The Age of Steel

I don’t know whether it’s just that my expectations had been set lower after last weeks disappointing episode, or that this weeks episode was an improvement, but I actually quite enjoyed The Age of Steel.

To some extent it was a pretty predictable battle against the Cybermen effort. After escaping the cliff-hanger from the end of the previous episode thanks to the power cell from the TARDIS, the gang split into three teams, one to go after the transmitter that is controlling all the humans, another to sneak into the cyber-conversion area, and the third to head for the central control.

To be honest it was largely a pretty conventional conclusion, with the Doctor facing Lumic – now converted to the cyber-controller, complete with headlamps for eyes. In a not unexpected move for the new series, you also feel some sympathy with the Cybermen, as with their emotional inhibitor chip disabled they start becoming horrified by what they have become.

Perhaps the only surprise is the departure of Mickey at the end of the episode, who elects to strand himself in the parallel universe. To some extent they don’t seemed to have made much of the changed dynamic having him on board has brought. Also it will be interesting to see how things work for the ‘back at home’ type scenes now the character is gone, as effectively it leaves only Rose’s Mum.

However, after the disappointment of the last couple of episodes, next week looks intriguing. The episode is called The Idiot’s Lantern, and is written by Mark Gatiss who wrote the excellent episode The Unquiet Dead last year. This time the story is set in 1953, around the time of the coronation, with something nasty lurking in the TV sets. Hopefully it will get the season back on track…

A Slow News Day?

Don’t you just love local newspapers. It has obviously been a slow news week this week, as the main headline on the front of the Wokingham News this week is ‘Village’s Posh Porn Surfers Top UK Table‘.

Essentially, the whole basis of the article is that someone at the paper has been playing around with Google Trends that relates search terms to the apparent location of the person performing the search – the paper has put the word ‘pornography’ into the engine, and found that Winnersh, a village between Wokingham and Reading has come out top. You can see the results on Google Trends here. Interestingly, the BBC have a similar article giving Birmingham the top place for the word ‘porn’.

The paper really went to town on the whole thing, even interviewing a local sex therapist about this apparent proportionally higher level of people interested in pornography in Winnersh.

However all is not as it seems. The BBC article highlights the flaw in the data:

Google uses IP address information to make a “best guess� about where the queries originated.

Unlike a phone number, the IP address someone uses on the internet is not closely tied to a particular place. For example looking at my phone number, you can establish that someone lives in and around Arborfield, as their number begins 0118 976. Equally you know that someone lives in Finchampstead or Eversley because their numbers begin 0118 973. However if you look at my IP address, it is registered to a company in Rochdale in Lancashire – there is nothing associated with the address that would indicate that I’m actually near Reading. This is the source of the problem – there are lots of high technology companies clustered around the Thames Valley, indeed there is a large technology park at Winnersh Triangle so therefore there are a lot of companies whose internet access goes through Winnersh. Indeed, stick a few different search terms into Google Trends and see how frequently the same cities come up, not because their internet use is higher, but because they have major internet companies in the area. Take a look at this list which includes the NTL datacentres, and note how frequently all the places that they have datacentres turn up on the Google Trends list.

So in effect, the story is total rubbish. Having said that, it did give the local paper a good story, and us a good deal of laughter at work at the reactions of people who actually live in Winnersh.

The Predictable Windows V MacOS X Comparison Article?

Every so often, editors of PC and Mac magazines seem to feel the need to do a comparison article, where they compare Windows XP with MacOS X. To some extent this tends to be a fairly pointless exercise, and entirely predictable – the PC magazines always put Windows on top, the Mac magazines always ensure that MacOS X wins.

The article in the July 2006 issue of PC Pro is no exception. The cover splashes with ‘Vista vs Apple – The essential guide to choosing your next operating system’, before spending ten pages going through all the aspects of the two systems proving that Windows is the best choice, indeed they put Vista ahead in every category.

However some interesting observations about the comparison. Firstly, the playing field is not exactly level as they compare Windows Vista – the next generation Windows that is still in beta – with the current generation of MacOS X. Now to be a fair comparison, either they need to compare Vista with Leopard, the version of MacOS X that is expected to come out about the same time as Vista, or compare current Windows XP with Tiger. They also are slightly odd over iLife. They heavily down-mark the Mac for not including iLife – which is true if you are buying a boxed copy of Tiger for an existing Mac – however all new Macs include iLife for free. If you are a PC owner, the only way you’re going to get MacOS X, is to buy a Mac. Indeed the article even concedes later on that a lot of PC owners will need to buy a new PC to run Vista anyway.

What is more interesting though is some of the comments in the text. Firstly, they highlight at one point in the article that, as with most magazines, the whole article has been written and put together on a Mac. In the conclusion, despite the scores at the bottom, there is a fairly startling admission for a PC magazine, that there is little to separate the next generation Windows from the current MacOS X, and more than that that 80% of users will find that Tiger meets all of their needs. The article even dares to suggest that with the current prices of Macs, and the industry standard software that is available on the platform that a Mac would make a good choice for a business machine, and it is largely down to the fact that Windows is the de-facto standard that most business purchasers would go for a Windows machine. Indeed even the editor seems to be falling for the Mac somewhat by highlighting that they have yet to find a PC manufacturer who can compete with the Mac Mini. Strange times indeed…

Fog Light Cabbie Gets Jail

As some of you may know, one of my bugbears on the roads, is people who drive with their front fog lights on when there isn’t any fog. Whenever I mention it, it usually transpires that quite a lot of people don’t seem to realise that it’s illegal, basically because you regularly pass loads of people who use them incorrectly. However it is an offence, due to the danger of other road users being dazzled by the high intensity lights – as indeed I have been on occasions. As such it is subject to a £30 fixed penalty notice if you get caught – although as the number of people who do it shows, it’s not very high up on the list of Police priorities – hence why when Police do issue a notice, it makes the regional news.

There have been two examples recently. An unfortunate cabbie in Portsmouth made the national press with his story. He was pulled over (apparently not for the first time according to local reports), and served with a £30 fixed penalty notice. Rather than pay it, he refused, and was jailed for five days for non-payment of fines. This of course has led to all the ‘Cabbie Jailed for Leaving Fog Lights On‘ type headlines, indeed he even turned up on our local TV news complaining that it was unfair that he got fined but others were let off with a warning. He’s not alone – take a look at this video item from January – a motorist in the Midlands with forty years of trouble free motoring got ticketed for the same offence – he’s just at the point of considering not paying…

Perhaps the most amusing part of both TV items is that for the benefit of the cameras, both drivers drove up and down the road repeating the offence for the BBC. I’m sure there is something in the BBC charter about inciting people to commit a crime. 😀

eBible

I don’t know about you, but I’m never massively impressed with the technical quality of Christian web sites. Whilst there are a growing number of nicely designed sites, the majority still don’t impress. This is precisely the problem that the GodBit project has set out to address, and as such I have been keeping an eye on the project web site.

However today, a Christian site was actually picked up by TechCrunch, a well known site that looks at the cutting edge of web applications. The site in question was eBible, who are currently beta testing a web 2.0 implementation of a multi-version Bible search engine. The feature set looks pretty impressive, allowing a keyword search against any of the versions of the Bible they have, and then the ability to switch between the different versions of a selcted passage. In addition to that it also cross references the passage with a selection of other online resources, and includes relevant commentary for the passage.

Currently it is in invite only beta testing, however the web site does allow you to request an invite – and there is also a blog that allows you some insight into how the development process is going. Certainly it is a site to keep an eye on in the future.

Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in Southern England.