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Journal Journal: Pluto stripped of planetary status

BBC News is reporting that IAU members have voted in Prague to strip Pluto of its planetary status. Around 2500 members voted to demote Pluto to a trans-Neptunian object. This was after the discovery three years ago of 2003UB313, significantly larger than Pluto and at a further orbit from the Sun. From the article:

Astronomers rejected a proposal that would have retained Pluto as a planet and brought three other objects into the cosmic club. Pluto has been considered a planet since its discovery in 1930 by the American Clyde Tombaugh. The vote effectively means the ninth planet will now be airbrushed out of school and university textbooks.


Journal Journal: Google catches up on IM client

Yesterday Google released an update to its Google Talk client, the small app that sits on your desktop to work as an Email, IM and VOIP client for the Gmail service. I've been using it for a few days, and it looks like Google is finally catching up with the rest of the crowd on IM.

Google is now permitting voicemail messages to be left. These to people without Gmail or Google Talk appear as Emails with the voicemail attached as an MP3 file. With Gmail, they appear under the Voicemail label and open in the default MP3 music player. Under Google Talk, there is a special notifier widget next to the Email widget telling you how many voicemail messages you have. However, at present, you can't record your own "please leave your name and number after the beep".

File transfers are also new in this release. Files are saved under My Documents and there are no restrictions to what file types or sizes you send. While this may become an opportunity for viruses and trojans to creep in, you can expect Google to plug this soon.

Something else you can expect is a version for Mac OS and Linux. While at the moment it's only compatible with Windows 2000, XP and Server 2K3, other Google apps (like Picasa and Google Earth) have appeared in Mac and Linux variants. Prepare for world takeover.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal Journal: Abstract? Moi? Non. Je suis monseiur Gates.

It seems that Microsoft is starting to talk in vague abstract language to advertise its products. The most profound example of this is on the Microsoft Design website at If you go to the Office section of this page you get:

People spend more time with Office than the love of their life. Since thats a big sacrifice, we want our customers to love using Office. That means we spend time listening, sharing, building relationships, generating innovative ideas, and designing with our customers. The end result is software that our customers want to wrap their arms around and kiss.

So Microsoft wants you to fall in love with Office. Well... how can you fall in love with a bunch of 0s and 1s that isn't even intelligent? Answers please on a postcard...


Journal Journal: WinFS - dumped. And???

So, Microsoft is facing a huge amount of stick for dumping its futuristic file system manipulation technology, WinFS. The system promised us faster searching, drawer-like file stores where everything is stored in one place, and repositories of files based on their file type, contents, colour and more.

However, I am not surprised that it has been dumped. WinFS was never even a file system - it was a component of Windows that would index all the files on the hard disk, apply the appropriate labels and organise them into a database. It was really quite simple - but MS were taking a long time over it.

So, can WinFS be rescued? Well, GNOME Storage is on the way, which is like WinFS - but works with Linux. And we could always write WinFS ourselves: write a VB program that would index all the files on the disk, organise and label them, and then put them into a viewer integrated into the Windows Explorer. See? Easy. We don't need ADO.NET or any other rubbish for that. A similar thing is already happening in Google's GMail - no folders, just labels and a fast index. So quit moaning, get coding...


Journal Journal: Office 2007, after its, erm... mutation

So... some time ago, Microsoft released Beta II of Office 2007 ( I downloaded it two days after, and I have a pretty good idea of what it's like to live with now.

First and foremost comes the new ribbon toolbar applied in Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access. True, they do make life easier, but the procedure for deleting pages is ridiculously long in Word. However, now you get ready made title pages, updated Wordart in Powerpoint, and an improvement (if that were possible) over the soothing colours in Office 2003.

And it's quite fast, even on my Athlon 650mHz machine. True, it does hang every so often and the Wordart in Powerpoint takes quite a while to update itself, but apart from that, my machine can actually use the fading effects.

Then comes the next toy: corporate identity. You can use one of Office's inbuilt themes (or one of your own) system-wide, in every program.

Now for the bad news. The new file formats make them incompatible with previous versions of Office that haven't got filters installed for .docx, .pptx, etc files. You can convert them back, but I will just show you a sample of that one's downside.

I had to create a file for my schoolwork and then upload it to the school's servers. The length of the .pptx file was 1900kB. But, since the school's best computers only run Office 2002, I converted it to that format. This increased the file length to 20000kB. And then, since some machines only ran Office 2000, Office 2K2 ran another conversion. Guess how long the file was now. 27000kB? 31000kB? Nope. 80mB long. I actually had to edit the file name before depositing it on the server in the IT drop directory : "...FINAL WARNING - 80mB".

But the jewel in the crown of Office 2007 is the revision of OneNote. It now has prebuilt personal and work notebooks, with personal information stores, to do lists, recipe books, information about each section, and it looks as beautiful as the rest of the suite.

I can't afford a tablet or laptop computer. But I'm sure the suite would work perfectly on them. And you could use it like a real notebook.

There was no information about the prices at the time of writing, but estimated prices are about the same as Office 2003 (ridiculously expensive...)

Journal Journal: The long hardware lives of yesteryear - what happened?

Around six months ago, my old HP Deskjet 500 printer died. I'd had it for 10 years, and someone else had it before me. So, all in all, the printer's probably two or three years older than me.
After the sad death of the printer, I got a very cheap Lexmark Z617 (£30, probably around US$50). It worked fine for around a week. After that, I started getting banding and bad print quality. Around five months down the line, the machine died just outside the 90-day warranty.
To replace it, last week I got a Canon Pixma MP150 for £65. This shows no sign of breaking down and is built sturdily. (The Lexmark machine was rather tacky.)
So what affected the printer? It was obviously made cheaply, and the manual was very short (and badly translated). The old HP machine and my new printer both have extensive manuals, are well made and good value for money. The Canon machine even had five sheets of photo paper bundled with it.
So, there is only one thing we can do about 'disposable' hardware, as it is becoming: stop buying it. I prefer to spend £200 on something that will last five years than £30 on something that will last three months.
And one word to the manufacturers: do it properly, or we're not interested.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
GNU is Not Unix

Journal Journal: What are they trying to hide?

I have used a Linksys Wireless-G USB adapter to connect to the Internet for around a year now. But then, when I installed Ubuntu Linux, it refused to work. There were no UNIX, GNU or Linux drivers on the Linksys site, and when I tried using NDISwrapper, the terminal just hung. Which makes me think - what are they trying to hide? Why do hardware manufacturers have this phobia of open-source software? Are they scared it might reveal trade secrets? They all use the same standards - it's an 802.11G adapter. Most adapters are 802.11G - it's not as if rivals will try and steal the source code or some vital technology. Finally, to complete this little rant, take a look at - as yet, I've only come across Linux drivers on Canon's site. At least they're trying. Next time: The mysterious breakdowns that affect all modern printers within the first six months.

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. Einstein

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Real Programmers don't write in FORTRAN. FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies. FORTRAN is for wimp engineers who wear white socks.