop proves, and I get distracted from doing any real work far too easily.

I’m definitely conflicted. But it’s going to be at least six months before I could afford either tablet, so I have plenty of time to think about it. Of course, the obvious way to work out which one is best for me would be if Archos and Apple would both be so kind as to send me a review copy for a month or so……….

Mack Bolan is The Executioner 1

Mack Bolan is The Executioner, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

I have an inkling to try and start a series of books for the Kindle and other ebook readers. I’m in Oklahoma (the cafe, not the state) right now bashing out an introductory tale. (When I say introductory it uses characters from other stories I’ve written and is based upon a phone comic I never got finished.)

For inspiration I’ve already bought a load of Saint books and I’m working through them. Today I found these on the book stall opposite the Arndale. The stall owner told me there were thirty in the pile in total, but I think five is enough for starters.

Now I must get down to work on the first of the Irwin series of books- Tiger.

links for 2010-07-13

  • You can build just about any app you can imagine with App Inventor. Often people begin by building games like WhackAMole or games that let you draw funny pictures on your friend's faces. You can even make use of the phone's sensors to move a ball through a maze based on tilting the phone.

    But app building is not limited to simple games. You can also build apps that inform and educate. You can create a quiz app to help you and your classmates study for a test. With Android's text-to-speech capabilities, you can even have the phone ask the questions aloud.

  • Everybody is becoming [a superhero]. In the past I've tried to say, 'Look, we are all crappy superheroes,' because personal computers and mobile phone devices are things that only Bat Man and Mr Fantastic would have owned back in the sixties. We've all got this immense power and we're still sat at home watching pornography and buying scratch cards. We're rubbish, even though we are as gods. I think the idea that we can all be superheroes if we want might still be contagious, like in V For Vendetta. I've heard of urban superheroes springing up across the world. I think there's one in London called Angle-grinder Man…
  • The Ministry of Defence has unveiled its prototype unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).

    Taranis is a concept design for a long-range strike plane that has taken over three million man hours to produce.

    Defence Minister Gerald Howarth said it was a "truly trailblazing project" and featured "the best of our nation's advanced design and technology".

    The aircraft is due to begin flight trials early next year.

    (tags: uav plane weapons)
  • Hundreds of people who live and work in Manchester will be given free training in cycling safely through the city.

    Manchester City Council is offering the free sessions to up to 300 people over the next year, aimed at those who would like to start cycling to work or for fun, but who feel nervous about riding along busy streets.

  • Bananas are a great food for anyone who cares about their carbon footprint. For just 80g of CO2e you get a whole lot of nutrition: 140 calories as well as stacks of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and dietary fibre. All in all, a fantastic component of a low-carbon diet.

    Bananas are good for just about everyone – athletes, tennis pros, people with high blood pressure, everyday cycle commuters in search of an energy top-up, or anyone wishing to chalk up their recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. There are three main reasons that bananas have such small carbon footprints compared with the nourishment they provide:

links for 2010-07-12

  • Alex Dowsett (Trek-Livestrong) tuned up for next week's U23 European championships by winning the Procycling Hot Laps at BikeRadar Live.

    Dowsett clocked a blistering 2'12 for the 1.2 mile (1.9km) lap of the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, an average speed of 32.2mph (51.8km/h). The time was even more impressive given the extremely windy conditions and hilly nature of the circuit.

    (tags: cycling)
  • So just how true is this perception that motorists are so unfairly taxed? Well in the financial year 2006-07 £28.43bn was raised from taxes on fuel and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). In the same year around £8.78bn went toward maintenance and £11.91bn new road building, but that is not the whole story. The cost of policing the roads and the expense incurred by the judicial system has been estimated to be £3bn. Also, the cost to the NHS of injuries due to road accidents crashes, according to figures from collated by RoSPA, was £9.93bn. So the total cost to government was £33.62bn, meaning there was a short fall of £5.19bn, which had to be covered from other non-motoring related taxation.

    In addition there is the cost to businesses and other drivers due to delays caused by congestion, estimated by those rampant greens, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), to be about £19.1bn.

