Month: November 2005

9rules Network

Back in April I mentioned that I was going to apply to join the 9rules network and my what a stooshie it caused:

If people want to sell their souls to advertising or to networks, why not write for the paper press? The 9rules thing seems 180 degrees opposed to everything I love about blogging and bloggers.

joining a ‘network’ seems a bit cliquey for me.

OK, maybe I’m overstating a little, it was little more than a ripple, and it was the bit about including adverts that really got people riled for, as diamond geezer recently found, the majority of “hobbyist” bloggers (within our little UK clique at least) don’t like the idea of blogs having adverts.

So let me clear some things up.

  1. I have not sold my soul to the devil
  2. I will not, ever, have adverts on this site
  3. Joining the 9rules network will have ZERO impact on you dear reader
  4. Point 3 isn’t entirely accurate as I hope the content will improve
  5. I have a very good reason for wanting to join, but more on that later this week

As it says on the 9rules website: “The 9rules Network is about building a community of high quality websites as well as a community of highly discerning readers. Content is king and looking good helps.”

I’m pretty excited about this and hopefully it’ll be the start of good things, things I’ve wanted to pursue for a while. The list of members is quite daunting, a lot were already respected regular reads of mine, even if I didn’t spot that they were members of the network. All in all I feel quite privileged that I was accepted, and I’m looking forward to learning new things and getting to know a whole new set of people.

I’ll post more about this later in the week, and I’ll include my reasons for joining. I’m sure a few of you will have guessed what I’ve been planning, so suffice to say that my main motivation for joining the 9rules network was focussed on THAT, not this site.

Airport Express

Finally!!!

Considering the amount of hassle I’ve had trying to setup and configure my new Airport Express, I’ve jotted down some information which I hope may be of use to others.

I may end up waffling my way through this so, if you want, skip straight to the summary.

Firstly some notes on my setup as it will differ from many. I am on Telewest Broadband (UK) and my cable modem is a Scientific Atlanta Webstar 100 connected to the PC using a USB cable (as installed by Telewest). My wireless connection is provided by a D-Link AirPlus G DWL-G122 USB Adapter (NOT a Wireless Router but it offers the same functions for a third of the cost), and I am running Windows XP Pro SP2. My Airport Express is versioned at 6.2 and I’m using iTunes 6.0.1.3.

Ohh and before I detail how I got it working, some snippets of info to note, this may be useful if you too are having hassles setting up Airport Express on Windows XP.

The gotchas

  1. If you have a cable modem that is connected to your PC using a USB cable DO NOT EXPECT TO SEE A CONSTANT GREEN LIGHT. Flashing amber is the best you can hope for (because you are not using an ethernet cable to connect your cable modem to your PC) … given that piece of information you should also note that…
  2. A constant green light means that the Airport Express has been correctly assigned an IP address. It does not necessarily mean it is connected properly (this threw me for a while).
  3. Patience is a virtue. It takes five minutes or so for my wireless connection to kick in and for the connection to be made to the Airport Express. It may show up via the Admin Utility before then but leave it alone for a wee while if you can. No I don’t know why.

So enough of the trivia, how did I get it to work?

Well the secret, for me, was to alter the “binding order” of my PC’s network connections. You can do this by:

  1. Opening the Network Connections control panel.
  2. Selecting Advanced from the menu bar, and then select Advanced settings.
  3. On the Adapters and Bindings tab you will see a box labelled Connections.
  4. Re-order the connections to ensure your broadband connection is first, and your wireless connection comes after that (for me I also moved my Bluetooth connection to last).

Contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere, you CAN let Airport Express use DHCP to grab an IP address. In my head the rationale is – based on re-ordering the network connections – that the cable modem gets assigned an IP address first, then the Wireless connection gets assigned an IP address, then when that is done it connects with the Airport Express and it too gets assigned an IP address.

If the network connection order is wrong you end up with the Airport Express trying to assign the IP address for the PC and the Wireless connection, this is all well and good except that it breaks your internet connection. Not ideal, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Note: the previous two paragraphs might not be technically accurate but I THINK they explain what happened to me.

