Tuesday, 5 August 2008

A quick plea to promoters

If you are designing a poster, or flyer, or handout, or any damn thing, please, please, please, don't do it in all-lowercase. It doesn't make you look funky, it makes you look incompetent, childish and annoying.

And particularly if you are advertising works skills courses, including affiliations with national, federally-funded training organisations, you really should be able to do a more professional job.

Hey, that's neat...

So, it seems that Samsung have been trying to redeem themselves and be builders of desirable high-end phones instead of desirable looking phones that, like a slightly dim girl blessed with natural good looks and a scholarship to a finishing school, disappoints you halfway through the date by giving you a confused look and saying "Huh?" in their original accent.

Behold the first 8, that's eight, I repeat eight megapixel camera phone, the (oh dear) Innov8. Top marks for the design and the hardware, but honestly guys? It's a lot safer to just do a Nokia and stick with numbers.

It's got fancy camera software, and built-in GPS, and everything else, and normally I would be saying "Yeah, yeah, it's better than my phone, so what, it's new" and moving on. But this thing has an optical mouse. I have commented before that I really wish the next sweeping change in mobile design would be Blackberry's trackball, which Samsung, the design tarts that they are, have played with. Well, this phone goes one better. In the same way that mice moved from lint-attracting balls to optical sensors, there is an optical pad which serves the same function as a trackball, but is cooler

Earth calling Nokia: Copy this.

Link to All About Symbian review.

Monday, 4 August 2008

What I want from a motorcycle, revisited

At about this time last year (although that really is purely coincidental), I put down my thinking-as-I-go list of what I'd like my next motorbike to be like. At the time I said that I had "at least two years". Oh, to laugh hysterically. Probably, realistically, a little bit longer than that.

But I thought it would be intriguing to revisit the topic and see how my opinions had changed or, alternatively, not.

So, here goes:

Two cylinders. This one remains. I still don't like four-cylinder bikes. They're good for racing, but on the road they don't seem to be the most useful solution. And they don't sound as nice. Or feel as nice. And are less fuel-efficient.

Triples still sound good, but the Triumph Tiger feels weird to sit on and frankly there are better looking weird-looking bikes out there. The Benelli Tre-K (get it?) is exotic, but honestly? A Benelli? I've got more sense than that. Which means that a twin it is, by default.

Heated grips. I'm still not going to argue about this, so don't even bother trying. If the bike I end up choosing doesn't come with them stock, I will be getting an after-market kit.

More power. Well, yes. As if it's even possible to get less power than a Seca II these days.

A comfortable riding position. Yep, still current. There just really doesn't seem to be any point to sacrifice a bit of comfort for a bit of speed unless you race. Anything else is just wankery.

A good range. Again, still current. Current financial situation curtails the weekend jaunts a bit, but a good day's ride, or overnight camp, is made a bit tedious by having to fill up three times between home and destination.

Flexibility. To reiterate: Must be able to go hard. Must be able to go far. Must be comfortable. Must be easy at slow speeds and stop-start traffic. Why compromise? This is now even less necessary as technology marches inexorably onwards.

Rough road ability. Yeah, still a handy idea. Not only does this make the occasional dirt road and more interesting camping trip possible, but it also comes with the consequence of tougher tyres and rims. Which is handy.

Adjustable suspension. Well, actually, I can't be bothered any more. The changes of me fecking it up are, in all honesty, better than the chances of me making any improvement to the way a factory-standard bike behaves with my riding ability.

Luggage. Better to say: "Luggage attachment points". Right now, if you get a Yamaha TDM, an excellent base for long-distance, most-of-Australia tourer, you can get factory luggage for it at nearly $1,000 per pannier and, to add insult to insury, $300 for the mounting hardware. Ditto for a top-box. Or, you could drill through the existing rack to mount a top-box, or buy from Givi or Hepco & Becker or even Rjays and save yourself about 300%. Realistically I'm not going to get a bike with nice universal attachment points. That's not how the gouge-the-bastards accessories market works. But it'd be nice, is all.

A bit of design flair or passion. I repeat: Why the hell else do you buy a bike? Even BMWs are getting a bit interesting these days, and this is still as good a reason as any to not buy a Honda.

Clever. See above, but this is probably going to be the most likely point of compromise, given probably price points.

Semi-faired. I still don't like fully-faired bikes, and I still don't like naked bikes. Luckily, most of the interesting ones, and most of the adventure tourers, pretty much fit the bill. I'll also add to this a decent windscreen.

A power outlet. Yes, still handy. It means I could use my mobile phone as a GPS tracker and not have it go flat halfway through the ride.

