Firefox beats Internet Explorer

Whilst browsing through the data collected for this blog by Google Analytics in December, I noticed that for the first month ever (well, since February when I started hosting the blog myself) that Firefox has been used by more visitors than Internet Explorer:

Firefox beats IE

Only by a small margin, but interesting nonetheless. With Firefox 3 in beta and the next version of IE a good way off, it will be intriguing to see if this trend continues in 2008. Admittedly this is a small blog and therefore a small sample size. The nature of the visitors here is probably slightly more inclined towards using Firefox (or Safari or others) than IE anyway.

Update: Actually, with the inclusion of December 31st, IE snuck back into the lead by 3 visits.

2007: a good year – part 2

June was a pretty big month. Friday 1st marked my final day working for IBM UK in Hursley after just over 8 1/2 years. Of course, lunchtime was spent down at The Dolphin saying farewell to some colleagues:

Hursley colleagues

Before a final wander around the site:

Hursley house

The very next day saw us pack up the final bits into the car and head off to Holyhead to get the ferry over to Dublin! Wednesday 6th was my first day in the new job, whilst Lana took a little longer to get hers sorted.

On the 16th I met up with the meetDublin flickr group to shoot the Street Performers World Championship:

Popeyed 5

The rest of the month was spent looking for a flat to rent and generally settling in.

The beginning of July saw us move into our new place:

The flat

It also saw me back in Southampton for my stag do which we spend waterskiing, wakeboarding, drinking, eating and gambling:

Adrian on stag do
(Picture courtesy of best man Pete Fincham)

There was only one event dominating August… our wedding:

Adrian and Lana
(Wedding photography by AAA Photos)

Lana made me the happiest man alive on the 28th August!

The beginning of September saw us in America for our honeymoon as we took a road trip through New England, covering 1200 miles and six states and visiting loads of lovely places including Rockport, MA:

Rockport, MA

September also saw the second gadget purchase of the year in the form of my Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS USM lens:

EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS USM with EW-83J hood

October saw me put the new lens to good use. First with an early evening walk around Dublin:

Liffey Sunset

and then with a visit over to the UK for the wedding of our friends Steve and Louise:

Steve and Louise

November saw my birthday, and I treated myself with an iPod Touch:

iPod Touch 2

and later in the month took another wander around Dublin with the camera, this time at night:

Four Courts

December? well it’s been a busy work month, but we fitted in a trip over to Southampton to catch up with friends before Christmas. The holiday itself saw my parents come over to Dublin for a week. It was lovely to have them here as it meant that everybody was in one place, allowing Lana and I to have our first Christmas day together!

So, all that’s left is to wish you all a very happy new year, and keep reading the blog in 2008!

2007: a good year – part 1

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to anybody out there still reading this blog.

As years go, 2007 has been a pretty big one for me. It was always destined to be more special than usual as Lana and I were planning to make a move on from Southampton, the only question was where. The best way to tell the story of the year is through some of the photos I’ve taken along the way:

January saw me head out with the Hursley photo club on a photo trip to Winchester:

Winchester Cathedral 5

And heralded the arrival of the first gadget of 2007:

24" iMac

In February I joined Andy for the opening of the Southampton Apple Store:

Psyched staff 2

It also saw my first paid for photo in print when a yacht caught fire outside our flat:

Southern Daily Echo boat fire photo

But the biggest event of the month was our visit to Rome for Lana’s birthday:

Colosseum 2

Where I proposed marriage and got accepted 😉

March saw me spend a week in Rochester, Minnesota:

Don't Walk

Whilst this was a pre-arranged trip for work it also presented me with an opportunity to meet with somebody looking to get a foreign assignee in. The prospect of us moving out to the USA for a couple of years had been raised when my management mentioned the possibility of an assignment. They knew we were looking to move on and it was great of them to explore this avenue for me. The idea was appealing to us, but would have been a huge move especially with a wedding to plan. We decided that if the opportunity was there then we would go for it. As it turned out things didn’t transpire and in any case I doubt that it would have gone ahead anyway, at best case it wouldn’t have happened until much later in the year than we were planning.

April saw us making a trip over to Dublin for Easter:

Grafton Street, Dublin

As you may know, this is Lana’s home town and our most likely destination. This trip was purely for pleasure though, and to give Lana a chance to show off her engagement ring!

April also saw our friends Simon and Julia tie the knot:

Simon and Julia

It also saw me busily arranging a new job in IBM’s Dublin Software Lab where I’d be working on the next release of Lotus Connections.