  • Aging rats have had their memory loss reversed, thanks to a compound that helps them form new memories again. The compound could be a breakthrough treatment for Alzheimer's.
  • Religion has at least two weaknesses. One is that it is empirically false, and all of its specific claims are either pointless and unverifiable, or have been falsified. Another, though, that we neglect at a cost of diminished effectiveness, is that it's hilarious. It's a prime target for exposure of religious folly; it's the soft, ticklish underbelly of faith and we need more people to exploit it.
    (tags: religion)

Where to buy books by Ian Pattinson

I’ve realised I’m slacking off from my self-promotional duties and some of you don’t know about all the products I have out there which you can buy. So I’m going to do a few posts telling you about the many cool things you can buy which will also support Spinneyhead. Let’s start with books.

Sounds of Soldiers, So Much To Answer For and Global Weirding are available in print through my store at If you have a Kindle e-book reader (or computer, iPod,iPhone or iPad with the Kindle software), you can buy all three novellas, and some short stories, as Post and Publish.

Ruby Red is available as a download through Lulu or for the Kindle.

When you buy any of these books, or if you’ve already sampled them, please leave a rating on the relevant site to tell others how much you enjoyed them. Thanks.

Point of Contact- No great threat

No great threat

I’m sure the language used to describe the hostiles would be much more colourful, but I’m trying to keep this the equivalent of a 12A. So occasional swearing, some violence, but not too graphic, and some talk about sex but no on page nudity. I have some ideas for a 15 equivalent tale, and some more adult stuff, but that’s for another day.

If you’d like to follow just the Point of Contact comic you can subscribe to its RSS feed.

And please vote me up these lists. Thanks-

The Webcomic List

links for 2010-07-11

links for 2010-07-10

  • Here's the bottom line: In a massive, multinational report there were 35 errors found. Many of them typos. They don't change any of the fundamental, mainstream conclusions about climate change. Also, the IPCC could stand to do a better job of communicating the inherent uncertainties of climate science with the public.
  • The German attack against coastal shipping had started at the beginning of July. However, the official date of the beginning of the Battle was fixed on July 10th. The first German aircraft picked up by radar were reconnaissance planes looking for convoys which could be attacked.
    (tags: WW2)
  • Nazi Germany may have lost the war but certainly not for lack of engineering genius. The sheer amount of advanced weaponry and concepts dreamed up during the Thousand-Year Reich’s 12 years in business continues to baffle the mind. 800 mm artillery pieces? Check. The world’s first jet fighter, cruise missile, and sub-orbital ballistic missile? Check, check, and check.
    (tags: weapons WW2)

Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable. Perfect, but blue 1

Do you have a thousand dollars to put towards creating the perfect hi-fi/home cinema system? Yes? Then start with the cable. Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable starts from $999.99 for a refurbished one. That’s less than a dollar per millimetre, it has to be good value.

Of course, on Amazon the real test of how good a product is comes in the customer comments. The AKDL1 has 377 comments, with strong showings for both 1 star and 5. From the 1 star reviews, Harmless Gryphon from “Nowhere worth mentioning” has this to say-

I knew my day was going to improve when the truck pulled up at my home with this cable deep within. No ordinary truck, this one was Holy White, and the gold Delivery logo sparkled like a thousand suns reflected through shards of the purest ice formed with unadulterated water collected at the beginning of the universe. The driver, clad in a robe colored the softest of white, floated towards me on the cool fog of a hundred fire extinguishers. He smiled benevolently, like a father looking down upon his only child, and handed me a package wrapped in gold beaten thin to the point where you could see through it. I didn’t have to sign, because the driver could see within my heart, and knew that I was pure. Upon opening the package, an angelic choir started to sing, and reached a crescendo as I laid this cable on my stereo system. Instantly, my antiquated equipment transformed into components made from the clearest diamond-semiconductor. The cable knew where to go, and hooked itself into the correct ports without help from me – all the while, the choir sang praises to the almighty digital god. With trepidation, I pushed “play,” and was instantly enveloped in a sound that echoed the creation of all matter, a sound that vibrated every cell in my body to perfection. I was instantly taken to the next plane, where I saw the all-father. I knew with my entire soul, that all was good in the world.