I spent hours mucking around trying to set the IP address manually, all to no avail (see the “green light gotcha” above) and whilst I managed three or four times to get music to stream to the Airport Express it was always at the expense of my internet connection. Re-ordering the network connections seems to have sorted that out.

So far so good then. I had fallen prey to the “audio drop” issue and turned to some of these suggestions, specifically changing the channel and turning on “interference robustness” but the key seems to be leaving the Admin Utility running. No I don’t know why either.

A final note. If you turn off your PC at night, you’ll need to restart the base station when you turn your PC back on or you won’t be able to connect to it (because it needs to have the IP address re-assigned ya see… I hope you are still following all this).

Frankly the Airport Express is not inspiring much confidence, a first for when me it comes to Apple products.

To summarise (and re-order things) then:

  1. Check your network connections order before you start.
  2. Use the setup tool, the Admin Utility can be confusing if you aren’t 100% sure what you are up to.
  3. If you don’t need to, don’t use any security.
  4. Don’t worry if you don’t get a green light, the Airport Express may still function correctly.
  5. If you restart your PC, restart your Airport Express (highlight the base station in the Admin Utility/Base Station Choose and select the Base Station menu then Restart).

I’d like to publically thank a man called Henry B. who managed to help me solve my problem. The discussion is here and may be of use to others. I’d also point out that the Discussions area on the Apple website is surprisingly open, active and helpful. A small beam of light in the quagmire that has been the “Airport Express experience”.

In closing then… no I’m not including any screenshots in this writeup as my problems were a lot simpler than I had realised. No Bonjour didn’t help (it’s only really concerned about wireless printing on the Windows platform). Yes this has lowered my opinion of Apple products.

Right, I’ve got a beautifully crafted playlist sitting in iTunes, so I’m off downstairs to listen to it!

Old songs say so much

Meme-like post ahoy!

I’ve been on a musical voyage of re-discovery lately, digging through dusty CDs and uncovering some albums I’d forgotten about. Some, I’ll happily admit, haven’t really stood up against the ravages of time and my changing musical tastes; one Kevin McDermott Orchestra CD has worn so badly you can see through parts of it, and I’m still not entirely sure WHY I bought that Army of Lovers CD…

On the plus side I did discover a couple of albums that, at the time, I listened to almost non-stop. One was The Senseless Things album The First of Too Many, and brought back many vivid memories. The main one being how I’d rushed to record it onto tape to take it with me on my walkman (a constant companion through university and long walks through Glasgow) and how one of the tracks got split during the ‘reverse’ of the tape sides…

Just for kicks I bashed “Senseless Things” into Google to find, to my amazement, that not only had they appeared on a Peel session or three, but that the album cover was designed by Jamie Hewlett. Yes, the same Jamie Hewlett that drew (and co-created) Tank Girl and the same Jamie Hewlett that co-created and is responsible for the “art” side of Gorillaz . Who’d a thunk it?

Anyway, enough waffling from me, over to you guys. Which albums have you recently re-discovered in your collection?

The Brothers Grimm

Movie info from IMDB
Movie reviews from Metacritic

Terry Gilliam has a certain way with imagery, you either love it or can’t quite figure it out. For the most part I love it and this story, of the two young Grimm brothers and the supposed origin of their famous fairytales, is a perfect foil for Gilliam’s eye for the strange dark places that haunt your mind.

Heath Ledger and Matt Damon play the eponymous brothers, with Ledger turning in an excellent performance as the bookish reader of tales, alas Damon forgot to lose his Hollywood tan and looks ever so slightly out of place. In fact this lack of attention to detail is the downfall of the movie.

Set in French occupied Germany, the accents range through most of Europe and feature, amongst others, a small boy in a German village who speaks with a Yorkshire accent. I’m all for suspension of disbelief but I expect a movie to help me along that path, not jar me back to reality every three minutes with yet another odd moment to lose continuity.

The script is fine, the story amicable enough (it IS a fairytale after all) but the direction lacks sparkle and magic. Add to that some inconsistent performances (Ledger and Jonathan Pryce aside) and the movie left me some what bemused. Terry Gilliam and the Brothers Grimm seemed like a perfect match, alas neither side has come out very well.

