July 2007 Archives

Why domain squatting is evil

Stupidly large graphics files

NTK used to include, at the end of each email: "Sending >500KB attachments is forbidden by the Geneva Convention. Your country may be at risk if you fail to comply."

These references to the Geneva Convention pre-date the Bush administration's trampling all over them, and these days, with broadband, I'd upgrade that to 1MB, but the point still stands: huge attachments are not welcome.

So why is it that if I double-click a JPEG from a mail message, and then select part of it that I want, copy and paste it into a new mail message, it gets pasted as a TIFF (huge, uncompressed), but if double-click it, zoom to actual size, then do a partial screen grab, and drag the resulting file from my desktop to a mail message, it gets copied as a PNG (comparatively tiny, with no loss of quality)? Why can't Mail just Do The Right Thing, and compress any attachment to something smaller?

At least it told me I was about to send a 800K attachment rather than a 100K attachment.

In other news, I recently opened an email from someone at work saying "I think there's something wrong with this web site", including a Word document. Remarkably, said Word document was not just an annoying wrapper around a huge BMP screenshot; it actually included some explanatory text, and an arrow pointing to the bit of the screen shot that was the problem, and it wasn't huge.

UK vs US part 94

Via Talking Points Memo, I hear that the US Fox News right is now blaming the NHS for the recent UK bombings.

As a Brit, and a Glasgow resident of just a few months shy of 15 years, my take on the bombings is this: * The bombers were shit. * It's slightly scary that most, if not all, of the cell were doctors, but hey, the NHS is a large organisation where you could easily meet like-minded terrorists at the water cooler; and it makes sense that if you're trying to find people that would evade prejudiced security-screening programmes, you'd look for people like teachers and doctors. * But really, these guys were absolutely clowns.

Meanwhile, professional scaremongerers on Fox News decide that socialised healthcare (e.g. NHS) = need more doctors = hire any old rubbish, who end up killing us all.

You have to admire the dedication to the message: "Socialist NHS Doctor Imports Blow Up Airport" beats "Drug-Dealing Criminal NHS Doctor Imports Crash House Prices" any day of the week. The Daily Mail should be ashamed.

If you haven't read B3TA recently...

...then at least go through their newsletters and read their "Question of the week" bits. Like this Best pet stories one from newsletter 281. Great stuff, and astonishingly British.

Reflections on another series of Doctor Who

Having watched the last episode of this current series again - the third of a three-parter - I think I can safely say that Russell T Davies is a great creator of characters and character dialogue (this thought prompted by Andrew Ducker's comment thread), a good plotter on a series-wide level, but rubbish at pacing individual episodes. Especially the last two. In future series, I will look forward to the plot of Russell T Davies episodes, and how other writers develop the characters in other episodes. Especially Steven Moffat and

Utopia: that was a decent episode. The Doctor and Martha arrive at the end of the universe, because the Doctor's Tardis is spooked out by Captain Jack hitching a ride and wants as far away as possible - fair enough. There's only humans left in this pocket of the universe (because HuMans Rock!), and they're trying to get to somewhere else - fair enough also. (Yes, humans have uploaded themselves to digital galaxy-spanning godhoods; but a) they might have broken by now, and b) some humans might just have reincarnated, in the fleshy sense of the word, out of curiosity.) In between cute moppets and throwaway mutant bad guys that we'll never see again (boo!), we meet the Professor - who turns out to be the Master, which means that both Derek Jacobi and John Simm get to be the Master, and they're both great, so hooray. (Derek Jacobi's "Now I can say I was provoked", with gleeful evil but nonetheless no trace whatsoever of a vaudeville moustache curl, is particularly memorable.) That the episode ends with the Master a) re-generating (fanboy alert! How can he do that?), and b) stealing the Doctor's Tardis, like he regularly has done in the past, is just icing on the cake.