But then I realized the cable was blue, so I only gave it one star. I hate blue.

If only it had been a different colour.

The cable is so perfect it tends to warp time and space. Matthew’s problem-

Transmission of music data at rates faster than the speed of light seemed convenient, until I realized I was hearing the music before I actually wanted to play it. Apparently Denon forgot how accustomed most of us are to unidirectional time and the general laws of physics. I tried to get used to this effect but hearing songs play before I even realized I was in the mood for them just really screwed up my preconceptions of choice and free will. I’m still having a major existential hangover.

Would not purchase again.

Pales a little when compared to that of John L, communicating from “Border of Wasteland, Former USA”

This connection isn’t sound. If my calculations are correct, it should be sometime around 2007 for whomever is reading this. DO NOT USE THESE CABLES. Something… happens with them. Something came through, something from somewhere else. We were overrun in days, not many of us are left. WE LIVE UNDERGROUND! ONLY YOU CAN STOP IT NOW. SAVE US. DO NOT USE THESE CABLES.

I don’t have much time. This connection isn’t sound. If my calculations are correct, it should be–

The 5 star reviews should be better, but still tend to show up certain problems. “A Customer” writes-

This seemingly underwhelming bit of wire, shrouded in a strange material gave off a strange aura when i stood near. A quick vision from God later and i knew i had to assassinate John Lennon using the mystical powers held within. I was disappointed to see however, after a quick Google search that John Lennon is already dead. His life stolen no doubt, by the previous owner of the very same cable i had come to posses.

A friend of mine also bought this on ebay where it was described as ‘Blue Cable’. The vague description suggested that he would be in receipt of the worst kind of Pornography through his TV but instead he recieved ‘a blue cable’. Disappointed, he used its strong sheathing to hang himself outside Hugh Hefner’s house to drive home his pain.

Cyberdan says-

I usually make quite good choices in life, however, not reading the manual or taking the 3 day training seminar in Oxnard, CA before trying to install this work of art was not one of them. Once I powered up my system, I realized that I had inadvertently hooked up the wrong ends to the wrong components. I don’t need to explain to any of you that the immediate reversal of my local gravity created quite a mess (it was pizza night of course). I had to replace every component in my system (not to mention a broken collar bone). The only exception was one well-made cable. Since that day, it has preformed flawlessly.

And Seblick gets technical-

As a cable it is without peer. Flux measurements at the terminus indicate a 5 by 5 Higgs Boson toroidal equivilence at a 570-degree rotation!
The parallel interspace coiling does result in a break-in period that measures close to 70,000 hours, but adjusting your frame-decoupling VMDRW box to the negative Kardza-Chu mode can reduce the time significantly.
Negatives expressed about this cable in other reviews are the result of failure to appreciate transcendence and purity of being that is rare in the cabling industry.

(As a post-script, I have noticed a “muddiness” in piano music between 9500 and 11200 hz.)

Whilst “Trevor McDave” expolains how mere mortals can afford it-

I’m sure I don’t need to explain that this is an amazing cable. Half of the advanced technology is only there to prevent the other half from creating a black hole through sheer awsomeness. The problem is, I’m sure most people who view this page are just left wondering how they, mere mortals, can afford it. Well, I will explain how I managed it, and through this technique you can soon have a Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable of your very own.

Go to the nearest drawer, or a similarly convenient place. If you do the following steps correctly, you should find a piece of paper with details of a bank account in your name. Use this account to order the cable from Amazon.

When it arrives, connect one end to a helmic regulator and the other to a time rotor. Make sure you follow the directional arrows. Remember, the signal goes from the helmic regulator to the time rotor, never the other way around. Then, using mere ordinary cables, connect the helmic regulator to a dimensional stabiliser and a computer keyboard. If you can’t find a helmic regulator, time rotor and dimensional stabiliser, a potato, an aardvark and a tin of spam should do. The AKDL1 will warp reality and turn them into the components you need. You should now have a basic but fully-working time and space machine. In case you’re wondering, there is no need for zeiton crystals. The device should power itself from the primal energies of the universe generated as a by-product of the AKDL1.