Ohh and I’d better mention THAT scene between Monica Bellucci and Heath Ledger… ohh to have that woman breathing my ear….

Who am I?

UPDATE: The idea for this post came from Lea Alcantara. I’ll summarise your comments over the weekend and maybe even let you know why I asked. Maybe.

Right, interaction time (stop groaning at the back).

For reasons that I can’t yet disclose (unless you’re willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement? No, didn’t think so) I need your help. I need to know how other people (that’d be you lot) perceive me. Simple.

This is open to everyone, whether friend or family, regular or virgin reader. Three adjectives are all I ask, although I suggest you think them up before you open the comments so you aren’t influenced by others.

I’ll collate the responses later, and I’ll be emailing “non-blog aware” people as well.

Feel free to comment more than once; three adjectives per comment on what you think when you think “Gordon McLean”.

Random Notes

From the last Scottish blogmeet, found when clearing out my desk over the weekend.

During a clear out I found a scrap of paper on my desk at the weekend. It was from the Scottish blogmeet and was used to jot down URLs and the drinks order (soooo organised!). On the back of this piece of paper I had scribbled the following notes:

  • purple hat
  • cher wig
  • bikini
  • normal situation
  • neil – hat – back to front
  • gunnella’s teeth
  • keanu reeves – half dressed

I’m certain that, at the time, this made sense and I’m certain that I wrote these things down as a reminder to blog about them at a later date. Unfortunately my memory is slightly (Guinnessly) hazy… in truth, I’m stumped.

However I decided not to let that trivial matter stop me, so here are some random notes from the last Scottish blogmeet:

purple hat
I’ve always wanted a purple hat and was incredibly jealous when someone arrived with one. Admittedly I was slightly bemused as they were wearing it strapped to their left knee but, as I’ve never claimed to be fashionable, I let this pass without comment. I did find myself staring at the hat though, and obviously this was noted because it wasn’t long before it was removed from the leg of the wearer. They replaced it with small green glove.

cher wig
I’ve always wanted a Cher wig and was incredibly jealous when someone arrived with one. Admittedly I was slightly bemused as they were using it to carry a small dog but, as I’ve never claimed to be fashionable, I let this pass without comment. I did find myself staring at the wig though, but soon stopped when the dog leapt out of the wig and sunk it’s teeth into my nose. Whilst this did make drinking a little tricky, I considered it was the least I could put up with for having been so impolite. One must NEVER stare at someone’s wig.

bikini
I’m so glad I decided against wearing my bikini. It would have clashed horribly with the one Richard wore.

normal situation
We discussed a large variety of things during the blogmeet, yet I never felt like it was a normal situation. That’s probably because it wasn’t. Rarely would you find yourself sitting in the company of 10 or so complete strangers about who you knew a little but not a lot. There are two ways to approach this kind of situation. One is to engage in the gentle art of conversation, taking your time to get to know each other, what each person finds offensive, what their sense of humour is based on, and so on. The other approach is to get drunk and talk a lot of rubbish. Both seem to work (although I have only tried the latter).

neil – hat – back to front
In another strange incident, Neil had arrived without a hat. What’s even stranger is that he had already left with a purple hat in his possesion, but upon his arrival back at the place he had left it was no longer attached to his person but to someone else. That would have been fine but I now recall that the aforementioned hat was actually back to front with the opening at the top, rather than underneath like more traditional hats. How do you wear such a hat if the opening is at the top?

gunnella’s teeth
Not only was it wonderful to see Gunnella, but it turned out that she had remembered to put her teeth in – what a bonus. She was the only person at the table who had, and we all watched on jealously as she munched her way through a sandwich. With our gums salivating we turned to alcohol and mushed bananas for solace (the only available food in the pub that didn’t require chewing).

keanu reeves – half dressed
The biggest surprise of the day was when American actor Keanu Reeves made an appearance. However as, in the advertisement for his appearance, he had suggested he would be completely nude you can imagine the disappoint that rang around the room when he turned up with a purple hat strapped to his leg, carrying a Cher wig from which a small dog peered. Thankfully he had socks on so at least his hands were covered up. I’m not going to comment on his bikini though, that’s best left to the imagination.

