Chewing my keyboard

Thursday, August 12, 2004


I have added a couple of new links to my sidebar since Lazy Liberal obviously wanted my numerous readers (does anyone actually read this drivel :) ) to be able to savour his blog like a fine single malt (or something). Whilst there, I found the Yellow Duck.

Is a duck a fowl? Lazy Liberal has a soft duck called Paddy (after Paddy Ashdown, don't ya know?) who bizarrely reminds me of his owner.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Links and chains

A turn-based battle game, just like the ones on the Gameboy!!

Also, check this site out!

And this one

Friday, August 06, 2004

Cedric and me!

So, I've now been using the PDA for a couple of weeks so what do I think?

Well, it's rather like finding out you've won the services of a butler. Initially you're thinking "this is a very extravagant way of keeping my diary" but by the end of the first week you don't know how you've managed without having a butler and your butler has gone off work with stress-related illness.

The PDA has acquired the dubious anthromorphication of 'Cedric', something I thought up during the 'seagull hours' of 4-5am one over-hot morning when I had the windows open. Cedric has, I realised this morning, that annoying reassuring female computer voice when it told me that despite having only 54MB of free memory when I had 9MB left I had 'low memory'. I am sure if robots takeover the world they will have that niggling, overly polite and reassuring female voice "Welcome to the Type X3 human exterminator. I am here for your comfortable and convenient anhiliation so simply lie back and relax". Previously, I had been somewhat concerned when Cedric started beeping furiously at me despite me having switched him off. He was telling me I had to send a birthday card.

So how has Cedric been performing? Well, he didn't like my demo of
Agenda Fusion and I had to hard reset him, thus losing everything I'd installed. Fortunately, it's easy to reinstall using broadband and all the files in My Documents (I currently only have 2 ebooks there) are automatically synchronised with my PC. Likewise all my contact details, task list and calendar. This is worrying me a fair bit since I am intending to take Cedric to Norway later this month and am concerned incase he dies when I'm away especially since the internal storage memory is groaning with several large applications.

So, what did I install eventually? Well, I've ordered everything from
Handango which is an excellent site. I currently have:

Battery pack

If you get a PDA buy this program. There is no equivalent to the desktop on a PDA and you can't see your battery life or memory or, indeed, really work out how to close rather than minimise programs without wading through about 600 menus. This program puts them all on the front screen. I trialled this one and preferred battery pack although I'm not quite sure why. This one just seems simpler and more intuitive somehow.


Pocket Word is borderline useless. I downloaded a paper I was taking to the LDYS Executive meeting which was simply formatted, Times New Roman font with basic bullets. Most of my PhD work is full of tables, text boxes and images so this was a good test. It lost all the bullets leaving the text floating aimlessly about in the centre of the screen.
Textmaker is a well-featured word-processing program and, if you don't have MS Office, it installs a PC version as well.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

This is free but not in ROM (you lose it if you hard reset)

MS Reader

For ebooks. This is significantly better for books than Adobe Acrobat since you can bookmark and go immediately back to where you were reading last. Also free

Pocket Slides

If you have a VGA card you can apparently present from a Pocket PC! However, despite getting this almost bankrupting me, I intend to use it for
viewing my Norway poster (it will actually allow you to view an AO size slide) and for producing crib cards... I'm very worried about my poster. I just thought academic postering was just writing a pretty poster and standing next to it looking glamorous. But, no, I will have to answer questions too [quiver, quiver] so crib cards, an electronic version I can look over without getting it out the tube, my draft chapter in Textmaker and a few key papers in Adobe Pocket Reader will be a huge help... Writing an original poster is hard work:

"The best general advice I can give a first-time poster constructor is to describe the circumstance in which a poster will eventually be viewed: a hot, congested room filled with people who are there primarily to socialize, not to look at posters. And, because poster sessions are often concurrent with the "wine and beer" session, chaos is further increased by hundreds of drunk, uninhibited graduate students staggering around hitting on each other. So as you design your poster, keep in mind that it must be informative, brief, and visually slick in order to attract viewers. A good motivational exercise is to imagine that you will be sandwiched between a poster on "Teaching house cats to perform cold fusion" and one on "Mating preferences in sex-starved red pandas." In such a situation, your poster must be great, not just OK, if you hope to attract an audience."

Pocket Informant

After trialling both this and Agenda Fusion I found this had similar functionality but the interface was less chaotic so I didn't keep getting the wrong thing by accident, could be made just as garish and lurid by careful customisation and hasn't made Cedric very ill yet.

