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Akira the Don - "Manga Music" [Oct. 26th, 2011|10:39 pm]
Carefully, Correctly Wrong
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I've pimped the music of Akira the Don here before, as has markeris through whom I discovered him. Recently, he's brought out his new mixtape, Manga Music, sampling and referencing the films that Manga Entertainment brought us in the early 90s (and The Sisters of Mercy on Dominion Tank Police for you goffs).

As this interview with Comics Alliance points out, the stuff that Manga Entertainment brought into the UK was most of my generation's first exposure to anime, and very unlike anything we'd experienced before. It's easy and fashionable to mock the crappy dubbing, poor translation and focus on sex and explosions these days, but in those almost pre-Internet (and certainly pre-broadband) times, those VHS tapes were the best we had - and if they hadn't proved there was a mass market for anime and manga, the wide variety readily available in UK shops these days might never have happened.

So listening to the mixtape is not only an experience in great music with fine rapping and fantastic production, but also a nostalgia trip for my teenage years, and the times when I was being introduced to goth and industrial music, anime, Command and Conquer, Doom deathmatches on null-modem-linked 386s and some of my closest friends. And of course the visuals, the stories, the sex and explosions, and the soundtracks of some great anime films.
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Driving Down Memory Lane [Oct. 17th, 2011|11:47 pm]
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I'm typing this from the De Vere Venues Horsley Park, where I'm staying for two nights on work expenses. It's not quite as great as the website makes it look - at least, not when I'm not getting to mosey around the grounds before it gets dark. I'm here for a two-day training course on web application hacking, from the author of "The Web Application Hackers' Handbook". I picked up the first edition, a 700-page tome, on Friday and was expected to have read it by Monday morning; I skim read the first couple of chapters.

The drive down from Manchester last night took me nearly five hours, but that was at least partly due to the hotel not actually being anywhere near where the website map says it is, and poorly signposted, and the directions I got from the reception desk being wrong. It took me on the M6 and M40 between Manchester and Oxford, a very nostalgic journey from driving around places with inbetween_girl. Then up the M40 from Oxford to the M25, which was my old commute to work at red|hot|chilli. Finally on the road down towards Guildford, where I spent many years at school growing up. I spent most of the journey feeling a little melancholy about all this.

I'm wondering if this is part of growing up - I think a fair amount about the past, how life didn't turn out how I thought it would, and how I'm not going to achieve some of the things I wanted to do. But on the other hand, it never gets past a feeling of gentle regret. I'm quietly enjoying my life these days, I'm pretty satisfied with who I am and what I'm doing. I recognise that I can never do everything I want to in this life - there just aren't enough hours in the day. So while my younger selves might be disappointed that I'm not doing what they wanted me to be doing by this time, I think they'd be happy with how things have turned out.
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Radio Silence [Sep. 6th, 2011|07:20 pm]
Carefully, Correctly Wrong
I keep trying to find odd minutes to scrabble down LJ posts, but right now between starting a new job and various non-work commitments, I'm just too busy.

I'm OK, and life is good, but when I get home of an evening I just don't have time or energy to marshal my thoughts into coherent personal writing. Hope you're all OK too.

Things should be a little less hectic towards the end of September, with any luck.
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LJ Talk Problem Solved [Aug. 16th, 2011|11:41 pm]
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I like LJ Talk. It's an instant messaging service which uses Jabber, an open protocol also known as XMPP, meaning you're not locked in to particular software like you are with MSN. Yes, I know that a lot of software has reverse-engineered the MSN, ICQ etc. protocols, but they still break when the owners change the rules. I use bitlbee to talk to people on LJ Talk; others use Pidgin, Kopete, Psi and lots of other software.

It's also tied in to your LiveJournal - your LJ friends are automatically added to your IM list. However, as an example of this lovely open protocol, LJ Talk isn't all that great. It doesn't integrate into the LJ website like Facebook Chat does (though the inability to turn FB chat off irritates the crap out of me), it's not well publicised like Google Talk is, and it seems to have gone back to being a walled garden where you can't add non-LiveJournal contacts. If you want a Jabber account to play with, I suggest jabber.org.

Recently goodqueenmolly has been having real trouble with LJ Talk. It seems that the encryption certificate used for LJ Talk has the wrong hostname (www.livejournal.com rather than livejournal.com) and hence some IM clients such as Kopete will refuse to connect. Most Jabber clients will let you specify a server, and connecting to www.livejournal.com (though keeping the Jabber ID as username@livejournal.com) will fix the problem.
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Debian Turns 18 [Aug. 16th, 2011|12:11 pm]
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So the Debian project, home of Debian GNU/Linux and other great software distributions, has turned 18. That's impressive for a free software project (the GNU project itself is only 27), and makes Debian the oldest extant distribution except for Slackware (which is just one month older).

Debian wasn't my first introduction to the world of free software and GNU/Linux, but it was the one that stuck. Debian was good enough for me to ditch Windows for over five years ago (after a few years of dual-booting), and it's only improved since then. Other distributions have come along since, but I've tried many and none match Debian's vast collection of high quality-assured free software.

Debian's focus on freedom is commendable, especially while still supporting people who want to use proprietary software, and avoiding the knee-jerk refusal to encourage proprietary creators towards freedom. Its support of as wide a range of architectures and kernels as possible is impressive. All this against a background of a democratic, community-driven volunteer project. For those of us interested in international community organisation, in projects pursuing ethical goals working with commercial organisations, and in co-operative enterprises where the contributors have equal say in the direction of the project, Debian stands as a great example of good practice and high-quality results.