Editor’s note: I have no idea where this post came from, or what inspired it, but I’m of the distinct impression that Gordon may have had a little too much caffeine and sugar this morning. Don’t worry, he’ll be weaned off these substances over the coming week.

Christmas Shopping

Understandably, this year Christmas will be decidely low-key. However that, unfortunately, doesn’t negate the need to tackle the beast that is “Shopping for Christmas presents”. However this year I think we’ve got it sussed.

Louise has been saving – well, giving to the Christmas hamper scheme to get shopping vouchers back – all year and, armed with the knowledge that we’d have a fixed budget we sat down over the weekend with the Argos catalogue and picked out Christmas presents. Not that we’ll get them from Argos, not all of them at least, but it’s a good source of ideas. Thankfully we’ve just about completed the list and we know what we are getting people. So rather than having to wander round shops, trying to think what to get people, we’ll just have a couple of days of ‘blitz shopping’ and it’ll all be done.

In fact I’ll probably do most of it on my lunch hour(s).

I hate shopping on busy days at the best of times, so Christmas shopping comes with an added bunch of stress and it doesn’t take me long reach my limit – memories of yelling at a woman in Milton Keynes shopping centre several years ago, who was walking along pushing her pram whilst looking the other way, still ring clear in my mind. Thoughts of physical violence and hatred aren’t far away at those times so I figure it’s better for everyone concerned that I limit my shopping during the stupid season. Either that or everyone could just bugger off out of my road…

Of course I’ll be doing as much of the shopping online if at all possible, although the vouchers kinda limit that side of things. Overall though I don’t think the shopping will be too arduous this year, and even if it is we’ve already got flights booked for a week in Spain in January. We’ll be airborn in 59 days time.

And yes, I’m counting.

Anyway, I do have a question… are you a Merry Christmas or a Happy Christmas kinda person? Apparently there is a right and wrong answer to this (according to my wife at least) so I’m curious to know. Ohh and for some reason I seem to have ditched Xmas in favour of Christmas all of a sudden. Not sure why though..

So – Merry or Happy, Christmas or Xmas. I’d setup a wee vote thingy but I can’t be arsed.

In Her Shoes

Movie info from IMDB
Movie reviews from Metacritic

Note to self: A wee bit of research wouldn’t go amiss sometimes. Taking your wife to the cinema to ‘take her mind off things’ is all well and good but, given recent events, not when the movie in question revolves around the theme of family, belonging and the death of a mother.

Still, we did laugh about it afterwards.

We also laughed during the film, or maybe just a mild chuckle here and there, and certainly not as much as we laughed when Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette appeared on Jonathan Ross on Friday night (and how funny is Jimmy Carr!).

The movie was the story of two sisters and how they coped with the death of their mother. It wasn’t a depressing or sad movie, and it had some lovely moments in it even if they were a bit schmaltzy. Toni Collette impressed again in a fairly straight role as the dowdy lawyer to Cameron Diaz’s blonde, ditzy party girl, and the interaction between the two lead actresses felt very natural. Shirley Maclaine breezed through the movie, once a class act always a class act, but despite that it never really hooked me.

All in all I’ve spent worse hours in the cinema, I’ve also spent many better. We HAD planned to go and see Elizabethtown but I think the Brothers Grimm will be next.

Enough is enough

I’m in techie hell at the moment. This may descend into a bit of rant. Frankly I’m past caring…

I received an AirportExpress for my birthday but, and here’s one in the eye for all Apple fanatics, it’s ridiculously hard to setup. Yes I’m running Windows XP but it SAYS on the box that the AirportExpress supports XP so it bloody well should!

I DID manage to get music playing through it at one stage last night, but it timed out after about three minutes and I don’t think it was really connected properly; this is backed up by the flashing orange light on the unit that should turn green when connected. I’ve yet to see a green light on this thing, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a myth.

It doesn’t help that my networking knowledge is… slim.. and that I’m not using a Wireless Router but a USB adapter. Not that that should be a problem, my laptop happily connects to my home network, but getting the AirportExpress to do the same is an exercise in increasing futility.