May turned out to be an incredibly busy month. Whilst continuing my work on WebSphere ESB 6.1 in Hursley I was also sorting out all sorts of arrangement for the move over to Dublin, including what we would and wouldn’t be taking with us. One thing that would be staying in the UK was my entire CD collection which I’d been painstakingly ripping to digital versions for months:

CDs

The rest of the month was spent manically getting things ready, including a trip over to Dublin to sort out various bits of paperwork. It ended with a final Southampton visit from my Mum & Dad who we took along to Beaulieu Motor Museum:

Ferrari F40

Coming in part 2: the move over, the marriage and more!

The Golden Compass – spoilers included

If you haven’t read the book and are going to see the film, or even if you have read but are still going to see you probably don’t want to read this post.

Right, you’ve been warned. I’m not going to write a thorough review, I’m just going to list the things that really annoyed me. I’m glad I read some of the bad reviews before seeing it otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been able to sit through and not walk out.

Right, here we go:

  • How on earth did Chris Weitz think that his screenplay stood up as good enough? Come on it was a series of ticks in the boxes covering the major happenings of the film. No characters were defined, back stories explained or anything. You might as well buy the audio book from iTunes rather than see the film. It will be a lot more interesting.
  • Convenient member of the Magesterium along to attempt to poison Lord A. It would be far too complex to try to explain why the Master did it afterall.
  • Hello I’m Mrs. Coulter do you want to come with me to The North? Yes please. Can I take her Master? I guess so. No bulding up of why Lyra was so taken by Mrs. C. and why she was so desperate to go to the North
  • What happened to the two chapters worth of material about the journey from when Lyra is rescued by the Gyptians through to the roping? Not a single hint that she is being hunted the length and breadth of the country, the backstory about Lord A being her father, mother dying and being raised by Ma. Costa. None of the politics of the Gyptians and the expansions of Lord Faa and Farder Coram as characters at all.
  • Cut out the above and you lose any ability to give the impression that Lyra comes to grips with the alethiometer largely by herself. Instead we get a ludicrous scene in which she gets it first time around after a couple of words from Farder Coram. If it was that easy then anybody could have done it.
  • There was nowhere near enough explanation of the bond between a human and a daemon. The only nods being a quick explanation that one feels the pain of the other. Where was the detail about how the settling of the daemon’s form around puberty is an important time and how the settled form portrays the character of the person at that point? Including the scene onboard ship where Pantalaimon delights in being a porpoise and that worries Lyra in case he likes it so much that he wants to settle as one would have taken two minutes and really driven the point home.
  • On a similar note to the above, why no scene where Lyra deliberately streches the link between her and Pantalaimon when trying to get Iorek onboard? Another minute of screen time at most for a powerful example of the importance of the bond between human and daemon.
  • Why plonk Serafina Pekkala onto the ship and not her daemon as in the book? Just to give a minute of dialogue which helps to cut out a load of stuff by just explaining it point blank. Hardly any explanation of her back story with Father Coram and why she feels obliged to aid Lyra. Oh and to give Eva Green more screen time of course.
  • Why find Billy Costa without his daemon instead of Tony Markarios? Oh and Ma. Costa wasn’t allowed along on the trip in any case. Actually, all of that is reasonable as Billy doesn’t really play any other role later on and it saves introducing another character, but then it all gets totally mucked up when Billy doesn’t die like Tony did. So getting cut off from your daemon is ok then huh? No, all we get is Mrs. Coulter briefly saying “intercision isn’t perfected yet” later on, when it’s too late to really highlight why those words instill real fear in Lyra.
  • WHY, WHY, WHY totally switch the flow of the book to have the confrontation between Iorek and Iofur (oh, sorry, Ragnar – obviously having two bears whose names begin with the same letter is far too confusing) before the escape from Bolvangar? What purpose did that serve at all except to piss of people who had read the book that is. Imagine if they had switched the journey through Moria and the time in Lorien around in The Fellowship of the Ring for example.
  • Oh no, the reason was that it gave you a way to end the film without the actual ending of the book. So not ending it on a cliffhanger (and a pretty big one at that) is understandable and let’s face it, it worked for The Two Towers, but to completely change the way the story flows to accomodate a happy ending is maddening.
  • And on the subject of Iorek, why invent a totally false story about him losing a fight with Iofur and being exiled rather than spend a couple of minutes explaining that he was exiled for killing another bear – thus explaining the guilt he has which led him to where he ended up? The understanding that the book gives as to the fact that Iofur engineered the killing gives Iorek a motive for wanting to return and fight which the film doesn’t explain at all.
  • Dust. No real explanation as to what it represents. Almost no disussion about the Aurora and the visibility of the other world which is what Lyra is really keen on seeing hence why she is so ready to go with Mrs. Coulter. Yes they didn’t want to piss off a significant market of people by going the whole hog with the church/original sin stuff but they really could have done a better job without being in any way controversial. “A long time ago, one of our ancestors made a terrible mistake. They disobeyed the authority. And that is what brought Dust into the world.” is the nearest thing we get.

