Monthly Archives: April 2008

My moral compass goes awry

TOOK ME AGES to find my compass this morning so I could find out where I was going.

When I finally found it, the needle was pointing towards magnetic north, but the odd thing is the “E” had swapped places with the “W”. It seems to now spell out NEWS, when really it should be spelling out NWSE, whatever that means.

I have had this compass for something like 40 years, and once I used it to find the Eiffel Tower – not because the needle was pointing to the iron edifice, but because I could see the tower and didn’t know how to navigate towards it.

I think my needle has fared somewhat better than the 3.5-inch, 5.25-inch and 8-inch floppy disks with their data demagnetised comprehensively.  When I was a kid, having never heard the word before, I pronounced “awry” as “orry”. Didn’t realise it had something to do with a wry outlook. How naïve I was!


Babylonians observed, so beat Victorians

WHETHER IT’S A RELIGIOUS or a scientific reason that makes people watch the skies does not, in the end, much matter.

The Babylonians, for example, produced 10s, perhaps 100s of thousands of clay tablets over the period the civilisation lasted. The British Museum picked up a huge amount of these in the Victorian era, and they are stored safely,  perhaps never to be translated. There can’t be many scholars these days that understand the wedges put into clay tablets.

Arthur Koestler, an avowed atheist in his  The Sleepwalkers, pointed out that magic and science were indistinguishable in those days. Very annoyingly, I can’t find my own Penguin edition  of The Sleepwalkers, because this house is filled with way too many books. So I’ll have to go on memory. Victorian astronomers were shocked to find that the ephemerides of the Babylonians on the clay tablets the Brits unearthed were way more accurate than their own about the planetary positions of the then known planets.

The Greeks called the Babylonians “Chaldeans”, mistakenly, and before we knew where we were we had epicycles and all sorts of ridiculous theories about why the planets went retrograde.  Observation is good.

Take for example these pix – made by our former sparring partner, ex-Rambus employee Richard Crisp. They record some facts in the universe. As the universe is bigger than us, trying to understand what any of it means is difficult even given our large roof brain. But they speak to all of us, don’t they?

They are here, here, here and here.  I have written software to compute the positions of the Sun, the Moon and the planets in the past, much aided by books such as the Textbook on Spherical Astronomy by W.M. Smart (he was), the Astronomical Almanac, published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Practical Astronomy with your Calculator by Peter Duffet-Smith. Perturbations are extraordinary effects and the calculations required are mind boggling.  Let us not talk about Brownian movements. Computers have made such things so much easier. Φ

Did masking tape cause Terminal 5 SNAFU?

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH, there’s a tale going the rounds that the big cockup at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 was caused by, er, masking tape on the sensors.

The story goes like this. The software for the luggage sensing was thoroughly checked out prior to the opening, the hardware was all in place and everything was ready to go-go.

When everything started going belly up on the first day, the engineers were mystified as all seemed to be in order. That is until someone started walking round and noted that some of the sensors still had masking tape covering them.

Seems unlikely – surely the guys throw some real bags onto the conveyor belt before launch to do a dummy run?

The IT Examiner is ready – almost

IN JUST A FEW days from now I will join the four staff I have already hired in Ole Bangalore, and supervise the introduction of the IT Examiner to the global scene.

There will also be an assault and battery of several freelancers contributing to the mix – the aim of the magazine being to interpret what’s happening in India and China to the rest of the world.

This magazine will not compete with tabloids like the Rogister and the INQster. We will be introducing journalism to the world and the workspace of the world as you haven’t seen it before. Our Indian journalists will be digging deeper and deeper to get our readers stories.

We will be off to a flying start with some top features about the companies that matter most in our lovely, lovely IT world. To us, where the money is, and where the money goes will be paramount. For was it not someone who said during the Nixon administration, “follow the money”?



April 2008 was OK on the solar panel front

APRIL 2007  was unusual for the UK. The whole month was dead hot, and then the rains set in.  The swifts looked unhappy, two months of rain after the first of May doesn’t give them much chance to feed their little chicks.

