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iPod Statistics October 2007

Entry 351 posted in: 9. I, Pod

Again a bunch of useless iPod stats on my MySpace page.

For the top 10 list of the songs I've been listening to since January go to http://www.myspace.com/atagong.

For the top 10 list of the songs I've been listening to in the month of October, go to the MySpace blog section.

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: iPod Statistics September 2007

Don't kill Bill!

Entry 352 posted in: 7. Star Trek - The Original Sucker

Mr. William Shatner is angry, so tells me my local newspaper. The reason is fairly simple. A new Star Trek movie is in the make and the actor who is going to play James Tiberius Kirk is not his royal wigginess but a guy called Chris Pine, a young actor who looks like an underwear commercial model.

You can't deny that William Shatner is an old man, he must be around one hundred and three right now, and so we can't expect him to play the role of young Kirk, can we? And that is what this new movie, aptly called Star Trek, is apparently about: the adventures of young Kirk in Trekkieland.

If I may believe the reliable source also known as the Internet this prequel drags around a few characters such as Christopher Pike (tetraplegic after a delta radiation incident), Captain Garrovick (killed by an attack of the dikironium cloud creature) and George Samuel Kirk, James's brother (killed by an attack of the Beta Portolan neural parasite). (Deduct the before mentioned captain Garrovick will'ya, nobody found a way to write him into the script.)

Rumours go that in the movie old Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and young Spock (Zachary Quinto, a young actor who looks like an underwear commercial model) team up. They have to prevent that young Kirk from the past will be killed by some evil Romulans from the future. Thus keeping the timeline intact were geriatric Kirk (William Shatner), now 138 years old, dies on the planet Veridian III in order to save the entire universe, an event that all Trekkies remember as being thoroughly sad and slightly overacted.

So basically this is just an average time travel story, one of those science fiction plots invented by authors who have got no inspiration left. We've already had our share of time travelling movies in the past. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Kirk and company travel to 1986 to save some whales. If you are not interested in Trek history: don't bother to ask. Star Trek Generations puts Kirk away in a timeless zone, a bit like an airport terminal, so that he can meet his prolific successor, Jean Luc Picard, in the future. And in movie number 8, First Contact, the next generation crew takes the time travel express to 2063 in order to save young Zefrane Cochram from the evil Borg queen.

Recycling is such a beautiful thing. For the past and for the future. But please let us not forget the elderly. Give them a home, a place to stay, an enterprise to believe in...


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: jPod


Money for nothing and your bits for free...

Entry 353 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash, 3. Gamebits

I'm a great believer of freeware (or beerware as some call it). Practically every utility can be found legally and for free on the web. It's a bit like generic medicine. Some freeware sites however are not that harmless at all or are only in it for... the money.

George Dillon has put his 50 favourite freeware programs on one page and I'm pretty sure you will find one or two in the list that will make you say: hmmm... He writes that he wants to thank the authors of the programs he lists. By hyperlinking to his page I thank him for this pretty neat collection. The only problem is that some of the freeware he lists has been replaced by updates that are not free anymore or that have disappeared. Examples are jv16PowerTools that is no longer free and Sygate Personal Firewall that has been captivated by Symantec. In that case Last Freeware Version comes in handy. It offers you about 180 freeware programs that no longer exist.

About a decade ago I was a frequent visitor of Completely Free Software. It contained without a doubt the best freeware collection for DOS and Win 3.1.To quote its owner Graham Pockett: 

This site was born in May 1996 from frustration - frustration that many of the so-called 'free software' sites were not offering freeware but shareware, time-limited, or demo software which cost money to use or are not really functional. Only the download was 'free'.

Until Graham Pockett, out of frustration I believe, decided to turn the logic around and made his site 'members only'. Those who pay 35$ (for a life time subscription) can browse the site and download its content. Only a true Christian can find the path to make money out of freeware but out of sheer honesty Pockett (what's in a name?) could at least re-baptise his website to: The Not So Completely Free Software. (I confess, people who put Christian banners on their site duly piss me off.)

So I had to go and look for other freeware sites. Luckily CFS contained a list of other places with free content and that is how I found Freewarehome. I visit them at least once a year as their collection includes a pranks section that comes in handy when April the 1st comes around. It has a pretty neat games selection as well and probably it is the place where I first found Smoke'em Poker. Somewhere in-between CFS and Freewarehome lies Nonags. The site takes subscriptions as well, but you can still download for free.

Above sites are rather well done and pretty easy to browse and search but for the more adventurous mind there will always be Freeware World Team. Here is a site that replaces quality by quantity. Presenting some 32500 freeware programs it is pretty messy to find what you are looking for, but if you can't find it there, it probably doesn't exist.