It is vastly superior to the built-in programs and this is my main use of Cedric. Tasks, Calendar, Notes, etc. are interfaced together and you can categorise the type of event with icons and colour-scheme everything (I use this a lot). It also chimes and alerts me to appointments by switching itself on which the Pocket Outlook program just didn't do at all.

A to Z viewer and map of central London

Has the
tube map and everything. Saves me remembering to take my paper version and having to lug the paper version about. Since it's on my SD card, I do have to remember to take the SD card but I will start taking the SD card everywhere as a matter of course once I have a few files on Cedric. Once you have the viewer you can buy extra maps of anywhere you might be going which, of course, is very useful.

Universal Converter

Converts everything - lengths (imperial/metric), clothing sizes, astronomical units (parsecs anyone?) and currency including the Norwegian NOK which is going to be very useful very soon...

Background themes

Do you just want the boring Windows Mobile Pocket backdrop? No... Me neither...

I bought 2 theme packs -
this one and this one.

But you can always get nice themes like, well, flowers...


There are lots of ebooks around but I got a big heap of classic philosophical essays (excellent value) and Lady Chatterley's Lover.


With having a Gameboy I wasn't too keen on using Cedric as a games machine especially since the Gameboy will take a lot more abuse to its little keys, joypad and it doesn't have a notoriously delicate touch screen.

However, I got a couple of things mainly because there aren't Gameboy equivalents and because they were cheap for what they were and because you can only play Jawbreaker on ROM so much if I haven't got the Gameboy with me. The graphics tend to be better too, you can get far more puzzle games... but there tends not to be the predominance of random Japanese games with bad translations and manga graphics of which I'm an enormous fan.

Marble Worlds is excellent but rock hard. I may consider getting the expansion packs at some point.. if I can ever finish Level 1 that is before Cedric's joypad and screen dies. Basically, guide a marble around a maze jumping on trampolines and trying not to fall off. It's a version of a classic Atari game called Marble Madness and similar to Ballance (see other reviews).

Snails is, well, Worms but with Snails... It has equally cute graphics and subversive humour "Moogie is going to the bathroom, please wait". It's £7! You can play it on the move! It has chirpy music! It has a Deathmatch mode, missions and you can play it with a friend! What's there not to like?!

This is a version of a game called Sokoban (I think). It is £3.50. It has cute music, cute noises and is generally quirky.

Command and Conquer! But in space and with pounding music which drives people mad if you've forgotten your headphones... Very cool game and plays just like C&C as well. Great graphics, lava, forest, desert scenarios and not at all buggy. Apparently very short but I'm c**p at computer games so I doubt that's going to be a problem.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

He who must not be named...

Despite my general dislike of Harry Potter and my enduring belief that both Sabriel by Gareth Nix and the Dark Materials Trilogy knock stars, spots and stripes off it, I am looking forward to the 4th in the series.

Half-aware and half-alive

I have been reading Lady Chatterley's Lover. This particular decision reading matter-wise was purely determined by the fact I wanted an MS Reader ebook for Cedric (the PDA), saw Lady Chatterley's Lover and was curious on the grounds that it was banned in the 1960s as a result of being obscene. There's nothing to encourage something's popularity than banning it.

Despite the fact it's notorious for being about a lady f***king her gamekeeper, it's actually a very political novel about the effect of creeping industrialisation on the landed aristocracy, class relations and the human condition. The most telling quote is not the one on Handango but:

'Sex is really only touch, the closest of all touch. And it's touch we're afraid of. We're only half-conscious, and half alive. We've got to come alive and aware'

It's all about Marxist alienation and Cartesian dualism... the way that the miners are mechanically and metallically incorporated into the machine of the collieries by the cold emotionless husks of thinking men. The anti-establishment vibrancy of the gamekeeper and the passion for the body, is contrasted with the dead passion for the mind of Lord Chatterley who is Cambridge educated and only seems to care for books and technology.

And it's there we diverge, the D.H. Lawrence and I. Whereas he seems to see the joy of communicating with an intelligent man as the two girls do at the beginning as being separate from the 'sex thing' as he so charmingly and 1928ingly puts it, the 'sex thing' being a dreary side-effect that must be consented to... I see the pleasures of the mind and body as interlinked. There is nothing that inspires passion such as either burning desire repressed behind a mask of reason such that its promise cries out to be unleashed or verbal sparring with someone who is smart and brandishes it with wit and mischief. In the latter case, the mental challenge, eyes locked, words and ideas used like rapidly flicking rapiers in combat, can so easily evolve into physical sparring. It is in those sort of fights that the senses come alive for what comes after.