Oh, and one more thing: An easy way of adjusting the drive system and checking the oil. Realistically I'm unlikely to be able to afford a bike with a shaft drive, only Harleys (and Buells) and the F800 come with belt drives, and the only "easy" way to adjust a chain is with a well-designed single-sided swingarm that won't let you fuck up the alignment. But even they all need the right amount of oil, which, without a on-side-stand-only check system which I have never heard of, needs the bike to be level. What this really all boils down to is: Put a centrestand on more bikes, you tight-arse bastards.

Anything else? Well, since it can be done simply and cheaply with aftermarket bits and bobs, how about Tyre pressure monitoring. While we're on the subject of wild leaps into the known, I'll add fuel consumption monitoring on cheap trip computers on cheaper bikes.

But I'm getting away from myself.

That is actually a disappointingly not-very-revised list. Only a couple of modifications of priority, but... Am I really that predictable, or did I make the right decisions first time around, or do I desperately need to get out and test-ride bikes on a flimsy pretence? Hmmm, that sounds like fun...

Link to the original post.

I think this is called a "bug"

While swearing violently at Access 2007, I discovered that one of the problems doomed to make my day a misery was that after walking through the nice, automated, hand-holding steps to create a button which would open the item currently displayed in form "Show Item" in form "Edit Item", the resultant button would do no such thing. It would open "Edit Item" correctly, but it would open it at default, at item 1. Which only works correctly for one item, which isn't particularly useful when you're expecting the database to hold several hundred.

So eventually I gave up on Google, took a deep breath and dived into the code. I am not a programmer. I do not know VBA, I do not know SQL. Given statements in either of those languages I could, maybe, figure out their intent. But don't bet on it.

Eventually, however, I resorted to Microsoft Help and put the cursor in the "Where Condition" box in the Macro Tools page, and hit F1.

I was told that in order to do what I was trying to do I would have to enter a statement which, after dropping in the right values, looked like this:

[ID]=[Forms]![Show Item]![ID]

The problem being that the statement which Access had decided, after asking me what I wanted to do, to put into the code attached to the button in question ooked like this:

"[ID]=" & [ID]

Now I may just be a simple hyper-chicken, but they look different to me. There is a distinct air of difference about them, of not being the same. And I have a sneaking suspicion that computers care about exactness. That they don't actually work if the address you give it is "Oh, down from the corner with the fig tree on it, and on that side of the S-bend, you know."

Microsoft, you have fucked up.


Studies have shown that staying alive gives you more time to fight cancer

Having bitched quite recently about public health tax dollars being spent on researching complimentary medicines (reminder: "not mainstream medicine"="not effective". If it worked, it would be mainstream), I have to give credit where credit is due, to Queensland Health, who have been suing people who make "misleading health claims" (story couretsy of Courier Mail). Go and read it, it's quite a good article, considering the source.

There are many different factors for discussion in here, including the plausibility of ingested antioxidants having a direct effect upon cancer cells, the quality of the research quoted, comparisons between Dr Red and, say, a couple of oranges a day, how "the more concentrated the dose" relates to how you drink it (are we talking a whole bottle reduced down to a syrine?) and the language debate between "curative", "positive health outcomes" and "good for you". Plus, what's special about Dr Red if mega-dose vitamin C therapy has demonstrated basically no positive effect?

My brief opinion on the issue is that if Dr Red are able to demonstrate consistent benefits for cancer, they won't need to advertise, and will be supplying it in bulk to any hospital with an oncology ward. But they're not, and they are advertising, and it's getting them in trouble.

But perhaps the most interesting part of this article is the reason they're getting in trouble:

It is not an offence for details of human health trials to be made public in Queensland but it is illegal for those funding trials to publicise information.

In other words, if you have a conflict of interest that serious, shut up. Which is no guarantee of better quality reporting, and not much protection for the public, but is a positive step in the right direction.

And then we have the kicker, a comment on new legislation:

Ironically, legislation covering food health claims currently being considered by Parliament would, if enacted, allow companies to promote claims provided they could be substantiated.

Which is really the major argument, isn't it? "Provided they could be substantiated". Isn't this the whole point behind the nebulous, generally vague concept of "Proof in advertising"? Admittedly, all this is likely to do is give us a whole new nightmare of interpreting advertising claims to go with "Studies have shown", "part of", "may help", and "in combination with a balanced diet and regular exercise" (anyone remember the McDonalds versus health activists trial? Where a doctor got on the witness stand and said "You could eat a roll of sellotape as part of a balanced diet"?), but I'm all for putting a burden of proof into any legislation to do with health claims or in fact anything else.

I'm seriously hoping that if that legislation is passed, vitamins and supplements manufacturers start getting hit with "show us the proof" lawsuits as well.

Link to Courier Mail story
Link to my last rant on CAM

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