Rik's Ramblings

Friday, December 21, 2007

E.P.A. Says 17 States Can’t Set Emission Rules

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday denied California and 16 other states the right to set their own standards for carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.


So, the California law (which would require a shocking 36 miles/gallon by 2016) was vetoed 'cos it was pointless, because the Federal law will require 35 miles/gallon by 2020. Right! Of course, who knows whether that federal law will still be in place by 2020. Detroit has 12 years of bribery before they are in danger of violating that law, then no doubt they'll pay a few fines, get some extensions and still be under 30/gallon for 10 years after that.

But what it really means, of course, is that US car makers will make zero effort to improve efficiency because they (and Exxon) have Washington in their back pocket. Meanwhile, the rest of the world's auto manufacturers will work hard to meet the higher standards set by other developed countries, goals that consumers actually are asking for and they'll expand their control of the US auto market.

So, great job detroit. Carry on making yourself less relevant, continue to make your products less appealing, it's just a pity you're destroying the livelihood of your US labor force in the process. How do you expect them to pay for that asthma medication (that their children are going to need for the rest of their lives) when you put yourself out of business within the next 5 years?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fwd: Hulu Private Beta Invitation

--- Hulu Beta <beta@hulu.com> wrote:

> From: "Hulu Beta" <beta@hulu.com>
> To: "ukdiveboy"
> Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2007 16:38:12 -0500
> Subject: Hulu Private Beta Invitation
> Hello from the Hulu team!
> We wanted to thank you for your interest in our
> private beta. Starting today, you can ... access
> http://www.hulu.com from computers located in the
> U.S.


Watching "The Blues Brothers" movie right now. Awesome.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

DHMBX: It's 'broker speak' for 'turd'

Bonds.  They're a low risk investment vehicle where you trade-off large returns for a guarantee of income and you don't loose your original investment. 

Well, my investment in this festering turd is down 6% on the year (bought them last Jan).  Even if you factor in the dividends they've thrown me over the year I'm still in a fucking hole.

And I though a week stock market typically resulted in a rise in the bond market.  Would someone please tell that to the donkey chods working at Dreyfus 'managing' their DHMBX.

Avoid this puppy like you'd avoid a Rottweiler with a headache.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Digital Photo Frame ... me want

Maybe I should just change my middle name to Samsung, everything I buy these days seems to be made by those crafty Korean geeks.

Wifi Enabled with RSS reader. Yes, it’s exactly what I made from an old Palm T|X, but with a 800x600 screen … for pretty much the same price.

Samsung Digital Photo Frame
Amazon link

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The inconvenience of online (number 57)

10 years ago when I moved house it was really easy to update my contact details at 50 organizations that I have dealings with. 
 - I make a template "change of address" letter,
 - do a "Mail Merge" with the address book from my PDA,
 - hit print
 - sign (x50)
 - post (x50).

It could all be done in the space of one episode of "X-Files".

When I moved this summer I had the "convenience" of changing my address online, at the same 50 organizations.  Imagine how much more convenient that was...

 - Log onto company one's website,
 - create an account,
 - choose a password,
   no not that password, your password must have four characters three numbers and a punctuation symbol,
 - enter your customer number,
   no you CUSTOMER number, not your ACCOUNT number,
 - check your email for the confirmation link,
 - check your email for the confirmation link,
 - check your email for the confirmation link,
 - go for a poo
 - check your email for the confirmation link,
 - watch an episode of "Heroes"
 - check your email for the confirmation link,
 - unsubscribe from the dozen 'tailored' message lists that you're automatically approved for
 - type in your address

Repeat 50 times.  Oh, except company two require a password with between 6 and 10 alpha-numeric characters (no puctuation), company three already issued you a password, it's on the piece of paper they sent ... to your old address, company 4 requires you to  "Recount your first childhood sexual encounter" as the security question ... etc., etc.

I should be done around the time this house falls down.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Overnight car valeting

aka: Some bastards took all the stuff out of the front of my car

Christmas came early this year ... for someone.

Got up this morning and someone had emptied the glovebox, change tray and other storage nooks and crannies in the front of my car. While it was sat in the drive right at the front of the house.

Cellphone missing, bluetooth headset, priceless CD collection (folk, 80 hair-band rock, etc.) and a number of loyalty cards.

They even had the audacity to use the cellphone and put $25 on the account (it's a pre-pay). i don't quite understand the logic there ... then again, I'm not a robber. Anyway, it's my $25 now as I blocked the SIM and got a new one from AT&T. Battery was fucked on that phone as well so they didn't score as well as they thought.

So all in all, they didn't get away with much. They hit someone else in the street too though and she'd left her purse in the car. In the space of about 12 hours they'd emptied her bank account and spent about $8000 on her credit cards.

The response from Police Department was very re-assuring. "Did they leave anything behind that they used to break into the car ... no ... OK, just go to our website and fill-in the 'I've been robbed' form". Nice. Not quite what I was expecting. I though someone would have come over and dusted for prints.

AT&T were about as much good when I told them the phone was still being used. Now according to CSI the phone company should have triangulated the position of the 'perp' and dispatched a SWAT team before frying the innards of the phone to prevent it from being used. Reality ... not so exciting. "No, we don't know where the phone is and we can't disable it, they can just get a new SIM and reactive it".

Is there any wonder crime is rife!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Elf Yourself!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

SnapStream Rocks!

Well, I wish I’d done this two years ago, before I embarked on the folly that was a MythTV Box!

Last week I put in the order for a copy of BeyondTV from SnapStream. They were doing a special offer at the time so they threw in for free one of their FireFly remotes.

Beyond TV is a PVR application for Windows. Runs on windows 2000, Windows XP and probably more! Kind of an alternative to your Comcast/DirectTV PVR or Windows Media Center edition – plus you don’t have to worry about horrible DRM.

FireFly is a remote control that I thought was going to be just for channel changing, but as a bonus, I found that once installed it came with software to do all the other media things you want. , unbeknown to me, also comes with photo browser software, DVD player and music player controls. So the combination BeyondTV and FireFly is brilliant. Oh, and another thing – the remote is RF not IR, so it can work through walls.

One other thing I bought was the USB-UIRT module (again available on the SnapStream site). I had to get this, as this is the thing that does channel changing on my DirectTV box (the Samsung SIR-S300W).

Only sticking point getting set-up was that I didn’t have enough USB ports on the ‘old’ laptop I’m using, so I went and got a USB hub. This was the only part that went wrong! I bought the first (cheap) hub I could find at Target and that conflicted with something (god knows what). So I took that back and got a Belkin hub from Fry’s. Made sure it had all the USB certification stickers on it. Both the USB 2 and the Hi-Speed logos. This now works fine.

Remember I already bought the Plextor Convert-X box that does hardware MPEG4 (and DivX) encoding, from my earlier folly trying to use MythTV.

Of course, it all could got horribly wrong before too long, so expect me to start complaining by the end of the month.

Oh, and the ironic thing – totally coincidental and not planned, honest: The first program I recorded and watched on the new set-up: MythBusters ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ … MythBusters … get it … as in MythTV … busters … well, I thought it was apt!