There are a load of other more minor things that I found annoying, but to be honest they pale into insignificance. If you are a fan of the Pullman novels and also somebody who watched Fellowship and got annoyed that Tom Bombadill and the razing of the shire were left out then seriously don’t go and see The Golden Compass.

How can they mess it up this much?

Next to last

The three online banking facilities I have access to (one UK, two Irish which is another post in itself…) all require me to have a passcode of variable length which they use as a form of wish-it-was-two-factor authentication. They each have a different approach to how to enter it: one asks me to select three numbers at random from drop down boxes with the other numbers represented by ‘*’, whilst the other two just ask me to enter three of the numbers by keyboard into three provided entry fields. Obviously the numbers requested differ on each login attempt.

What they are trying to guard against is the ability for key loggers or other such malicious software being able to read the numbers entered. Hence the drop down box approach to encourage use of the mouse rather than keyboard, the mouse being harder to track.

The subject of this post leads to an interesting technique used by the UK bank. Instead of asking for numbers 1, 3 and 6; or 2, 4, and 5 it asks for first, third and last; or second, fourth and next to last. The help for said bank actually states that “next to last” is an attempt to help mask the length of the passcode. The thing is ever since they introduced this it has been very noticeable that “next to last” seems to get asked for a lot. The question though: is this because it is actually being asked for more than the other numbers because the code behind the site knows that this is a special case number and that influences the “randomness” or is it simply because it stands out more and I just think it pops up more often?

Xbox Live and moving country – don’t

Whilst the kids in Redmond have done a great job in turning XBox Live into the best console online gaming community, the backroom staff who support it in terms of billing need a kick up the proverbial.

Since moving to Ireland from the UK I’ve not got around to updating my XBox Live account. It is registered against my UK credit card, which gets used whenever my membership gets renewed or I buy stuff from the Marketplace. My old card has expired and in any case I no longer want to use a UK card for such purposes. Hence, yesterday I attempted to update my details on XBox Live. Go to change of address, enter new details, but there is nowhere to change your country. Hmm. Try on the web at billing.microsoft.com – again you can edit everything but the country. Phone up XBox Live support and speak to a person who puts me on hold for 5 minutes to come back and tell me that it can’t be done. Proclaim surprise that nobody designing the billing system ever considered that people may move (but then again I expect it was designed by and primarily for North Americans) Ask to speak to a supervisor: “Yes sir, please take down this reference number and give it to the person after I transfer you” Erm, so you can’t even flow my details along with my call, thought that was a basic piece of call-center functionality these days. Whilst on hold for 10 minutes for the supervisor I do some googling and (unsurprisingly) find loads of blog entries about the same problem. Figure that it probably isn’t worth spending any more money on hold to the UK (or at least the virtual UK if you know what I mean) to speak to the supervisor who may never pick up.

It appears that the only way to legitimately move countries with XBox live is to cancel your account and start a new one. The problem here Bill is that I’ve invested time and effort into building up a social community with my current gamertag (which by the way I’ve had since XBox Live was in beta five years ago and I don’t appear to have received any of the free marketplace points you were meant to give me on the anniversary…) and not insignificant time registering my progress on games in the form of gamerpoints. I’m not going to throw all that away. So, it appears that I now have to rely on buying pre-paid vouchers whenever I am in the UK so that I have a stock of marketplace points available should I actually want to buy anything from your service. Oh, and when it comes around to time to renew my Gold subscription I’ll have to make sure I have a voucher for that as well.

Now you are launching things like the video store, encouraging me to spend more money with you. Would be nice if you could actually make it easy for me. Sorry, I thought this was the globalised 21st Century. Obviously I was wrong.

Lotus Connections team blog

I’ve tended not to use this blog to talk about work much, so I’ll gladly point readers off to a new blog from the Lotus Connections product team: Synch.rono.us

I work with Suzanne, Joe and David on Lotus Connections and they are just the right people to bring you news and insight into where the product is going, and how it may benefit you if you happen to be looking for a social software platform for the enterprise. You never know, I might pop up there now and again with a guest entry!