After all these years the best download place for me turned out to be Snapfiles, previously known as WebAttack. They offer a somewhat limited, but fine, selection of tasty freeware. I even left some comments over there, although I am somewhat ashamed that I only reviewed 5 programs as the majority of my Program Files folder comes from their place. I couldn't survive the software jungle without them.

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Freeware Poker


Belgium: WTF?

Entry 354 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

When Douglas Adams was asked to change every instance of the word fuck in the American version of his novel Life, the Universe and Everything it didn't take him a light-year to ponder over the new word. He chose Belgium. Adams collectors over the world also know that an extra paragraph was added to explain this twist of words:

"Belgium," said the girl, "I hardly like to say it."
"Belgium?" exclaimed Arthur. (...)
"Are we talking," said Arthur, "about the very flat country, with all the EEC and the fog?"
"What?" said the girl.
"Belgium," said Arthur. (...)
"Have you ever been to Belgium in fact?" he asked brightly and she nearly hit him.
"I think," she said, restraining herself, "that you should restrict that sort of remark to something artistic."
"You sound as if I just said something unspeakable rude."
"You did." (...)
"I see," said Arthur, who didn't, "so what do you get for using the name of a perfectly innocent if slightly dull European country gratuitously in a Serious Screenplay?"

As more and more political commentators argue that Belgium will do a Czechoslovakia all I can think of is: what the Belgium? And apparently I am not the only one. I still have to see the first demonstration of any importance in Brussels about this issue. As a matter of fact more Turkish immigrants have demonstrated in Brussels against the recent Turkish Kurd hostilities than Belgians against (or in favour of) the internal community problems.

But what is it all about? Let me tell you. But it has to be said that, as a Fleming, my comments will be biased and that most Walloons will have another story to tell.

Our time travel starts at 1830 when Belgium became an independent country. Although build on democratic principles the very strict census suffrage system only gave 46000 French speaking men the right to vote. In 1893, after some heavy demonstrations, the right to vote was finally given to all Belgian males, but two extra votes could be acquired according to tax level and social status. As Flemish people were basically farmers or labourers and Dutch education was unexisisting this meant that all extra votes still went to a French speaking elite. (It has to be said that the majority of the Walloons, poor farmers and labourers as well, only had one vote, but they could, at least in theory, have higher education in their own language).

It is a well known story (more a myth actually) that at the First World War many Flemish soldiers lost their lives simply because they didn't understand the orders of the French speaking officers. Although the voting system was finally put to the one man one vote system (women had to wait until 1948 to have voting rights) Flemings were still regarded as second-rate citizens. It is however not a myth that king Albert I once gave a speech in French and ended with the insult: 'pour les Flamands, la même chose' (for the Flemings, the same). One of my aunts told me that as an adolescent, somewhere in the late nineteen-thirties, she was punished for speaking her motherlanguage on the school playground. That was in Antwerp. But French education also meant that more and more Flemings started to infiltrate the French establishment and could slowly put some Flemish points onto the (political) agenda. Some Flemish activists didn't think this went fast enough, so they adhered the adagio 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' and sought support in Nazi-Germany (also at the first world war pro-German Flemish groups had been created). That is a shallow part of Flemish history as well.

In 1962 Belgium was officially divided in two monolingual parts (Flanders and Wallonia), the capital Brussels remained officially bilingual and a small German-speaking region was defined as well. The political crisis that we have now is all about an electoral district (Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde) in and around Brussels, partially placed in Flanders but with a French-speaking majority. Although geographically based in Flanders the inhabitants of these villages have the right to vote for political parties that have been registered in Wallonia. In 2003 the Belgian Constitutional Court decided that this political exception was illegal and that a solution had to be found before the 24th of June 2007. (Actually I have simplified the problem a bit as the legal gobbledygook is a mixture of legal, linguistical, geographical and political inconsistencies in this Belgian area that covers Brussels-Capital but also small parts of Wallonia and Flanders).

For the first time in history the Flemish majority in parliament (representing about 60% of the population) has now voted against the Walloon counterpart regarding the BHV issue. But to tell the truth: here in Belgium, apart from the king (who still has problems speaking Dutch), the politicians and some dodgy extremists, nobody gives a Belgium.

Actually light-year is not a measurement of time. But I don't give a damn.

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Just like Belgium


Thingamablog 1.1b

Entry 355 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

This blog is made with open source software called Thingamablog. As a whole TAMB isn’t bad but even the world’s most average blogger could use some extra bells and whistles that were promised by its maker in September … 2006. Since then nada, nothing, zilch… and it made me wonder if this project had been officially declared dead. Lucky another TAMB fanatic kept the fire burning by adding some add-ons: Wikilink Update 2 (Thingamablog add-on)

No I’ve got nothing against ‘dead’ software if it keeps on working fine. The best spam filter around on the web, in my overzealous opinion of course, is Robin Keir’s K9. The last version dates from 18 April 2004 but as the sum of false negatives and wrong positives is, in my case, a mere 0.14% (combined with the build-in black hole list (DNSBL) from zen.spamhaus.org that strikes 100%). I don’t see why I should change for a more modern spam filter. Not that I haven’t tried. But after a few hours, days or weeks I always revert to good old K9.

