Archive for August, 2008

I finally played Portal

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

It was actually among my professional objectives this year to play Portal. So last night I sat down with it for a few hours. It was enjoyable, and short (which was good); and original, which was also good. Well, the portal mechanic is certainly original (counting Portal as the true implementation of Narbacular Drop): the story a bit less so, for anyone who’s played Half-Life, or indeed any one of countless text adventures which employ the newly-awokened, amnesiac player character scenario.

If Portal, like many adventure games, is “a narrative at war with a crossword puzzle” (to quote Graham Nelson), then I think the crossword won. The narrative was good as far as that sort of thing goes, but the puzzle elements of the game almost crossed the line into frustration at times. Such is often the way with first-person motion puzzles. It must have been a tough task for the level designers to walk the difficulty line.

Still, worth playing, both for the fun of it and for the shared experience of gaming history.

GB cyclists dominate the Beijing Olympics…

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Henry on His Trike

Henry Models His New Helmet

Adventures with GnuPG

Friday, August 15th, 2008

For a couple of years now, I’ve been using GnuPG in my email. But I had a couple of keys out there that were old, and lost, and that I’d forgotten the passphrases for.

A while back, I found my old secret keyring (from back in the day when I used PGP rather than GnuPG), which contained one of the old keys, but I couldn’t remember the passphrase. So my attempts to revoke it were useless.

Then on my way to work yesterday, out of the blue, the passphrase popped into my head. This evening I dug out the secret key again and generated a revocation certificate. After a few tries (I didn’t know quite which passphrase variant I’d used) I had it! So now one of my old keys is successfully revoked. The other is still at large, resisting revocation, and orphaned without a known passphrase or secret keyring file. Such is life – this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, I gather.

If you want to start sending me encrypted email as a matter of course (please do!), it’s as simple as importing my public key into your PGP-variant. If you don’t have a PGP-variant, you can get one from your friendly neighbourhood package manager, or if you’re on Windows, gpg4win looks good (although I have no experience of it).

Then to actually get my public key, you can grab an ASCII-armoured GnuPG block from my about page or just import from a keyserver:

$ gpg --recv-keys 45844AD8

Quick music recc

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Steadman are a UK band who spent some time in California a few years back. They’re the sort of underground band who occasionally pop up in the mainstream media, only recognised by the cognoscenti. They currently have a track (“Come Alive”) being used in a K Mart commercial in the US.

And all of their music is available for free download from their site, under the by-nc-nd CC license version 2.5. Rock!

Periodic (Table) Videos

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

The University of Nottingham has this excellent page of videos about each element in the periodic table. Educational and fun. And Prof. Martyn Poliakoff has excellent scientist hair.

I moved house

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

I’ve been mostly offline for the last week as a result of moving house. A week ago Thursday the movers arrived and packed everything up and loaded up a big truck. We had previously packed a few dozen boxes, mainly books. Thursday night we slept on the floor (and various piled up duvets) at our new place, where everything was delivered Friday morning. By noon the truck had been completed unloaded and the movers had left, and it was just left to us to unpack everything.

We’ve now unpacked almost everything. Before the move we had more books than would fit on our shelves; now we have just about enough shelving to cope, after a couple of trips to IKEA (Billy the bookcase says hello). We also have a new gas-powered dryer (putting a 220V line in for the old electric one was more expensive than simply buying new), and today I put curtains up in the master bedroom, although we do have quite nice blinds everywhere.

We’ve met the immediate neighbours on each side: they’re nice people and have small children too. Our back garden has tomatoes, corn, peppers, zucchini, strawberries and onions growing (that’s what we can see so far), and we are still working out exactly how the sprinklers work. Mini-elbeno enjoys playing with the hose, and I can’t say I blame him in the heat of the day. Yesterday some stealth gardeners came by and mowed our front lawn and put on the sprinklers in the back – they were obviously not told that the previous owners had moved!

We finally got back online on Thursday, with fibre optic hookup that delivers phone, TV and Internet. I’m getting the low tier, 10Mbps down and 2Mbps up, which I figured would be fine seeing as I’m used to about a third of that. We only have a few things left to fix up from the moving in list: some termite-damage timber repairs on the outside are being painted next week, and we have to get a couple of garage door remotes and figure out how to turn down the sensitivity on the door itself.

Once the house is straight, we plan to show friends & family around with a youtube video.