So thanks to the entire Debian community, some of whom I'm happy to call friends, for the hard work they've put in over the last 18 years. While I've never been a Debian developer, I've spent a lot of time supporting users on IRC, and met lovely people like resiak that way. I'll go on using, supporting and advocating Debian, and look forward to the 21st birthday!
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Test [Jul. 26th, 2011|05:22 pm]
Carefully, Correctly Wrong
Can't post to LJ help help.
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Potential Car [Jul. 10th, 2011|03:44 pm]
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[mood |calmcalm]

A friend of mine is selling a 2003-vintage, 1l Vauxhall Corsa, and wants £1,500 for it. Are there Manchester drivers who can come view the car (in Manchester city centre) with me? Art reckons that £1,500 is a tad high for the car, but it might be worth it if it's in good nick and coming from a friend. I haven't arranged any viewing yet.

I've done a little research and some calculations - assuming a rise in petrol prices, driving to Macclesfield will cost me £2,000 a year insurance, £500 in running costs (based on brrm's estimates) and £1000 in petrol. That's £3,500 total. My current commute costs me about £1,500/yr, so I'd need to be earning about £4,000 more before tax to have the same post-commute income.
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Free to a Good Home: DVD Player, Freeview STB [Jun. 18th, 2011|02:44 pm]
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Basically as per subject. We've got a standalone DVD player with SCART out, and a Freeview box with ditto. They both work, but we have no need for them - the PS3 plays DVDs, and our new TV's got a built in Freeview decoder (not that we can get a signal).

Free to the first person who can collect from our place in Levenshulme (Cross-posted to manchester).
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Attack the Block [Jun. 7th, 2011|11:18 am]
Carefully, Correctly Wrong
[Tags|, ]
[mood |impressedimpressed]
[music |Nine Inch Nails - "Heresy"]

Last weekend, goodqueenmolly and I went to see Attack the Block, a movie I'd heard referred to as "Hoodies vs Aliens". It stars Nick "Simon Pegg's Mate" Frost and is written/directed by Joe Cornish, who's of the same comedy generation. This led me to expect that it would be a light-hearted, stereotype-heavy movie in the vein of Hot Fuzz. Instead, it's something more interesting and better.

Rather than go for the easy laughs, Cornish decides to play it straight - the film opens with a group of five guys in hoodies mugging a woman at knifepoint, which is far more Kidulthood than Shaun of the Dead. This works well when the predators become the prey when the aliens arrive. The most stereotypical, comic relief character is the trustafarian dim-witted posh white stoner, but even he gets to play an important part in the plot. Most of the humour comes from the disparate characters' reactions to the situation they find themselves thrown together in, and their deadpan, black humour when talking to each other.

The sci-fi elements make enough sense that they provide some motivation to the aliens, and don't get in the way of the story. The aliens themselves are very well done - neither overblown CGI nor rubber suits, but subtly menacing at a distance, and enough to make you jump once or twice. It's a reasonable horror film, with a message about taking responsibility for your actions which isn't hammered too hard, and most importantly no happy ending. It's still funny, and scary, but it's a more subtle blend than I was expecting and all the better for it.

(I should disclaim here that my knowledge of London housing estates is minimal at best, so I'm not going to make any claims that the portrayal is in any way "realistic" - just not as obviously stereotypical as I expected)
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LoveFilm [Jun. 7th, 2011|11:13 am]
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[mood |accomplished]
[music |Pet Shop Boys - "Luna Park"]

This weekend I finally finished looking into and setting up something I'd been considering for a while - a LoveFilm account, tied to goodqueenmolly's PS3. Much as we enjoy going to the cinema, it can be difficult for us to organise, and so something a bit more flexible which doesn't involve leaving the house looked like a good idea - and the online streaming for many titles means we don't even have to wait for the post office or make it out to the postbox.

First up, LoveFilm's T&Cs don't seem to be too terrible, and people's experiences (particularly after their recent takeover) seem to be mostly good. Eve checked out the list of titles and there seems to be a fair amount of the Asian horror films she likes, along with a bunch of classic sci-fi and horror films from Them! to Logan's Run. Their £10/mo package includes unlimited film streaming, plus one physical medium rented at a time. Interestingly, there's no difference in rental between DVD and Blu-Ray, so if you have a Blu-Ray player there's no reason not to rent them (as opposed to purchase, where Blu-Ray is still far more expensive).

The bigger concern I had was the requirement for a PlayStation Network account - as we all know, this service has been hacked to hell and back repeatedly over the last few months, and I didn't want to have to trust it with personal information, particularly not credit card details. But it seems you don't need to provide CC details to set up a PSN account, nor to link your PSN account to your LoveFilm account. You *do* need to provide your LoveFilm username and password, which is a shame, and does mean that an attacker might be able to get your CC details out of LoveFilm. I'd rather see something like the OAuth protocol used by Twitter to link the accounts in a more limited way, and will suggest this to LoveFilm.

The film streaming works pretty well; the UI for navigating titles is rubbish, and the first minute or so of the streamed movie seems to suffer from blocky encoding, but the "near-DVD" quality is quite watchable after that. It buffers enough to cope with the brief ADSL disconnects we frequently suffer, which was my main concern.

So anyway, I suspect we'll be actually paying for the service once our one-month trial ends, and can afford this now Eve's cancelled her eMusic account. This probably means more movie nights at our place - if there's something you particularly want to see, let us know and we can look at adding it to our queueueueueueue.
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