Blog of me. I’m Alexander Jones.

20 September 2008

All the cool kids are doing it…

  1. Take a picture of yourself right now.
  2. Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair… just take a picture.
  3. Post that picture with no editing.
  4. Post these instructions with your picture.

17 September 2008

Re: Creationism!


I was going to bite with a lengthy response, but I can’t be arsed to read all of your comments to make sure I’m not repeating. So a couple of quick points, instead, for future reference of your own, and other misguided folk.

You’ve made the classic schoolgirl mistake. Evolution is a theory, yes, and so is gravity.

If you ask me, religion is a problem for humanity. Max Mosly’s Nazi S&M orgies don’t affect his ability to run Formula 1. Religious beliefs, however, tend to reflect on many things they really shouldn’t. And that’s why people should resign from their positions of responsibility if they can’t enforce a boundary. The Church of England’s treatment of Charles Darwin is a tragic, extreme, but perfect example of what problems we still face today in the scientific community.

10 September 2008

IE8 - Getting my web pages right, first time!

Just fired up IE NetRenderer to check the rendering of the new ICU Music Technology Society web page I was working on today.

Unsurprisingly, IE6 gets implicit font sizes wrong (base font size is 8pt, yet level 1 headings disregard this), ignores instruction to inherit colours (link colours don’t match the normal text foreground colour) and fails at alpha-blending PNG images.

IE7 blends the images properly, but that’s the only thing it gets right over IE6.

IE8 beta 2, however, gets everything right! Granted, the page is very simple, but I think this is the first time that any non-trivial page that I’ve coded has worked in IE without any extra work. I wonder if the scripting interfaces are up to standard yet... We may be out of the dark ages by the end of the decade if Microsoft roll this out to Windows users!

09 September 2008

The end of the world?

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN fires up Wednesday. Reading uneducated musings about the end of the world on message boards is LOLtastic.

But something did get me thinking...

Perhaps the search for extra-terrestrial life has shown up nought so far because every construct that evolves eventually becomes intelligent enough to destroy itself, inadvertently or otherwise, beyond detection. Curiosity is pretty good at killing cats—throw a high energy particle accelerator in and I reckon it could blow a pretty impressive hole in the Universe.

Whatever happens, it’s exciting times for science. The things we do for knowledge...

07 September 2008

070 numbers - NOT mobile phones!

070 is the prefix used for “Personal Numbering” in the UK. These numbers can be used like disguises for your real telephone numbers. Depending on your tariff, it may cost you an unexpected amount to call!

(Seen on Gumtree, probably scam-vertisements.)

08 August 2008

Sucata Run 2008

In less than two weeks, myself and two of my good mates, Edd and Jay, are going on the Sucata Run, a banger tour from Rouen to Cabo da Roca. We picked up our car on eBay, a totally clapped out Alfa Romeo 155 with 140,000 miles on it and built in dog smell.

The event is a fundraising gig for in its third year having started in 2006. We are trying to raise £1,000 for the charity, which helps to bring communications IT to kids in developing countries. You can read all about their story on their website. If you feel like donating any amount to the cause, then please visit our Justgiving page: It’s really easy to donate, and the money goes straight to the charity with added Gift Aid if you pay tax!

We are The Fail-Mobile, and it’s going to be an adventure of epic proportions!

Thanks loads!

15 July 2008

“SoCo for everyone?”

There’s a new Southern Comfort advert doing the rounds in the UK, subtitled “For Picture-Perfect Nights”.

The spot places absolutely no focus on the qualities of the drink itself, instead choosing to portray the scene of a trendy club playing trendy rock music, in which lots of pretty guys and girls flirt, dance, and order trendy mixers for each other.

Right, look. I am pretty libertarian in political orientation, so I’m hardly going to argue that glamorizing alcohol use on TV should be banned. Let’s be reasonable, the advert’s on after the watershed, it carries the “Drink Aware” badge, and we all know that susceptible kids who are unable to enforce their own limits are long since tucked up in bed. (Hah!) I’m sure the angry letters have already been sent to the ASA, so there’s no need to go down that route. But, what I find incredible is that this advert so purely and remorselessly promotes the recreational use of drugs, and because it’s “only” alcohol, that somehow makes it OK.

This double standard is beginning to grate me now. It is widely accepted amongst those with the credentials (I make no stronger claim than that) that alcohol use is much more harmful both directly to the human body and to society in general than many of the drugs we currently outlaw (BBC report). Why, then, is it still illegal for me to drop a couple of E’s at a rave, whilst Big Alcohol are allowed to actively pimp the entirely functional aspect of spirit-strength alcoholic drinks on prime time TV?

The alcohol and tobacco industry lobbyists have it so well embedded in popular opinion that everyone else’s drugs are bad. They are loving their cozy little duopoly on recreational intoxication. What does it take for sanity to prevail?

01 July 2008

Post Offices

BBC News reports on the newly announced Post Office closures in various counties in the North East of England. 57 of them are due to be shut in the near future, pending a six-week consultation.

As I watched the report on BBC Look North, in which a pretty respectable gathering of protesters had assembled at one of the closing branches, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every single one of the people in the crowd had white hair.

Have you ever been to a Post Office? Whenever I go to one to post a parcel or whatever, the place always seems to be crammed with old people, it takes about 20 minutes to get through the queue, during which I have to endure a robot man and woman repeat the phrase “Cashier number twelve, please.”, or variations of, over and over again, and then I have to pay “Large Letter” postage because my marginally elongated birthday card is, unfortunately, slightly exceeding one of Royal Mail’s f***ing arbitrary dimensions.

So what exactly is it about Post Offices that old people are so obsessed with? They are shit, and you can do everything you would need to do regularly at any number of other newsagents, corner shops or supermarkets. For pensions, can’t they be paid by BACS by now? If not, why not?