The really infuriating thing is that it MUST be connected somehow as, using the Airport Admin Utility software, I can ‘see’ the Airport Express and change settings on it, and whilst the Wireless Adapter reports that it is connected TO the Airport Express, I’m missing a bit somewhere that lets WINDOWS know that the damn thing is connected.

I’ve given up for the moment, lest I through it, my computer, or myself through the window.

On top of that, remember the SQL Injection attacks I having on Scottish Blogs?, well they’ve recently quadrupled in frequency to about 200 a day. Again I feel like I’m out of my depth as I just can’t solve this. Yes I’ve tried your previous suggestions, but either I didn’t implement them properly, or I don’t understand the problem properly. I’ve Googled until my eyes bleed but have yet to find a simple set of instructions of how to STOP IT HAPPENING (I do NOT want to read another explanation of what an SQL Injection is thankeweverymuch).

And I know I’m being lazy with this problem, frankly I don’t CARE HOW they work, I want a list of things to try to STOP IT FROM HAPPENING. Plain english would be good.

There in lies the crux of my frustrations. There are screeds of information available on the interweb for both my current problems, yet they are all written with a lot of presumption and lack sufficient detail for me to feel confident in the solutions suggested. Every piece of information is either far too detailed, a glorified brain dump, or presumes that you are an expert in the topics at hand. I’m not looking for a “For Dummies” solution here, just something written in a language I understand, with detailed instructions, and with some structure to the information.

It’s not THAT hard to structure these types of ‘articles’ you know, a simple template would get you started. Like this:

  1. Heading
  2. Overview/Introduction
  3. Basic Concepts
  4. Detailed Concepts [optional]
  5. Pre-procedure steps [optional]
  6. Procedure, broken into steps
  7. Post-procedure steps/tests [optional]
  8. Additional Information or next section

Pretty straightforward if you ask me, as long as you make sure the procedure is obvious, and details what happens (with whatever interface you are using, screen, hardware etc).

A bad example can be lifted straight from the AirportExpress Setup Guide (remember, this is from a large corporation who pride themselves on design and usability…). Here are the instructions on how to connect the AirPort Express to an existing wireless network:

1. Open the AirPort Setup Assistant, located in Start > All Programs > AirPort.
(problem one, it’s just “Programs” not “All Programs” did no-one check this?)

2. Follow the onscreen instructions to connect your AirPort Express to your wireless network.

That’s it. That’s all you get. So you head ‘onscreen’ and you get asked which AirPort Base Station you want to connect to and… whaa??? Base Station? I’ve got Express… what’s a Base Station? Back to the Setup Guide… so and so and so forth. The ‘onscreen’ text isn’t too helpful either.

So, poo to you Apple. And poo to you people injecting nonsense into the Scottish Blogs database. I’ve got far more important things to do with my time than spend it fucking about fixing OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS!!!

Anyway, I’m technologically drained. This black box is getting switched off in a couple of hours and I’m opening a bottle of wine.

Rant over.

The Real Internet

Isn’t the internet wonderful. So much information just sitting there, waiting for you, so many different distractions and so many clever ways to harness it for your own needs.

Depending on who you talk to (and what they have at stake) the internet is full of friendly people all willing to help you and be your friend. Invariably this imagery is conjured up by the ISPs and sales people, all looking to get you onto the internet, and then going faster (spending more) to make sure that you are ‘getting the most from your connection’. How nice of them.

But all is not well, apparently.

With the early success of chip and pin, the attention is switching to ‘card not present’ frauds, with the primary outlet being the internet. Despite continued warnings, people seem willing to give their credit card details to just about anyone who asks.

A quick experiment then.

Take a sheet of paper and a pen. On the paper, write your credit card details; number, expiry date, name on the card, security number (the last three digits on the back) and anything else you can think of that might be useful, your home address maybe, and that password you use everywhere.

Done?

OK. Fold up the piece of paper and the next time you are walking along the street hand it to the first person you see.

What do you mean “But I don’t know who they are?”…

The internet IS society (ohh almost said “the internet is people” read into that what you will), there are those who will use it to educate, to understand, to tolerate and there are those who will exploit, corrupt and steal. There is no utopia. Human life isn’t programmed to always be good.