But this April is far more like a regular English April. We append below a pic of how the  Sanyo solar panels have done so far this month. Of course, fuel prices have gone up since we took advantage of the Department of Trade and Industry’s “generous” 50 per cent grant.



Mad Mike off to Bengaluru on May Day

SOS IN MORSE CODE. Or May Day as it’s called here. The May trees are beginning to blossom in England like there’s no tomorrow, the swifts from sub-Saharan Africa ,or in real English south of the desert, are beginning to arrive ‘ere in ‘arrow after their long and very puzzling journey.

And I will arrive in Ole Bengaluru on the 2nd of May to launch yet another magazine, despite my feeble protests to the contrary. May is probably the hottest month in Karnataka, but Bangalore’s monsoon arrives in June. Up on the plateau it is really never too horrid, partly because of the plateau and because of the beautiful trees that line its boulevards. Also, if you look to the links on the right, you will see that Ole Bengaluru has the highest concentration of pubs in India.

Airport Road is very dangerous for pedestrians though…. θ

Jumping jack flash, it’s a 32 nanometre gas

BIG BLUE and Taiyo Nippon Sanso are apparently creating a gas which will be used in the fabrication of 32 nanometre and later generations of semiconductor chips, according to

What this gas is a mystery wrapped in an enigma variation, because they didn’t bother to say what it is.

But it will be “very pure”, apparently and will be ready in 2011. There’s more, but not much more, here.

Faithful old phone enters Carnaby Street gulag

DAVID EVANS has a mobile phone which is so old and knackered that the LCD screen is long gone.  To phone his mates – such as Tone “the Phone” Dennis and Mad Mike Mageek, he pulls out a large piece of paper with our numbers written on it.

This phone has long been the subject of baleful comments by Tone and myself, comments that have been consistently ignored.

So we were truly truly shocked yesterday when Dave announced that his faithful old Samsung retainer was going into retirement forever, and that when we returned from Ole Bengaluru we’d find he had a new one.

At the wake for the phone, held at the Shakespeare’s Head hostelry at a crossroads on Carnaby Street, Dave duly proceeded to quaff four pints of Kronenburg in rapid succession, as he wept for what really must be the end of an era.


Varanasi pandit gets Klum invite

INDIA TODAY reported that Heidi Klum and her man called “Seal” have invited a Varanasi pandit to celebrate their third wedding anniversary.

This man, Shailesh Tripathi, said the mag, conducted a “Ganga Puja” for them when they visited Benares last year. Tripathi also showed me round Varanasi last year, but I wasn’t offered “Ganga Puja”. He had an intriguing explanation for a large painting of a  Kali Yantra on Narad Ghat which we noted, with interest, and some scepticism.

He also took me to a Durga temple where they don’t sacrifice goats any more, but merely nick the ear of the male to draw blood, he said. Durga is fond of blood sacrifice, but they all have to be male animals.  The head of the unfortunate creature is supposed to be severed with one blow. Formerly, human sacrifice was performed, but the folks have it the animals for sacrifice represent peculiarly male characteristics, such as greed for tom cats, lust for billy goats, and pride (ego) for men. The idea, according to the Bengali Karpuradistotra, is the real sacrifice of these characteristics inside yourself, not beheading poor creatures.

Here’s a little vid of Tripathi on the Ganga, doing his thing at dawn. And here’s a pic below of Narad Ghat, complete with Kali Yantra, pictures of Shiva and Kali, and a couple of goats, one of which we were to encounter in unusual circumstances, later in the day.  The goat was unscathed. And so was I for that matter…  The Kali Yantra is below the bush in this picture. 


Pulse code modulation players offer high sound quality

THE LADS AND LASSES at have an interesting wee story about a breed of music players that offer far better quality than your average IC based gizmo.

The article said Sanyo and other manufacturers are rapidly moving into producing linear pulse code modulation (PCM) players. They apparently have the advantage that the technology does not compress data, with sampling frequencies of between 48 to 96KHz/sec and sampling bit rates are 16-24 bits.

They also are affordable, with prices under ¥50,000. There’s more here (subscription required).  ♣