Just when I was thinking of switching to another piece of software to replace Thingamablog a new version (v1.1b) was released. According to its creator, Bob Tantlinger, this update can handle the following extra bits and pieces:

  • Post from email
  • Template Packs
  • Entry Preview
  • Internal Links
  • More flexible html editing options

So far for the good news. The bad news is that TAMB 2.0 will still stay in the cooker for quite a while. But I’ve regained confidence so Wordpress will have to wait a bit longer. If all goes well this post is the first to be created with v1.1b2.

Note: this update is still in beta phase. Bug fixes are expected to be published over the next few days or weeks...

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Some updates...


GiveAway Of The Day

Entry 356 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash, 3. Gamebits

People that keep a close watch on this blog may have seen that, since a week or so, there have appeared two links at the right side of the screen, right under the Google search for this site.

The first is called 'Giveaway of the Day', the second 'Game Giveaway of the Day'. The concept behind these websites is fairly simple (it must be, otherwise I wouldn't understand it). For one day, one day only, a commercial program can be downloaded and licensed for free. The software in question, so it goes, is a full working version, so no time limited trials, liteware, crippleware, demoware or nagware is allowed. As long as you don't re-install or copy the software to another computer it should keep on working.

I have been following the website for some time now and after some serious consideration, helped with a few Guinness beers, I finally decided to add the links last week. Then disaster struck. November the 12th presented a program called Safe’n'Sec Pro. This piece of software described itself as a Trojan, spyware, backdoor and rootkit scanning device.

A first thing that was found out by the downloaders was that the program would only remain active for 6 months, so instead of defining it as an unlimited free offer it should've been defined as a time-limited trial version. Then other reports from a far more serious nature started coming in. On several systems the installation made the computer crash, sometimes rebooting the machine over and over again. Sometimes this could be repaired by going to safe mode or by starting up with the last reliable configuration. Other people had been lucky to make a restoration point before installing the software (a thing that, in fact, everyone should do before installing n'importe quoi). Several virus scanners detected the Win32.Agent-BQC.Trojan inside the package and prevented an installation. Other people saw the dreadful BSOD for the first time in their entire XP history... and then there was the user who wrote:

This program killed my computer...total freeze up...I had to reinstall everything...! One terabyte worth... BAD BAD ...there was no way to undo any changes.... bad program...delete it.. quick!!!

Giveaway of the Day has been accused before of giving overpriced software away, but at least it did it for free. But Safe'n'Sec Pro crossed the line and it is a pity that the management of GAOTD didn't even find it appropriate to comment or to apologise for this piece of shit. Of course GAOTD didn't write the software, it only gave it away for free. But the absolute silence from its management makes one wonder. It is one of the reasons why Bear Bottoms (another one of those goofy freeware sites) removed the GAOTD link on their site.

Just when I was thinking to delete the GAOTD links on my blog they came up with MemOptimizer, basically a RAM management system with some cute bells and whistles. At 19.95$ or 13.62 Euro it is blatantly overpriced for this kind of software. There are enough freeware solutions to manage RAM on your system, but as it was free for a day I installed it and it is now running very smoothly on the background.

Another giveaway this week was EverNote, a database to collect and search through notes, sticky papers, snapshots and even handwritten messages. Some people who already used the freeware version of this software have called this the best Giveaway ever; others called it a cult application that you will find indispensable once you have used it.

On Game Giveaway of the Day I found Mahjongg Artifacts this week. You either love or hate mah-jongg but this proved to be a simple and very addictive game. Although, again, I would never pay 19.95$ for it. There are enough freeware mah-jongg applications on the web if you ask me.

So for the moment I still give GAOTD the benefit of the doubt. For those interested to download and install some software from that site I would strongly suggest to await the comments first. These are mostly pretty straightforward. Read them and decide if the Giveaway of the Day is a valid program or not. Remember: even for free crappy software is still crap.

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Money for nothing and your bits for free...


Some updates...

Entry 357 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash, 3. Gamebits

beta 1.3.4 released
stable release version 1.2.6.

beta 0.6 released. With this new version of PokerTH, you no longer need to exchange IP addresses and configure routers to play on the internet. The makers are now running a dedicated server which will host PokerTH games.

beta 1.1 version 4 has been released fixing some bugs.

If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Freeware Poker