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May 21, 2006

Computing history at Bletchley Park

Scoble describes 'a museum of love for computers.' I have to mention the computer museum at Bletchley Park. Geeks will know Bletchley Park as the talismanic birthplace of modern computing, and the computer museum there begins with the World War 2 Colossus codebreaking machine and goes on from there. I'm not sure what state it's in at the moment -- when I visited in 2004, it was wonderfully shambolic with ancient minis and mainframes cheek by jowl with weird homebuilt micros, usually in bits. They were also busy on a reconstruction of a working Colossus machine, a terrifying engine with spinning wheels and flapping tapes and enough room for the bloke working on it to walk around inside it. It was so like every 70s television sf computer rolled into one, I was tempted to ask it "Why?" and see if it exploded.

The museum, by the way, is a tiny part of the Bletchley Park visit: there's much more about the wartime experience, both the codebreaking stuff and more generally about the period including some interesting exhibitions on the home front (love those "Dig for Victory" posters), communications, etc., plus a museum of strange inventions. Well worth a day of anybody's time.

May 21, 2006 in Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MailMarshal's potty mouth

Interesting design philosophy from the MailMarshal email filter at work.

The filter is configured to block incoming emails that contain naughty words. When this happens, MailMarshal sends the recipient a notification message saying that a message was blocked and explaining why. In the case of naughty words, the notification says something like, "Unacceptable language: shitting (score: 5)."

Think about this. The idea is to block offensive language. The implementation, however, blocks all the innocent language, and sends only the offensive content to the recipient.

Stupid design, or deliberate subversion?

May 21, 2006 in Usability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

We call it lies

This is almost funny. The "Competitive Enterprise" Institute, an oil-industry advocacy group, has produced an advert extolling the virtues of carbon dioxide and scorning global warming science as a nasty smear campaign against the maligned molecule. "It's natural," explains the announcer. "We breathe it out. Plants breathe it in." "They call it pollution," she laments. "We call it life."

The notion that any byproduct of the human or animal body, even in industrial quantities, is inherently a safe and desirable thing, intrigues me. Take faeces, for instance. It's natural. We excrete it. Plants flourish in it. By the CEI's logic, therefore, there should be no impediment to collecting vast lorryloads of slurry and dumping them any old where, say on Myron Ebell's lawn.

There must also be some great opportunities for parody ads along similar lines. I suggest the tag line, "They call it organic fertiliser. We call it bullshit."

May 21, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 07, 2006

For sale: New Zealand. Slightly used

shandangie: "I have placed this under Musical Instruments because NZ is mainly full of banjo players."

Brilliantly, eBay quote the postage cost as AU $8.00 "to Australia only."

May 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 05, 2006

I am not a number, pet

The Register: "Christopher Eccleston has been 'linked' with the lead role in a remake of The Prisoner." My imagination is boggling.

May 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack