Elly Williams' Weblog

Caught Between Industries

Compatability Rant

This is part rant part cry for help…….

I use Firefox as my main browser. I use Thunderbird for email. I recently removed Outlook Express from my computer because I do not use it and do not intend to. The only reason I still tolerate IE on my system is to check that any sites I create are viewable in IE. I have no intention of changing this.

While I had my computer up at Uni I was required to access any external sites through the Uni proxy – I also got very good at setting this up for other people who couldn’t figure out how to change this very basic setting.
Naturally as soon as I got my computer back home this was no longer required and I removed the setting.

Given my tendancy to rant about people not keeping their machines secure and updated, I felt that not installing Windows Service Pack II would be somewhat hypocritical – So I installed it.

And now:

  • IE is permanently set as my default browser – despite me telling it not to be in multiple places.
  • Outlook Express is back on my Start Menu – but not in my Add/Remove Programs, so I can’t get rid of it. This also applies to IE.(Note: Yes, it is in the the Add/Remove Windows Components section but that only takes it off the Start Menu – nothing more)
  • My proxy settings have been reinstated for IE somewhere where I can’t find them – and seeing as I’ve now graduated from Bath my login has expired and I can’t access anything but an error page

The reason this is annoying is that if I get an email with a link that I want to follow – for instance any of the dozen news mails I get every day, or any comment-spam I want to blacklist, or just some friendly person sending me a link – I cannot just click on the link as this opens IE, asks for my proxy username and password and then gives me an error page. So I’m stuck having to copy-paste links manually.

And it’s really annoying.

Any ideas anyone?

Look What I Did!!!

I just made my first submission to deviantART.

Well, it keeps the boredom at bay.

Acceptable use of Violence

Martin and I were wincing at the trailer for I, Robot and commenting on it being “sort of ok” to kill Robots in movies and games… in the same way that it’s “sort of ok” to kill Zombies, Demons, Nazis, Aliens, Cyborgs, Terrorists, Scientific Experiments Gone Wrong….. the list goes on.

But as soon as you kill REAL PEOPLE (terrorists don’t count… they don’t qualify for human rights so they can’t be human….obviously) with REAL (meaning red) BLOOD… and heaven forbid if you can actually see their faces and expressions as you attack them at close range… then it’s inciting violence in the real world.

Personally I don’t see that there is much difference (in gaming) between hacking at a mutant with a crowbar and chasing after a person with a baseball bat. They’re both sick and violent and if one of these is going to incite you to go out and actually do it chances are the other is too… but if that’s the kind of person you are then eating tomato soup might have the same effect….

Clear as Concrete…?

If only I’d known about this 6 months ago!!

Meri sent me this link from the NY Times about a new exhibition of concrete at the National Building Museum in Washington. And the big deal is that they’re showcasing a product called LiTraCon, short for Light Transmitting Concrete.

And how’s it done..?… well, a clever Hungarian Architect (?on Losonczi) came up with the idea of making concrete blocks with parallel optical fibres running throught it. Pretty clever… and pretty pretty too…and apparently you don’t lose much in the way of compressive strength.

And given that there’s not much loss in terms of compressive strength, you can do pretty much anything with it that you could do with any other concrete block….Once the price comes down that is…..

Alternative links
Boing Boing: Clear Concrete
optics.org: Concrete casts new light in dull rooms

A Different Kind of Super-Bean

Scientists in Brazil have decoded the genetic structure of the country’s best-known product, coffee.

The success of a two-year government project was announced on Tuesday by the country’s agriculture minister.

Roberto Rodrigues said an extraordinary horizon had opened up – and the coffee would taste even better as a result.

He proclaimed that Brazil would use the genetic code to create a super-coffee, richer in taste, more aromatic and resistant to disease and frost.


He said this would be achieved naturally through cross-pollination of coffee plants and not through genetic modifications in a laboratory.

Brazilians decode coffee genome

….so in a few years we might have “super-coffee”? I’m bouncing off the walls just thinking about it!

And the guys over at The Register share my excitement.


So, er… I felt like changing the style…

I’m still tweaking it, but overall I like the new colour and the center layout’s slightly less messy than the old one… I think the daisy is going to have to come back somewhere tho….

Damn The Spam

Anyone who’s checked this site over the past day or two may have noticed the innundation of spam-comments I’ve had.

OK, so spam is not ground-breaking news anymore but this particular lot had done something annoyingly sneaky and this was the first time I’d noticed this particular trick.

They were using the ASCII codes for some of the letters (seemingly at random) in the URLs they were pushing, meaning that there were several variations for even a single URL making it much harder, more time consuming and generally more annoying to de-spam and blacklist them.

Groundbreaking News

Isn’t it nice when we all sing vaguely the same tune.

There is a good chance that your home computer has been hijacked by spammers if you have a broadband net link, but are not using a firewall or anti-virus software to protect your PC.

Even if you use anti-virus software but do not keep it up to date, there is every possibility that you are helping to keep spam alive and spreading.

You could also be helping if you are one of those people that open up attachments on e-mail messages that turn out to contain viruses, rather than the pictures you were promised in a subject line.

Spammers are actively seeking out and hijacking home PCs to act as remotely controlled relays, or zombies, that pass on their unwanted messages.

Home PCs hijacked to spread spam – BBC Online News

Moving Music

While I was on the train this morning, listening to my non-iPod-portable-mp3-player-harddrive-widgit, I was contemplating a conversation I had with Martin a while back.

We had discussed how there were a number of albums (We were specifically talking about Disintegration by The Cure, which is what I was listening to) that were traditionally “borrowed” from friends’ CD collections after break-ups with their ‘significant others.’ And I got to wondering about what the digital equivalent might be.

A few years ago, after a rather nasty break-up, one of my housemates at the time quarantined over 50% of my CDs for this very reason. At the time I relied entirely on hard-copy, my computer being on the other side of the country, so I had no other option but to listen to the “officially sanctioned” remainder of my music collection.

It would be somewhat more difficult now for someone to do something similar. For a start, my CD collection is significantly bigger now than it was then, but most importantly I have most of it in digital too. Even if someone got to my computer, copied the offending tracks to portable format and then removed the original and the copy as well as the hard-copy CD(if one exists), what’s to stop me from finding a filesharer out there to get another copy off? Short of some rather extreme restricting of what I can and can’t do with my PC, not a lot. And I don’t think that many “well meaning friends” are going to go to that kind of effort.

So, are we going to see a rise of post-break-up (or any other excuse) teens wallowing in self pity listening to their irremovable Radiohead mp3s? Watch this space…..

is an Architecture Student and Web Designer based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, (UK)