The Sound of Drums: the middle episode, and the one most likely to appeal to fans of Return of the Jedi, because they can claim that fans of Empire Strikes Back are wrong, because Sound of Drums was rubbish. They're wrong (it wasn't that bad, and Empire is still better), but it's still a weak episode. John Simm gets to be brilliant as the Master (and spawns a thousand LiveJournal icons), and the Doctor isn't bad at all (how do you escape from the end of time, when you've got nothing but a busted teleport wrist thing? You repair it with your magic wand, because damnit, you're the best Time Lord there ever was at chancing it with dodgy equipment, let alone the last but one left in the entire space-time continuum). And they have a mobile phone conversation that shows glimpses of what could have been. Then the Master's plan goes horribly right, and he wins, and Martha is the only one left who can save the Earth, and all of the Universe.

So far, so good. Middle episode a bit weak, but they're clearly saving it all up for the last episode. (Certainly the music people were.)

Last of the Time Lords: Half of the first 2/3rds made little sense. The Master being actually Master of all he surveys, Martha's family enslaved, the Doctor humiliated, that makes perfect sense. No matter what you think of the make-up and CG (I thought the 900-year-old Doctor looked more Doctorish than the 100-year-old version), it makes sense that the Master would keep the Doctor around, and taunt him. And the fact that the Doctor managed to say something secret to his companion, who then vanished and hasn't been seen for the last year would really bug the Master.

So why not show that? There's precious screen time wasted on the silly plot to steal the Master's screwdriver, which could have been easily shrunk down to one of Martha's family having some sort of pickpocketing skills (you can establish that in a few seconds in a previous episode), them trying that in something like the first month, and then Martha's family end up in "solitary" confinement for the rest of the 11 months. That would explain the sudden bonding far better than a) them being held captive for 364 days, in which nothing happens, and then b) they're all chucked into prison, at which point they all decide to kill the Master (prompting Mum+Dad=gross!)

Meanwhile, you can show Martha travelling around the world, and the Master's reaction to e.g. particular sites being ransacked and/or destroyed, according to the plot. Show, don't tell. Show the Master's growing bravado but unease, as his grip on the Planet grows tighter, but Martha evades his minions. Hell, you can start this with the (damn good) Master "Day in your life" musical sequence, which could end with the 100-year-old Doctor saying "Martha is still out there" (that whole confidence thing again).

Then you can end with pretty much the same end sequence, which was damn good. (If anyone has an urge to watch previous Doctor Who episodes with the Face of Boe, you only have to watch Gridlock from series 3 of the reboot - the other two incarnations were vague enough that they could have been easily ret-conned.)

Thinking about it, actually, my problem is Martha's family. They were criminally under-used. Her mother's a hoodwinked traitor (Smith and Jones, The Lazarus Incident, 42 [text pub quiz], The Sound of Drums), her sister is a sellout PR slut (Smiht and Jones, The Lazarus Incident, The Sound of Drums), her dad is a divorcee with a slut girlfriend (Smith and Jones, and, er, that's it), her brother lives in Cardiff (Smith and Jones, The Sound of Drums) - er, what? That's one character's worth. I mean, her brother who escapes in The Sound of Drums, doesn't re-appear until the end of Last of the Time Lords, because there was nothing for him to do. All of us moaning that the new Companion of series 3 had a family, should have wished that we'd have family-centric episodes. Instead, we had a bunch of named supporting cast.

Airport security

I fly from Glasgow to London once a month for work, and the next trip is coming up. I'm trying to push the date back this month, so by the time I actually have to fly down, I won't have to go through a time-consuming rigmarole.

At least this time there shouldn't be any pointless and long-lasting additions to the security check-in procedure. Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane now we have to take off our shoes (or not - it depends on the airport you fly from). Terrorists supposedly had a plan to blow up a plan with liquid explosives, so you can't take anything liquidy through check-in unless you jump through a series of complicated hoops.

What are they going to ban this time, though? "I'm sorry, Sir, you can't come through check-in because you're on fire" ?