The next step is to go back a few centuries and place a large sum of money in a savings account. Upon your return to the present, compound interest should mean the account contains enough money to afford the Denon AKDL1, and maybe have a few pennies left over besides. Finally, write the details of the account on a piece of paper, go back a couple of days, and leave it in the drawer for your past self to find.

A word of warning, though. Never reverse the polarity of the neutron flow. If you do, the AKDL1 will obtain sentience, almost godlike powers, and an appetite for destruction. And that means trouble, believe me (hence the missing star).

I have to stop now, or I’ll spend the rest of the day reading silly reviews for a ludicrously expensive bit of wire.

Supplied by Mark Taylor, Whitehaven

Supplied by Mark Taylor, Whitehaven, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

When my parents visited last week they brought me a pair of bikes to rescue. One of them was an old Raleigh ladies bike. Two details dated the bike to some time in the eighties at the latest. One was the proud proclamation that the ride had been designed and handbuilt in Nottingham. The other is more parochial. This sticker, near the bottom bracket, announces the shop it was purchased from.

Mark Taylor had shops in Workington and Whitehaven which were treasure troves to a younger me. As well as bikes they had a great toy section which stocked a wonderful array of models (I had yet to discover that there were such things as model shops.)

Mark Taylor closed some time in the eighties or nineties, possibly because I was no longer there to keep it open through the power of my window-shopping and "One day I’ll have that."

(Whilst Googling around about this I discovered that Mark Taylor continued as a bike shop and hire centre and may still be going. The toy shop is definitely no more though.)

links for 2010-07-05

  • Anne Lukeman's "22 frames that always work" transmutes the Wally Wood comic classic, 22 panels that always work," into a film-making equivalent.
    (tags: film)
  • In 1951, when the Soviet Union was on its high, authorities had an idea of building special floatation devices for tanks. First sample workpieces for T-54 tank were made at in 1952, and, some several weeks later tests were carried out on the Oka river. In the next two years trial test at the sea were conducted. And in 1957, eventually, the floatation device was passed into service.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for ideas of ‘bad laws’ which restrict freedoms. The government want to hear about laws which should be repealed or offences which should be scrapped. We think that they should scrap the law that says that all schools must hold an act of (broadly Christian) collective worship every day because:

    • It forces young people to pray or worship in other ways, regardless of their personal beliefs
    • It does not respect children’s and young people’s rights to freedom of religion or belief
    • It does not recognise the plurality of beliefs in the UK
    • The system whereby you can opt your child out of religious worship is deeply flawed in theory and practice
    • Under 16s can’t opt-themselves out without their parents’ permission
    • Inclusive assemblies are a better alternative and contribute more to well being and development.

  • An ill thought out and rushed in bill (part of the "wash up" at the fag end of the last parliament). Lots of loopholes eg the hacking of your home wireless network and subsequent misuse is YOUR responsibility not the hackers. The ability of the Secretary of State to alter what's illegal without any further recourse to Parliament, EVER, is particularly draconian and worrying. It ALL needs to go in to go and IF a replacement is required it need to be PROPERLY thought out and consulted.
    (tags: politics)
  • But no matter how much I talk about awareness and avoidance, people always want to hear about martial arts, too. It seems the Paralyzing Nerve Point Strikes of Long Dong Do are sexier than just knowing where trouble is likely to occur and arranging to not be there when it does. All right, let's talk a little about the "sexy" stuff. But please, let's keep in mind what really matters—awareness and avoidance.
  • It's finally here — the biggest alternate timeline of all alternate timelines, the alternate history trope to top all alternate history tropes. Today we look at some alternate histories of the Second World War.
  • This article will give you some background on surveillance and countersurveillance, but no amount of theory can substitute for the real thing. So if you're serious about learning how to follow someone undetected and how to detect someone who's trying to follow you, you need to get out there and practice. Practice means picking a subject and following that person around without his or her seeing you. But be careful: to anyone who notices what you're up to, your behavior will be indistinguishable from that of criminals, and you can easily get yourself into trouble with this exercise.