Simon’s Backup Weblog

Cherry blossoms in the snow

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 28, 2005

Cherry blossom in the snow
Originally uploaded by sbisson.

White petals in white flakes.


Email is the new Authority

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 28, 2005

just found Jenny Sparks in her address book.

Now, who’s got Jack Hawksmoor? We think we’d be scared if you had The Midnighter, though…

AIM in Outlook

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 28, 2005

Instant message tools like AOL’s AIM aren’t just for sending instant messages. They’re also tools for indicating presence – whether someone is online, whether they’re busy or ready to talk, or even just where they are.

But presence shouldn’t be limited to the IM screen- after all most of our contacts are in our email address books. If presence is managed by IM, then shouldn’t we link it to email? Microsoft’s Windows Messenger is already linked to Outlook, but the more popular IM networks don’t have direct links.]

AOL’s AIM is a case in point. With millions of users (including technically everyone with an AOL email address), it’s a popular tool inside and outside the office. I’ve worked in many places where it was a semi-official tool, with AIM IDs in the company phone book. AOL’s AIM@work website is a statement to this, focussing on business uses of IM, and links to the traditional phone network and to web meetings.

Now it’s released AIM Sync, a tool for linking AIM buddy lists with your Outlook contacts. Installed into Outlook, it will synchronise your contacts with your buddy list, so you can see if contacts are online or not – as long as they use AIM, and the email address you have for them matches the one they used to sign up to AIM. You can even use AIM to send text messages to their phone..

Not perfect, but at least it’s a start.

Not backing the bid?

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 27, 2005

Why not text PARIS to 82012?

(Or the name of any other city you want to be left paying for a multi-billion pound white elephant that’ll make the Millennium Dome look like a bargain…)

Saturday Evening Bread and Cheese Capsule Book Reviews

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 27, 2005

Another batch of recent reads…

Mick Farren: More Than Mortal

The third novel in the Requist Quartet of remix vampire novels takes the pop-culture vampire king to England. A tomb is about to be opened, and it sounds like it’s Merlin’s. Farren’s vampires want to control a power from their alien past – so cultured vampires from London and LA find themselves pitted in a struggle with their savage Scottish cousins. This third part of Farren’s take on the vampire myth throws more light on his monster’s Von Danikenesque origins. The results of alien experiments, they crave links with their pasts, while struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile world. If Merlin wakes and isn’t in their clutches, it’s a world that’s going to take a turn for the worse.

Like all Farren’s novels, this is a fun read, with distinctly dark undertones. Farren is a connosieur of the darkness of the human heart, and his vampires, the Nosferatau, are reflections of that darkness. In a death match of fictional vampires, Rice’s Lestat would never survive a meeting with Farren’s Renquist…

John C. Wright: The Golden Transcendence

The final part of the story that began with The Golden Age brings us to Phaeton’s final conflict with the Silent Oecumene. The Golden Transcendence is here, the merging of all into one. It’s a time of glorious exultation – and the point when all that is great about the Golden Oecumene can be lost. Wright’s far future is a place of wonderful things, of great deeds, but also a time where there’s a sense of closure, where the boundaries of the great dark around the Solar System are closed to humanity in its many forms. Phaeton has built his starship to found new Earths – but he may have to sacrifice his dreams to save everything.

Only Wright can make a climactic battle as much a war of ideas as a physical conflict. It’s a war that will change everything, and mark the end of another Golden Age. Wright argues that utopias can’t last, that they are ultimately sterile. Phaeton’s battle with the Silent Oecumene will lead to the heart of the Sun – but will help open the walls around the solar system, and usher in a new – and very different – future.

Wright has given us an excellent novel in three parts – enjoyable, challenging and intriguing. Highly recommended.

Larry Niven: Scatterbrain
Larry Niven has been producing novels and short stories for many years now, and his early short story collections were staples of my early SF reading. Nowadays he’s nowhere as prolific as he used to be, and his collections tend to mix old stories with new, along with essays and excerpts from novels. Scatterbrain is one of these latterday collections, with a few new Known Space stories (including a Gil Hamilton yarn), some essays and fanzine writings, along with excerpts from novels I already own… The highlight is a recent collaboration with Brenda Cooper, “Ice and Mirrors”, along with a collection of the emails that helped construct the short story.

Collections like this leave me feeling a little underwhelmed. Sure, it’s good to read the new fiction, but when more than 50% of the book is from other collections or novels, then it’s hard to shake the feeling that it might well have been better to have saved the money for something else…

Avoid, unless you’re a fan of Niven’s work who hasn’t bought any of his more recent books…

Then t’worms ‘ll cum and eat thee oop…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 26, 2005

Wormcasts on a grave.

The Mount Cemetery, Guildford

February 2005

MathML in Firefox

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 26, 2005

If you want to use Firefox‘s MathML support, viewing well-formatted equations, then you can download the MathML fonts from the Mozilla site.


Worlds: Real and Imagined

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 26, 2005

I’ve been playing with two nifty geographical applications this week – and they’re both free.

World Wind: an educational tool from NASA (Windows only), with a rotating globe made up of Landsat imagery, and the ability to overlay geopolitical information on the geographic globe. Lovely smooth rotations, and where available you can zoom into USGS topographic maps and to 1m aerial shots. There are tools finding recent geological and climatological events, as well as integration with NASA’s scientific visualisation tools. It takes a while for some of the finer resolutions to load and render, but this really is a wonderful tool for exploring the world from your very own desktop earth-resources satellite… (Zooming in to the KSC is rather fun – you can just about count the vehicles in the VAB car parks) You will ned a good fast Internet connection for this – it’s a big tool, and it does download large datasets from the net when required.

Terragen: if you get fed up with our world, why not make your own (Windows and Mac OS X). We’ve all seen fractal surface generation tools, like the classic Bryce, but Terragen makes it easy to build complex surfaces, and to render and explore your own brave new worlds. There are a lot of tools here – but it’s easy to get to grips with the basic rendering functions, and to produce quite detailed imaged quickly. You can even render to a planetary curvature- so those Valles Marineris ESA images could end up being made on your desktop PC… While registering Terragen unlocks a range of extra features, for everyday rendering the free version is pretty decent…

Imagined Worlds
A quick Terragen test landsacpe

Not a Goth. Though I am looking for a headstone…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 26, 2005

Off today to track down Lewis Carroll’s grave for some research photography for Bryan Talbot‘s work-in-progress.

As I’m not sure exactly how to find the grave site I did a quick google and came across a site suitable for all grave-hunting goths:

So it’s off to Mount Cemetery in Guildford.

Well that’s not surprising…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on February 25, 2005

…following …

You Belong in New Zealand
Good on ya, mate
You’re the best looking one of the bunch
Though you’re often forgotten…
You’re quite proud of who you are

Nice to see that it’s a kea and not a kiwi…

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