Answers on a post card, please. (Blog comments also read.)

25 June 2008

What is Nokia is up to?

They have the open source Maemo platform, which they’re already using in moderately successful devices such as the N800.

In January, they acquired Trolltech, whose technologies (which power KDE) are more-or-less competitors to those already in the Maemo platform (those used by GNOME). Seems like an odd position already.

And only yesterday, they announce that they are acquiring Symbian and handing Symbian OS et al over to the newly-formed Symbian Foundation, i.e. they’re opening up the source code.

You know the grey goo doomsday scenario? Seems like Nokia is just swallowing up as much stuff as it can and turning it into open source goo.

While I guess it’s a good day for software freedom in general, I can’t help but feel a little dejected by the lack of focus on and commitment to Maemo by Nokia. But with OHA Android, LiMo and OpenMoko all looking to win the hearts of developers and consumers alike, perhaps Nokia is right to feel the need to have three independent, (if incompatible) software stacks in its arsenal.

11 June 2008

The fastest way to shut down a MacBook Pro...

...Pour half a pint of water right into the keyboard.

As you may know by now from my tweet last night or my Facebook status, I clumsily poured half a glass of water onto my MacBook Pro last night whilst revising for my exams. The screen went dark almost immediately, and there was a worrying hiss as either the water furiously boiled off my very hot components, or expensive bits of silicon were toasted by stray current. I don’t actually know for sure if it shorted out, as with my lightning fast reactions, I had the computer inverted in my hands, emptying water out of it, whilst yanking the battery out. The power connector had fallen out by itself as I had picked it up, so hopefully that counts for something. It’s really quite likely that it did short, though.

A bit of towel-drying and hair-dryering later, I took what panels (or rather “panel”) I could take off easily, and it’s now sat upside down in an L shape, propped up atop a box in my room. Gonna wait till Friday or so to power back up and see if we get signal.

Thankfully, I have accidental insurance with a 10% excess, so it’s not a total disaster. And I’m smart enough to not keep any important data on the disk, so I’ve not lost anything should the disk be hosed. Can’t be chewed with the ball-ache of repair/replace, though. Pants! :(

Follow-Up: It turned back on with no signs of fault after about a week of drying in various orientations. As of February 2009, it’s still working, even though I’ve dropped it and put a massive dent in the case since!

07 June 2008

“The conversation has been moved to the Bin”

Interesting to see that Google have localized localised Google Mail for us Brits, now opting to call the place where unwanted messages go to die the “Bin” now, instead of the “Trash”. Weird that, but it makes sense. Nobody says “Trash”. Maybe we should be doing it in GNOME, too?

18 May 2008

Getting a refund on an “Oyster” card

Last Friday I got ridiculously drunk and managed to lose my 18+ student Oyster card (and my credit card... epic fail.). So while I waited for a replacement, I made use of a spare one that I had lying around, and put a few quid on it to keep me going.

Tuesday my replacement came. Kudos to TFL for dealing with it so quickly, I don’t think I could have received it any faster. However, I now had £8.50 on my spare account. I’ve had a card’s outstanding balance and the £3 deposit refunded before, but this time they wouldn’t refund me more than £2.50 on the balance. Panties. Oh well, I’ll use it up somehow.

So anyway, the lesson of the day is: don’t go overboard when topping up temporary cards. On the other hand, make sure you have enough on the card when you start travelling to qualify for the daily travel caps if you’re likely to travel that much on a single day, otherwise you won’t be eligible for the limit and will be scammed out of your backside.

17 February 2008

Probably the best 60 seconds of my life

We went to Planet Angel on Friday night for their (Chinese) New Year's party extravaganza.

As if it could have gotten any better, Sly One played my remix of Road Test! Unfortunately, I was getting a drink of water at the time and missed most of it! I got a text message from my friend Phil (who was very drunk, by the way!) saying it was on, and by the time I got back into the main room I had missed the break and most of the main part!

But for the last minute or so, I might as well have been dreaming.

I am still buzzing, and using the mood and momentum to make new music. It has been over a year since I finished a track, so I've gotta get my act together! Wish me luck...

06 February 2008

Ubuntu ♥ Windows: Sharing the Desktop

There are some things for which Windows just can't be replaced yet, and getting Ubuntu (or any other OS) and Windows to play along on the same computer is sometimes pretty baffling. Here's my short guide to getting your Ubuntu "desktop" folder to be shared across both systems, meaning you can place a file onto your desktop and reboot into the other OS and have it be sat there as if to say "Uh, what else did you expect?"


  1. Boot Windows.
  2. Download the installer for the Ext2 driver from This will allow your Windows system to read the file system you are using in Ubuntu, assuming you are using the default choice of Ext3.
  3. Run the installer.
  4. During the installation process, you will be asked to assign Windows drive letters to Ext2 file systems. Choose one for a Windows drive letter for the partition with your Ubuntu "Home" directory on it. For example, "U:".
  5. Run Registry Editor (Start, Run, type "regedit"), and then browse to "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders".
  6. Change the value of the "Desktop" key to, e.g. "U:\home\alex\Desktop". (Remember to replace "U" with the drive letter you chose, and "alex" with your own Ubuntu username.)
  7. Close Registry Editor.
  8. Log out, and then back in.
  9. Behold your Ubuntu desktop in all of its glory!

If you're feeling adventurous, you can change more than just your desktop folder. You might want to relocate your Windows "My Documents" folder to your Ubuntu "Home" directory, but with the amount of crap that Windows and Windows programs like to dump in there, I prefer not to. But don't let me spoil your fun.

Happy interoperating!

01 January 2008